I remember the fall.
I remember all of those feelings surging to the surface, how they excited and terrified me at the same time. Isn’t the fall always the quickest part, the part that never lasts long enough? How is it that we forget about the landing.
I remember the landing best of all.
How I fell freely, without a net, trusting that I would be safe. And I remember the fear creeping in before the end, how I knew, without really knowing, that perhaps no one was going to catch me after all.
I remember the shock of pain, that bright all-consuming ache, as I crashed. How I sat among all the pieces of myself, wondering how I would ever put them back together. Could one really be whole again after being so broken?
I remember the slow rebuilding, gluing pieces of myself back together with grit and determination. I remember leaning into the pain, finally understanding that the only way out was to feel it. I sat inside of it, my soul screaming, my heart crying, and I worked through it.
And I mean worked. I did the work of healing, of being strong enough to love my life again—of leaning into my vulnerability and choosing to try again.
I remember holding on. Life had moved on, and I was moving with it, but I held tightly to that piece of my heart that loved. I moved forward but looked back. I stayed steadfast and true to the call of my heart, but I did it with a fist clenched around the past. I longed to pull it into the present, and I suffered. But I wouldn’t let go.
And inside of holding on is our hidden truth: We don’t want to let go. Sure, we say that we do. We even half-heartedly try. But letting go feels like just another loss, and one we’re determined not to experience. We don’t want to lose all of this love or the small, tiny ember of hope that remains. We don’t want to let go when letting go is the final acknowledgement that it’s well and truly over. So we hold fast and let our thoughts return to and linger over what’s gone.
One day something changes. It can happen quickly or so slowly we never see it coming. And for me, it was the slow kind of change, a soft slide into a new way of feeling. I went from never wanting to let go to wanting to see it finished. But old habits are hard to break, and if we don’t learn to lean into our lives and let go of the past, when we finally are ready to move on, we’ll find that our hands are frozen tightly around it, and our minds keep returning to those same old paths we’ve created to access those memories.
We can lose ourselves there if we’re not careful.
The day will come, if we let it, where all we’ll want to do is let go and fall again. And we cannot fall, deeply and truly, if we’re still holding on, white-knuckled, to a past that’s over for everyone but us. So we lean in to all of the possibilities of today and tomorrow, and we let ourselves put yesterday in its rightful place.
We stop letting ourselves follow those old paths to those old memories. We stop looking backwards in hopes that something will change. We begin to embrace now and to discover inside of it a new hope and a brighter day. We learn that letting go isn’t giving up, and it isn’t a new loss. It’s not erasing what was.
Letting go is simply the freedom to move forward unencumbered and to let in all of the love that’s waiting. It’s being able to breathe again without the past choking us. It’s being able to dream again of the possibilities of tomorrow without being tied to the pain of yesterday. It’s discovering that we’re already whole again, even when we thought we would never be anything but broken. Letting go is that sweet gulp of air after being under water just a little too long.
How do we lean in to our lives and let go when all we know how to do is to hold on? It’s simple really, but it does require a bit of practice.
We stop revisiting those memories. Actually, we’ll have a better chance of moving on completely if we just stop spending so much of our thoughts there. Instead, we can focus on something else. Learn something new. Or we can spend time dreaming about travel or the kind of life we want to live.
We can let ourselves be vulnerable again. We can be open to the possibilities. Go out on that date. Meet someone new. Make new friends. It’s okay to live again and to want to love and be loved right back.
We can remember the landing instead of concentrating on the fall. Was the relationship really that great? It did end. Why are we holding on to someone that didn’t catch us when we fell, who’s not holding on to us right back? It’s okay to see the relationship without the rose-colored glasses.
We can believe that the Universe has something so much better in store for us. Maybe it’s true, and maybe it isn’t, but don’t you think we should have at least a little faith in something more? We need to find that sense of hope and optimism that has nothing to do with the past.
We need to remember how much we love ourselves and our beautiful lives and get back to living. One breath and one step at a time.
Because one day we’ll want more than anything to let go, but if we hold on too long, it might be too late.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Oakley Foxtrot/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson