As the air cools and the leaves turn, I’m reminded of a quote I keep seeing floating around social media by an unknown author:
“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”
The change in season truly does signal a loss in nature. We may notice the spectacular beauty of autumn trees and forget that the next step involves the trees letting those leaves go.
As they drop to the ground, they become the carpet that crunches beneath our feet. The trees prepare for winter, and then there’s rebirth again in the spring. It’s an annual cycle.
Sometimes we forget we are natural beings and our lives also have cycles. There are times we hold on, and there are the times that we have to learn to let go. When we do, when we let go of the things that are no longer serving us and the people who no longer bring joy to our lives, we make room for new things to enter our lives.
But, while it seems beautiful for the trees to let go of all those lovely leaves, we rarely think of the letting go in our own lives as being beautiful. Often, we simply view it through the lens of loss. It hurts to let go, so we hold on, even if all we have left to hold onto are our memories of those feelings.
I try to remember that I am a student of life.
I recently listened to a talk by the incredible Elizabeth Gilbert about focusing on this mentality. Everything that happens in our lives can have lessons for us if we’re willing to be taught. Even loss and change can be catalysts for growth if we allow it.
I’ve had a few tough lessons over the years, and each one taught me that the things I viewed from the perspective of loss alone, were actually growth opportunities that opened the door to some wonderful changes in my life.
My divorce led me to a newfound independence and a town that feels like home. A brutal end to a relationship pushed me passed my comfort zone with my writing and helped inspire a personal revolution. The loss of a job I enjoyed freed up enough time to finish two novels in the space of most people’s summer vacation.
Every single time I lost something that felt important to me, the universe showed me that there was so much more to my life than the simple things I had intended.
I wonder sometimes what blessings and opportunities I’ve blocked by refusing to let go. I’ve thought about it from so many perspectives—my education, work, friendships, and relationships. How has my reluctance to adapt stood in the way of something spectacular coming my way?
Maybe what we’re holding on to is an idea. Maybe it’s a life plan or a timetable. Maybe we’re holding onto who we were told we should be rather than who we truly are. Maybe we’re staying in a relationship that’s no longer right for us. Or, spending time with friends who no longer feel like our tribe.
Autumn shows us that letting go is beautiful, and yet all we see in our own lives is the loss.
So, I have spent the last few years actively practicing the art of letting go. I won’t say it has been easy. There have been times I’ve been stuck in the downward spiral of loss, and there were times when I knew that letting go was best, and yet simply refused to do it. But, it is a practice, and each time that we try to hold on, we need to remind ourselves to loosen our grip. It’s like a muscle that gets stronger when we use it, and we slowly become more adept at letting things (and people) leave us.
Just when I settled into a pattern for my life that I enjoyed, I had the rug pulled out from under me. I found myself, once again, changing career trajectories, and even my finances took a significant hit that derailed a few of my plans. In that space of loss and hardship, I learned to breathe. Sure, I was breathing through a tight chest and growing stress, but still, I made it.
While it was terrifying, it was also strangely freeing. On the other side of what I thought I wanted was all I had ever dreamed of. The books I thought I’d like to write one day were written. The life I actually wanted to live became possible. It hadn’t happened along the careful timeline I had constructed, and that was okay. Letting go of what I thought was my path was okay. The world did not end because I deviated from my pre-determined course. In fact, when the awful thing I didn’t expect happened, a door opened for so many wonderful new plans to unfold.
This is the lesson that fall has for us, if we’re paying attention.
Things happen that don’t fit into our carefully constructed plans. Our lives change. We learn to adapt and let things go, or we’re forced along by the change, dragging the past along with us. The past is a heavy burden to carry. It often keeps us from focusing on the present moment, and it can hinder us from moving toward a better future. Instead, we become lost in old patterns and find our gaze drawn back to the past.
This is where practice comes in.
We can remind ourselves that change can be devastating, but it can also be lovely. It may be breathtaking (and actually steal our breath), but it’s also fierce and beautiful. When we allow ourselves to let go and to accept what is, we can open our eyes to this moment now, to this breath. And now this one. And this.
We join the moment we’re living now, and we can let the Past—with its capital P and our unhealthy fixation on it—float away. If we must hold on, we can hold on to this moment, and then the next as it comes.
We can remember just how lovely letting go truly is, and slowly we can turn our attention to the moments we’re living now.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen
Social Editor: Sara Karpanen