Part of me feels like I’ve spent all of my life fighting against loss and change.
I guess that’s only natural. I was the middle child, the sensitive soul, and my family relocated a number of times during my childhood and adolescence.
While my sisters seemed to weather the changes, I felt that I was caught in the tempest. Or maybe I was the tempest and could never really see it. Regardless, I fought the change and the loss, and I usually lost.
So, I conformed.
Some might call it selling out, but it wasn’t that. I just did the things I thought I was supposed to do. I collected the degrees and worked the jobs and wearily climbed the ladder, indifferent to the next rung, but knowing I was supposed to want it.
I tried to be polite rather than angry, silencing my inner voice when male colleagues talked over me at work, or my boss called me in to say that my straightforward email to a colleague was, in fact, aggressive because it didn’t include enough social niceties, a dressing-up not required for my male counterparts.
I kept politics and religion out of social conversation and was kind, even to the ones who tried to lay their hands on me as a group, or the people who knocked at my door in what little downtime I had, or the ones who assumed that I must agree with them.
Even the uninvited hands of men whose faces I’d never seen before. Yes, even then, I was in silent shock in the face of roaming hands. I was mute and shamed, rather than roaring and angry, because I had always fought the changes and fought the loss…and lost anyway.
But, one day the losses came faster than I could manage them. Hit, hit, hit. I was a target, big and bold and red with shame. I watched all the things I had worked so hard for crumble to pieces, and I could not hold them together.
And wasn’t it my job—always my job— to try? I could not heal from one wound before another was inflicted, and I found that even my hope, always so stalwart, was being ripped to shreds by the winds of a change that I was fighting.
Finally, I found myself learning to navigate the storms. I learned how to deal with loss, and I turned my focus inward on a journey that’s never faltered.
I began to shift my focus to letting go. I could plan something and fail and let it go. I could love someone and lose them and let it go. Change could come without my calling, and I could let it go. But now I wonder if I should have been focusing on something other than letting go. Maybe, all along, I should have just let it be.
If you’re singing The Beatles song in your head, don’t worry: so am I. I love it. I sing it to my children, and they sing it to me. I want it played at my memorial service one day, and while the words aren’t tattooed on my skin, I think they are tattooed deeply on my heart. “Let It Be.”
When I find myself in times of trouble,
Mother Mary comes to me,
Speaking words of wisdom,
Let it be.
And, I’ve started to think that maybe all I ever needed to do was to let things be.
I had no control over the many times we relocated, and fighting the change never once stopped it, or altered the course. I just needed to let it be. When everything in my heart cried out against a career I had chosen and showed me instead another I had hardly ever dared dream, I only needed to let it be.
When the marriage I was in withered from neglect, I only had to acknowledge it, and let it be. When I fell in love with someone who was beyond indifferent to me, I didn’t need to fight my feelings or fight the lack of feelings in him, I only needed to let it be. And, when all the changes of the last few years lined up to take aim at the target of my life, I only needed to let it be.
Not fighting, not resisting, and not trying to change what’s happening. We can utilize our personal power and our agency to, like the Serenity Prayer says, do those things that we’re able to do. We can make certain changes, sure. But letting things be, is having the wisdom to acknowledge what we cannot change and accepting that. It’s accepting that we can’t make people see our value or love us or even appreciate what we bring to the table.
All we can do is let it be. We can love ourselves deeply and reach out for deep connections with others, but when those others don’t meet us there, we can let it be. Not chase it or try to deny it or even try to change it. Just let it be. And when we reach out in love and hope and find the same in return, we don’t have to try to hold it or chain it or somehow trap it. We can just let it be.
We’ve worried so much on being able to let go, as if letting something go somehow magically makes it all better. As if it’s a mountain we climbed where we can pat our backs and say that we managed to let something go that was, in fact, deeply hurtful to us.
When we let things (or people) be, we don’t have to pretend not to be angry or not to be hurt. It is what it is, and we can accept that. We can speak our truth about what we feel and who we are. It’s deeply authentic to let ourselves be where we’re at while simultaneously allowing others the same freedom.
So we can sing Let It Go to the rooftops and work so hard to release our attachments, or we can start to focus on gently accepting what is.
Letting go has felt more like fighting—fighting against inevitable loss—and usually losing. Losing because I can’t let go or losing because I did. Letting it be seems more like surrender, like softly saying to the universe that we understand, that we accept, that we lean in to this moment…here and now.
It’s saying that we’re not trying to make it what we want because we’re choosing to love it as it is, just like we love ourselves for how we are right now. Why should we keep fighting loss and losing when we can surrender to love and loss in equal measure as natural parts of our existence?
Perhaps, when we start letting things be, we won’t feel the need to try so hard to let things go.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Zak Cannon/Flickr
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Karpanen
Social Editor: Sara Karpanen