I’ve spent the last several years of my life practicing the art of letting go.
It’s no secret to those who know me that letting go is deeply counterintuitive for me.
As a child, I moved from place to place, collecting addresses along the way. I’d write long letters to my friends, desperately holding on to that connection and terrified of being forgotten.
How could anyone hold on to me when they stayed, and I just kept leaving? So I sent out those lifelines written in ink and sealed with a stamp.
Growing up didn’t stop that need. In fact, it seemed to amplify it. I needed roots, and I wasn’t quite sure how to grow them. How could a person with no roots feel rooted? I needed security, but I couldn’t quite remember what that felt like.
I kept trying to hold on to my life plans, my sense of self, my sense of myself within a relationship that was wrong for me, and even my idea of how life was supposed to be. I became a barnacle of a person. I became human glue, or Scotch tape at the very least. I tried to stick to everything, and yet, I feel my world changing.
I survived a divorce in which letting go of the relationship was like sand slipping through my fingers. By that point, I didn’t even try to hold on. But the feelings? That mix of anger, resentment, and bitterness? I held it clenched tightly in my fist and tucked it into a corner of my soul where sometimes it peeks out to rage at the world before disappearing again.
And then, I met the lover who shook my world off its axis. How could I, the consummate cool girl, the girl who never caught feelings, fall so far, so fast, and with so little warning? I fell, my feet trying to grasp for purchase to slow my slide into oblivion.
Newsflash to that lover: I didn’t want it. I wasn’t looking for it. I would have stopped it if I could.
But I couldn’t. I was helpless against this onslaught of feelings, and it seemed no sooner than I caught them, he was ghosting me completely. Because a bonfire of a girl burning up with love burns too hot and and too bright for someone used to flickering candles or the artificial brightness of electric lights.
He left, and I held on. I held on through his eternal silence, through his refusal to acknowledge my existence, through the waves of feeling that swept through me, through the love that wouldn’t quit because it was inconvenient. And painful. And useless without a willing recipient. Oh, I held on!
Months passed. A year. I found myself again. I rooted and stretched. And then, oh then, I met him. The one who took me by surprise, who upset my carefully scripted plans. The one I couldn’t anticipate. He gave me enough love, something I’d never had before. He looked at me like I hung the moon. For a while, it was perfect. Like snowflake perfect. Or a full harvest moon on a clear night perfect.
And then, it began falling apart. Oh, just in small ways at first. The snowflake melting along the edges. A cloud obscuring a corner of the moon. When it ended, it did so abruptly. I had to let go of the relationship while holding desperately to the love. We could not keep it, and yet I could not let it go.
And then I was hit by a thought: Why do we think we need to let love go? Why do we try so hard to do it? Do we think, by letting go, that we will successfully banish all feeling, surrender all memory?
It seems to me that love isn’t something to let go. But it’s also not something which we can hold on to either. It just is. We can’t catch it or keep it, and we sure as hell can’t make it stay when it wants to leave. Nor can we stop ourselves from falling headlong into it, despite our frantic attempts to hold back. And if love can’t be held, it certainly has no need for us to let it go.
When the lovers go, the love stays with us. They don’t take it with them, even if it feels as if a piece of ourselves is missing. That’s their absence. It’s not our love. We keep the love. Letting go is impossible since we’re not actually holding it. Instead of letting it go and releasing back into wherever it came from, so that it can head to wherever it’s going next, perhaps we just need to find a way to let it be.
We could simply accept our feelings and, at the same time, accept our circumstances. But we could also stop trying so damn hard to let all of that love go. It’s wasted effort that we could be using to love ourselves just a little bit harder. We can open up those clenched fists now. They aren’t holding anything.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Image: Deviant Art/Gwendalin-Niles
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Yoli Ramazzina