There seems to be an interesting theme developing around me in recent months, as it appears that many people are having trouble or are challenged by the notion of letting go.
There was a time in my life (a large chunk of my life, in fact) where letting go seemed to be one of those universal life cycle activities that I flat out refused to do. I held onto just about everyone and everything I had as if they or it was the very thing that would keep me alive. For example, I would make a decision and hold on to that decision whether or not it later served me to continue with it.
My thinking was linear and all I could comprehend was that if I tried a little bit harder, I could make that dammed square peg fit into the round hole. I would further add, “Just watch, I can do it!”
I never understood why we had people in our lives for what seemed like short periods. The lessons they brought into my world were wonderful, timely and I did not want to let them leave my life for any reason.
I missed the actual discussion of what the serenity prayer meant from those early days in Al-Anon and really had no wisdom to know what I could or could not change in this life. I was sure if something was broken or changing, then it was my responsibility to fix it and stop it from changing, rather than to let life flow along, as it will.
I became angry and felt inadequate when I could not effectively battle such ridiculous universal principles as the life cycle. If you know me, you can see me crossing my arms and stamping my feet, while saying “NO! And you cannot make me!” My ability to let go of things did not come easily, needless to say, and I fought it tooth and nail.
As I have mentioned before in blogs and in other writings, we often tend to vacillate from one extreme to the other to find a balance. The universe presented a poignant lesson to me in my early 30’s—well, actually, there were so many lessons involved in this situation, but I will stay focused on the letting go part of it for now.
This lesson was presented as a rapidly progressing illness that within six months of the first symptoms had me in a wheelchair. Yes, a wheelchair and this was in spite of my arms being crossed and my attempts to stamp my feet to stop the progression. I lost functioning and in some significant ways, that I will not bore you with here, but because it all happened so fast, it soon turned into the year that I lost everything.
Kicking and screaming, I had to make decisions about work, housing, my dogs, and my health and as those decisions had to be made, I made them all reluctantly. I did not know who I was without my teaching job, my homeless outreach job, my refereeing gig…I didn’t know who I was if I could not work or maintain my own housing and take care of my dogs.
I did not have much time to really think about these things because doing the basics such as showering, eating and such were very time consuming and energy draining activities. I moved forward through each major decision assuming I would deal with it later.
In what seemed like an instant, I learned what was most important in my own life and then strived to hold on to that for dear life. I realized that my dogs were most important to me and tried to move hell and earth to make sure that I kept them with me. Hell and Earth do not move very easily from a wheelchair, unfortunately.
My dogs did indeed teach me to continue moving forward and that sometimes our choices are limited. When I moved into the homeless program where I had gotten my clients placed in the previous year, my dogs went to live with my boss. Here, fortunately, he was willing and able to keep them while I attempted to get SSDI and perhaps even a diagnosis and treatment.
What I did not know then was that there would be a continuous series of letting go “exercises” from that point forward as well. I figured not physically living with the dogs would be my hardest transition, and it certainly was, but mostly because of what happened next and next and next even still.
I would go into the series of things that happened next, but for the purposes of this blog now, those details are not my point. I resisted change and loss for much of my life and interestingly enough, I only got more losses and more changes.
At some point, I got it. I got the lesson that fighting against the flow of things and universal principles of quantum physics was not serving me very well. Of course, that did not stop the resistance after realizing it to be true because it was not in my nature to surrender to anything.
The laws of the universe and nature were no exception. My determination and persistence were beneficial in many areas of my life, please do not misunderstand that these very qualities have served me well in surviving and overcoming many obstacles in my life up to this very point. I took this to a bit of an extreme without being able to think a bit less linearly about it.
I was finally exhausted from expending so much energy on changing things that I had no more control over than the moon’s cycles. I was getting worse physically and this was not getting me any closer to getting back with my dogs.
At some point during the worsening, I looked at the reality of my situation. I could not take care of myself, by myself. I needed to surrender to that for that time and seek to find a way to figure out how to learn how to do what I needed to do to function.
I wish I could say that surrendering made it all better or somehow changed my situation, but it clearly did not. I went to a nursing and rehabilitation facility where I had thought I would be learning how to more safely transfer, new ways of perhaps being able to shower on my own, have meals provided so that I could perhaps gain more strength through proper nutrition.
It all sounded like a solid plan, but as it turned out, this is not how it all went down once I committed to this plan. I fought that too. This was not the plan and I needed to get the plan back on track. I reported the nursing home to the accrediting people, etc., but it still did not change the plan’s ineffective implementation.
I was on my own and the irony was that I was not able to manage on my own and that was why I was even there to begin with. As much as I love irony, it became evident that I needed a new approach and perspective to still have some of the same outcomes of the original plan.
Would you believe that you cannot get yourself out of a nursing home for 30 days once you are admitted? Not even to switch nursing homes—once you are there, you are there. I will say that of course I asked these questions before committing, but this is not exactly what I was told that would happen.
At any rate, all of these things certainly were express lessons in letting go of my rigidly held ideas about so many things in this life. I, in fact, became so good at letting go and moving forward, that I have a hard time remembering many of the details of the near full year of traumatic circumstances.
I lost everything and I survived it. I learned to appreciate and have gratitude for what I do have and realized that the rest of what is outside of me is simply icing on the cake. I am still not a fan of losing people or the fact that people flow in and out of our lives for such short time periods.
I am still not a fan of knowing that even though my symptoms are under control and I am functioning very well, there is still a disease process at work in my body that I cannot will away. I am not a fan of knowing that those souls that I hold most dear will also have to move on. I do take some comfort in knowing that this process goes more smoothly when I move along with it, rather than resist it!