The Art Of Letting Go

Playing fetch. It’s one of the first things we teach our dogs. A simple minded game that strengthens the bond between a human and “man’s best friend” and keeps the fur ball occupied for hours on end…that is…when they actually let you have the ball.
Have you ever tried to play a game of fetch with a dog that won’t actually let you throw or even get near the ball? It usually goes something like this:

You’re sitting on the couch. He’ll bring one of his toys to you and lay it down either in your lap or right next to you. Then he’ll take a couple steps back, look at the toy, look at you…look at the toy, then look at you…and so on; in mischievous anticipation, tail wagging, waiting for you to try and grab it and throw it. But here’s the “catch”. As you slowly move your hands towards the toy to go and throw it for him, he’ll try to reach in and grab it before you get a chance, sometimes your fingers accidentally in the way. (Those are some big teeth!!) And if by chance you do end up latching on, he’s still holding onto the toy from his end as well and then it becomes a game of tug of war instead of fetch, eventually with you either trying to playfully pry the toy from his death grip, or you just plain give up, let him have it and he’s ready for round two.

The dog wants to play, he has good intentions but in order to play the game the way it was originally intended, he has to give up the one thing that he really really wants. He has to choose one or the other. He can’t have both.

To be honest, it sounds a lot like some of us in life, doesn’t it? I know I’ve definitely played that game. We want it all. We don’t want to have to give anything up. We want the benefits of moving ahead with a fresh start without having to sacrifice certain things in our past. We want the excitement of something new but we don’t want to make room for it by cleaning out the clutter that is standing in the way. We want the results without the effort. We want the new relationship but still hang on to old ones as “back up”, just in case it doesn’t work out with this one. Even when we know it’s not healthy. We have a list of things we want to accomplish but we don’t want to break up with old habits that are getting in the way. We want to get in better shape but we don’t make the time to go to the gym. We want good, healthy, life-long friendships, but we don’t want to draw the line and have standards or boundaries when it comes to the friendships we already have. We turn a blind eye to what’s happening around us because we don’t want to rock the boat.

I’ve mentioned these examples to say this…

Have we become too comfortable with being comfortable?

Have we settled for clutter covered in dust instead of taking a broom to it and sweeping it out with the trash where it belongs; making room for something new? Something useful?

The past ten years have been exactly that for me. An entire decade of clearing out the clutter in my life. Breaking up with bad habits and making room for new and beneficial ones. Letting go of relationships/friendships, as hard as it was, knowing it was necessary to make room for new and healthier ones in the future. Even developing and re-programming a new mind-set. A new way of thinking to help shape a new me. It’s definitely been a long, slow and steady ride. Mountaintops and valleys. Setbacks and victories. There’s definitely an art to it. This whole “letting go” thing. Mine doesn’t look like anybody else’s I’m sure.

It means early mornings and late nights when I would rather sleep. It means cutting ties with people cold turkey, without any explanation or that dramatic “closure” mumbo jumbo that really only exists in the movies. And even though it’s excruciating, you know it’s the best option. Like ripping off a bandaid that just won’t seem to budge at first. Because you also know that when you’re too afraid to jump, sometimes you just need a not so gentle push to get things going in the right direction and get you back on track again. It means making the choice to remove as many distractions as possible. Not because they’re necessarily “bad” but because in this season of my life, I can’t afford to be distracted by every little thing this world has to offer. (For example, I don’t have tv or netflix in my home.) It means giving up things that I love for awhile, like buying concert tickets or toning down my shopping because I have a long term vision for my life and short-sighted, living in the moment type of thinking just won’t cut it.

I have learned that you have to want your future, and all it’s sacrificial, hopeful uncertainty, much more than you want to remain in the comfortable, familiarity of your past.

I have learned that most of the time, you have to jump and build your wings on your way down and learn to fly.

I have learned that you can make decisions now, that your future self will either thank you for or hate you for…the choice is yours.

I have learned how important it is to tell your day how it’s going to go rather than allowing the day to tell you how things are going to go. That choice is also yours.

And last but certainly not least, I have learned not to settle for the crumbs that somebody throws me, like I am some ally way dog, eager for whatever is tossed my way. But that I am worthy and willing to wait for the good stuff. To pull up a chair, sit at the table and dine like a queen, and to expect nothing less.

The art of letting go is exactly that…an art. It’s learned. It’s starting. It’s pausing and taking a step back to see the bigger picture. And then it’s starting again. It’s making mistakes and learning how to make it apart of the finished masterpiece. It’s perfected over time though it’s never really truly perfect. With each brushstroke being unique to the artist, no two pieces of art are ever exactly the same. The art of it all, I believe is in the “letting” part. Giving ourselves permission. Saying to ourselves, “It’s time. Time to let go now. Time to give that up now.” And the only way we can ever actually manage to pry our trembling fingers away is when we realize that as good as we thought it was, it is nothing compared to what lie ahead.

Jen xo