Well, the holidays are here and I’m already edgy. What is it about this time of year that makes us go crazy? Is it all the extra demands put on us or shall I more appropriately say, that WE put on OURSELVES?
The other night I literally had a melt down over our Christmas lights not illuminating at the right time. The timer wasn’t working and instead of just letting it roll off, I decided to make it personal and went on a ten minute rant primarily directed at my husband and anyone else who would listen. I basically accused my sweet husband of being technologically ignorant (though I didn’t say it that diplomatically). It got as bad as me diving into “comparison” mode by screaming, “Why can’t we be normal and put up f***ing Christmas lights like every other nice family in the neighborhood?” Hmmm…the joys of being human.
Needless to say, I felt like sh*t afterwords and my Christmas lights still didn’t come on. Ideally, our hope is to catch ourselves before the rant gains traction and feelings are hurt and regret sets in, but in this case I was too far gone. After I came to my senses, I realized it’s about fear and control. Somehow, the Christmas lights coming on as the sun goes down was a matter of me attempting to control something in my life. Sort of pathetic I know, but if I’m being honest with you, I think “letting go” has probably been my attempted anthem all year long. And, let me tell you as a hard wired, westernized human — it’s hard to do.
It’s not surprising to me that I am ending the year with this theme because it’s how I began the year as well. Last November and December were tough for me. I distinctly remember setting out on a new path of letting go and finding peace. Well, I can happily state that I remained true to my desire throughout the year, yet my ability to truly “let go” as they say has been a humble work in progress.
I’ve read and read and read and listened and listened and listened to almost every modern expert on the idea of letting go and guys, I hate to report this, but there’s no simple solution or easy five step process on truly achieving the art of letting go. As far as I can tell (and I’m a novice so give me grace), letting go is really about being self-aware and doing the work inside. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
I know, fun, right? It’s exhausting to engage in self-inquiry, self-examination, self-exploration or whatever “self” word you choose, but the results of this type of work can often bring us a deeper state of peace and love. I have found that staying in the moment and being fully conscious to what is rather than what should be has helped me undo the pervasive unease that often vibrates right under the surface of our skin, and if we are lucky the resistance starts to slowly unravel.
To give you a little example of what I mean by a daily awareness practice, I wanted to share a short anecdote that happened between my son and me a few weeks ago. I was standing in the kitchen when Harrison walked in from a weekend visit to Amherst College. The first thing he said to me was, “Mom, did you know Robert Frost was a professor at Amherst?” I humbly replied that I hadn’t remembered that fact but inside I was embarrassed by my lack of knowledge since my Amherst grad husband had told me this “umpteenth” times over the years.
Harrison went on to mention one of Frost’s most famous poems, “The Road Not Taken” and how they studied it in English class and it made an impact on him. I was silent. I was conflicted. I felt joyful and proud yet extremely vulnerable. I didn’t know the poem he was referring to and I hadn’t remembered Robert Frost taught there. As I started to succumb to these futile emotions of insecurity and lack, I immediately caught myself and released my anxiety and hugged Harrison. I had tears in my eyes and quietly said, “Please tell me more.” We went on to have the most beautiful conversation that evening about Robert Frost, Harrison’s visit to Amherst and his meeting with the head of the creative writing department.
As I reflect on this interaction, I understand the blessing that occurred. If I hadn’t stopped myself from my own undoing that conversation would never have occurred. It could have turned into something completely different, like an indulgent examination of my self-assigned, so-called ineptitude. Instead, I let go and a blessing unfolded. (Yay me.)
As far as letting go goes, most of us have some core issues in our life that are filled with resistance. I know we all wish we were in that permanent state of bliss in yoga class where the teacher gently says, “Inhale your positive intention and exhale what no longer serves you.” Aaahhh…yes. I already feel better. BUT, the problem is we usually leave our mats and go back to trying to find peace in the external.
For many, it ranges from letting go of the past and/or future to letting go of expectations and outcomes to letting go of a negative situation (or person) to letting go of self-limiting thoughts and behaviors. For the lucky ones, letting go can happen instantly, almost as if an immediate state of clarity exists and the struggle is gone.
One of my good friends shared that after a painful divorce and two years of holding resentment, anger and hurt for her ex’s new partner, the feelings suddenly washed away as if a light bulb had gone off. In that moment she realized that her anger was no longer serving her children, her relationship with her ex and most importantly, HER. My jaw was dropped as she shared this story with me because I think it’s a miracle to be given the gift of healing. So many people go their entire lives holding on to hurt and pain. But she decided right then and there — she was done.
Another friend who is adopted tells me that upon finally finding her biological father at age 45, she felt like the last missing puzzle piece of her life had been found. She could finally let go of the insecurity of never really knowing who she was. Knowing the truth set her free and I love that she was given this gift from the universe. To quote Martin Luther King Jr, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty we are free at last!” For me, letting go has been more of a daily practice rather than an “ah-ha” moment. I’ve worked hard on staying mindful of the present moment and not allowing my own baggage to mess up the beauty that exists right here, right now.
This past year I’ve been primarily focused on letting go of issues surrounding my daughter, Marlie and the many losses I have experienced, as I’ve had three close people in my life pass away this year. With Marlie I am working hard on releasing the idea that there is a hard and fast timeline on her progress. I find myself getting stuck on what I think she should be doing rather than what she is doing. It’s so hard to stay in the moment and accept what is but when I do it allows me to see hope for the future. It’s when we live in resistance to the now that we can’t see with any sense of clarity.
For example, we took Marlie to see Santa this weekend and in the hustle and bustle of the experience, her dad asked her, “What do you want to do over the holidays?” Marlie simply replied, “I want to be with you.” Now, if that isn’t a NOW moment, I don’t know what is. There is so much clarity and simplicity in the moment.
On this same theme, I fell upon watching a documentary this weekend about the beloved Fred Rogers of Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. It was a beautiful tribute to his life and who he was as a person. He had a deep, poignant understanding of children and especially of children with special needs. He eloquently states, “I don’t think anyone can grow unless he’s loved exactly as he is now, appreciated for what he is rather than what will be.” WOW, that’s it really.
And, as far as the loss of my loved ones, there are the issues of letting go of regret or “could haves” and “should haves” and coming to a sense of peace that there is no perfect way to die both for the soul who has departed and for the soul who is still here. All the pain and drama surrounding what we could have done better blocks the love, light, peace and understanding that our loved one is right here, right now supporting us on our continued path as a living soul. My mother read this quote at my uncle’s funeral last week by one of my favorite poets, John O’Donohue, “Let us not look for you only in memory, where we would grow lonely without you. You would want us to find you in presence, beside us when beauty brightens, when kindness glows and music echoes eternal tones.”
So, in essence, my hope is that during this cra-cra month of December, I can offer you some beneficial tips and helpful, relevant content to support you in the process of letting go. We will continue to feature some of our favorite guest gurus on how to take care of yourself this month. We will also focus on giving back as we engage in the art of letting go of ourselves because sometimes it’s helpful to step outside of our minds and be in service to others.
That said, for the first time ever I am hosting a store-wide toy drive where we will be collecting toys for our most vulnerable children this holiday season. The charities we are benefiting are Kids’ Meals, Ronald McDonald House and Heroes for Children. It’s a great way to introduce your younger children to the idea of giving back and thinking about others. Hopefully I will see you there.
So, join me this month – let’s do this together guys! All together now and as Queen Elsa so passionately sings, “Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore.”
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