Emma started kindergarten this year. It feels like just yesterday Steve and I were sitting in the doctor's office, looking at the print out of the ultrasound the tech had given us, marveling that we were going to have a little girl! Now she is five, and she is a confident, strong, happy kid. She can't wait to grow older and do all the things the big kids can do. She wants so badly to eat lunch in the cafeteria, to drive a car, and to learn how to whistle. This is what being grown up means to her. As she has been growing and her personality has been emerging, stronger and stronger each day, I can't help but want to hold on to my little girl. I don't want to let her childhood go. I don't want her to grow up.
Letting go seems to be something we all have to do in life. We get used to something, we like it, we don't want it to change. We don't even have to like it, really. I have had plenty of bad habits in my life, and none of them have been easy to let go.
People don't generally talk about self harm as being addictive. People don't generally talk about self harm, period. When I was self harming, it got to a point where it was something I felt I needed to do, whether I was feeling sad or not, whether I was despondent or not, whether I was happy or not. It was this pull. As I wrestled with the addiction, I found that there was a piece of me that didn't want to let it go. There was a piece of me that didn't feel good about letting what had become a safety net for my anxiety go. I felt that if I let go of the cutting, I let go of part of me. It doesn't really make sense to me now, but it made perfect sense mid struggle.
There has been a whole process of recognition, acceptance, struggle, and finally separation. I don't know that it has made me a better person, but it has definitely made me more self aware. I can better identify my boundaries, and I can better identify my healthy coping skills and put them to good use.
This has helped me in my relationships as well. I have a tendency to create certain relationships where I am dependent on the other person for a lot. I depend on them for my self worth. If they seek me out, or want to hang out, then I feel fabulous. If they ignore me or don't answer a phone call, then I am despondent. I depend on them to point the direction. I have a hard time making decisions for myself; I always follow the lead of whomever I am with. This is not only a friendship thing - it happens in my professional life as well.
I have been figuring out that such dependent behavior, though it feels right and comfortable at times, ultimately is not good for my well being. I have to learn to stand on my own. I have had to step back a bit to analyze my behavior, and I am trying to learn to let go where it is necessary.
That is not to say it is easy. I really don't think letting go is ever easy.
I once did a canyoneering adventure with my brother in Zion National Park called Pine Creek. It is a series of rappels in a narrow slot canyon with many twists and turns. Sometimes the rappels were not too high, but others were significant. One of the rappels was into a pool of water, and there were times we had to swim unknown distances around corners until footings were found. The final rappel, however, was the true test of nerves. The ropes hang straight down in space, not against any rocks, for 200 feet. In order to rappel, you have to back yourself up over the edge of an overhanging rock and lean back as far as you can and basically "let go", by letting your whole body let go of the safety of the rock and hang in space.
I can tell you that it is not for the faint hearted. Even though this was 25 years ago, just thinking about it makes my palms sweat. I can still remember the feeling: heart pounding, adrenaline pulsing, hardly being able to breathe, as I slowly inched myself back. I would stop every little bit and try to talk myself into it. Eventually, though, I reached a point where I just leaned back far enough that my whole body weight was on the rope. All that was left was to lower just a bit more and kick off with my feet.
*Kick!* suddenly I was swinging in the air, and was fine. I hadn't dropped off the rope, and I was secure. All it took was that one leap of faith. Just that letting go. Suddenly, I could breathe again, and smile. I smiled all the way down.
I think that's the true feeling of being able to let go. Just being able to make that final kick and to swing out in space for a minute, knowing that I did it. I was able to let go, and now I am free. Now I can open my heart to bigger and better things.
I know that everyone is talking about that song from the movie Frozen, "Let it Go." I have to say, even though my kids listen to it all the time, I am still not tired of that song. I feel like the message is so inspiring. The scene where Elsa is walking on the mountain top, releasing her powers that she has held so close and private for so long is exactly how I imagine it feels to let go.
Letting go is so empowering.