On Letting Go

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I can’t think of anything that’s been written about more when it comes to self-help topics, so, when I gave myself the challenge of writing another tome about the ability to let go, I was concerned. If humans keep writing about it, it must mean that letting go is a difficult path and one that is neither straight nor narrow.

Why do we have such a hard time letting go? Why do humans cling to thoughts, ideas, actions and people that do not serve our happiness and wellbeing? It starts, my friends, in the beginning…in the way, way back. Before we had cars. Before we domesticated horses. Before we had special shoes for date nights. Before we had shoes.

I’m a student of evolutionary biology, a science that says humans behave in the best interest of the survival of their genetic code. Above all else, we seek to carry on in the face of eminent dangers, perilous foes, and unpredictable habitats. So when we have trouble letting go of that grudge we developed against our former BFF, or of that co-dependent relationship that makes us a shell of a human, its because of something so fundamentally biological and deeply wired that its monumental to overcome it.

We no longer have to worry about remembering which berries caused us to vomit all of our mammoth steak out, or that lions tended to hide in that particular patch of grass, but our brains still cling to moments that have caused us pain, discomfort and ‘attacked’ us. It’s how we avoid that patch of grass. Its how we leave the berries on the bush. Its how we won’t let ourselves move on from the memories of things that have scarred us.

Modernity, of course, doesn’t give us the same enemies. It gives us the tattered shreds of relationships gone wrong; it gives us the slings and arrows of hurtful words, broken promises, and unsaid feelings. And by holding on to those, our brains believe that we’ll be saved from the next snake in the grass.

Conversely, our brains will fixate on the sweet moments of the past to the point of overshadowing the bad that went along with it. We do this because the pleasure of the good is less traumatic to remember than the negativity of the bad. We remember how sweet that guy was…not his narcissistic tendency. We remember how much we loved that job…except the mind-numbing monotony. We remember how awesome high school was…except for the nasty cliques that made our days an emotional train wreck. We cling to the bright, to the beautiful, to the often overblown memories of happiness that we miss…moments that never really happened that way.

On both accounts we are hanging on; whether to protect ourselves from pain, or to glean some long lost, and skewed version of happiness. If we are committed to cleaning our slate and letting go, the route is the same for both and has everything to do with being honest with our selves. We aren’t roaming savannahs anymore. We have shoes. We have knowledge. We are self-aware. We know why we behave certain ways and thus need to be more introspective about our behaviors.

Is that a poison berry? Or is it an archaic response that has thrown up walls around my heart to a person who could benefit from my forgiveness. Does hanging on to the memory of that person, place, or time, serve me today, and in my future? Does it serve to make me better, happier, more complete? Does what I’m clinging to make me a better person? Is it propelling me on my journey or dragging behind me like a chained weight shackled on? Mostly, it’s the later. 

The best response is to acknowledge those moments, be truly self aware in them, and deconstruct them. Peel back the layers and understand why your heart is clenched around them. Did that moment hurt? Are you afraid it will repeat itself? Do you have good cause to fear and is the fear worth staying stuck in the same pattern for the rest of your life?

Convincing yourself to let go of things that you fear could cause further pain might be made easier by consciously saving the lesson but letting go the memory. That break-up hurt, so learn why it went down so spectacularly in a fiery blast. Does it mean you can’t have another relationship? No…but be aware of your patterns, of your part in the failures. Forgive yourself for doing the best you could at the moment and promise your shiny new self-aware self, to do better next time.

Letting go starts with being honest with yourself, forgiving and understanding the damage that hanging on can do. You can’t open your hands to the world if you’re clinging pointlessly to the past. You can’t build new happiness in your life if you believe all of your happy days are behind you. Let that shit go. Drop it like it’s hot. Free up those hands for something better. Free up that heart for the next love. Free up that brain space for something useful; something that can benefit humankind, not just your own survival.

What would happen if we strived, in our new self-aware state, to not let the possibility of predator eyes in the tall grass keep us away from the sweetest berries? What happens when we chose to live without fear of hurt or failure? What happens when we chose to live our best life in this present instead of wallowing in regretful glances over our shoulder at the past?

Freedom happens. New and brilliant horizons. Bare and unfettered feet, untethered potential.

So let go. Let go the hate. Let go the pain. Let it down into the Earth (she’s a big and beautiful momma and she will take it for you) Put down your chains, and chose to move ahead a free human.

VerseDay 10-3-19

Good morning!

I’m excited to be featuring the astounding and talented Kathryn Balteff. Residing in a state that I have a deep, personal love for (just ask Destiny), she was gracious enough to send in some of her beautiful work that I will be featuring throughout October and into November.

Kathryn is a poet, writer, and artist who currently moonlights as a used book, gift, and coffee shop owner, although over the years she’s also worked as an educator, sheep farmer, veterinary technician, and veterinary practice manager. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Southern Maine and an MA in English from Oakland University.

While she is mostly known for her poetry, she also pens essays, fiction, and killer to-do lists. Drawing inspiration from the landscape, sea, and the cosmos, Kathryn often can be found wandering the rocky trails near her home along the coast of Downeast Maine with her husband and their collie dog, Lady Kate.

Today I chose her poem “Letting Go” as a breather for a lot of the serious business going on here lately. Read, enjoy, and support Kathryn by sharing it around!

 

Letting Go

I feel the winds

Deep in my gut they rise

and stir

Tickling up dust

Particles from items long forgotten

on the floor of my heart.

Maybe they were just tucked away
so I could pretend not to see them as they languished there . . .

All that
is of no consequence.

The winds have come again.

This time

different.

I feel their swirling momentum

reaching up into my being

pushing
tugging
chafing

They spin me

round

and round

I can’t know where they will take me.
I only know —
This time
I will not hold fast to the binding post of the closest excuse
This time
I will stretch open my arms to embrace the power the winds bring

This time
I will raise my face to the sky triumphant
I will soar.

 

VerseDay 5-30-19

Belated is better than be-not-at-all-ed? Okay, I’m a little loopy from a day of summer kick offs and emotional rollercoasters from various areas of my life. Here’s what I got. They can’t all be pretty.

Don’t forget to send me your stuff…seriously. I will print it.

 

 

Amend

Sometimes the battle cry at end of day,

Is nothing more than a whimper

a sigh.

A pitiful resignation

Of body into sheets and tired eyelids pressing

 

Sometimes the battle cry at end of day,

Is the knife you did not take up,

The pills still stacked in unopened bottles

The liquid in bottles still stoppered,

House loud with the unopening of vessel

Human or otherwise.

 

Sometimes the battle cry at end of day,

Is the giving into the aching vice of bone

And the people we cannot change

And the problems we cannot solve,

It is a cry of letting go,

A world we cannot Amen-d

VerseDay 5-23-19

Enjoy today’s VerseDay and be sure to send me your poetry, essays, thoughts and musings for consideration in The Beautiful Stuff’s 2019 Poetry Anthology aptly named “No Small Things: The Beautiful Stuff Poetry Anthology 2019.

Send your work for consideration in the body of an email to: sereichert@comcast.net, with “POETRY SUBMISSION” in the Subject line, along with a brief bio and your website/promotional information.

And now this….

 

When you see me again

 

When you see me

Again

I will be much changed.

I will not be the girl you knew

I will be something

Strange and fierce.

 

The calm of sensuality

That you cannot touch

Hunger you cannot satiate

And when you see me,

You will ache to know me

But will not comprehend.

Cannot comprehend

The ways in which I have left this space

 

When you see me

You will know,

The river you cannot swim

The depth of mystery

And love

You only dipped

Fingertip

in

You cannot

Slide across my surface

or touch to feel me

anymore.

 

When you see me

I will have shed you as old skin

Left behind, pinched

between rock and ground

The ghostly outline, honeycombed in dirt

The woman who knew you

Has dropped away the shell of your empty

Affection

 

When you see me again,

You will not know me.

I will be much changed.

Strange and fierce.

An untouchable,

Incomprehensible

Ache

 

 

 

 

 

The Human Genre

 

We’re not only defined by what we chose to do in our lives, but how we do it. We are categorized by outward and inward perceptions, each of us, akin to novels, and are thusly classified into genres.

 

Ah, she’s a romantic mystery with a dash of humor.

That guy over there is a political intrigue, with a splash of old school patriarchy.

Ah, she’s a pushy self-help, peppered with self-righteousness and a healthy pinch of praise-Jesus.

That lady over there is a bitter cozy mystery with a hint of post-menopausal lack of fucks to give.

 

We are defined by the things we do. We’re put into categories by people we know, and by companies that gather our data. Even when we don’t ask for it, we’re given a neat little label. And sometimes, when we’re overloaded and overworked, we start using that label as our only sense of self, as we desperately try to remember our purpose… And sometimes, we use those labels as a scapegoat for our less-than-desirable behaviors.

 

I’ve been trying to meditate every day and have been working through a series on my app (yeah, look at me, getting all tech-savvy with an app to help me reconnect with my humanness…seems oxymoronic) about acceptance, depression, letting go, and stress management.

 

One recurring phrase I hear is: You are not your thoughts or your feelings.

 

This is a hard concept to grasp.

Humans are this odd mishmash of biology and higher neuronic thought processes. I mean on one of our great ape-grasping hands we’re barely getting used to this hairless bipedal thing, on the other hand we’re philosophical, heavy in the head, braining entities who, when left to our own devices will overthink ourselves into a coma.

Maybe there’s a fear that if we disconnect to our thoughts then we won’t know who we are.

Maybe we fear we’ll lose the basis of our existence if we let go of the ideas and feelings tethering us down.

 

But this is not so.

 

You see, thoughts and emotions change. All the time. And the reason humans become so miserable is that we tie ourselves to them, try to define ourselves by them. Then we are less apt to let them go, especially when they hold the addictive qualities of self-spiraling sadness and anger. We feel sad. We are sadness. We feel anger. We’re angry humans.

Conversely, when we are happy or elated and the emotion passes, as it will with the natural ebb and flow of life, we cling to it desperately and feel like something’s gone wrong when its tying us down.

Should we let go of happiness. No. Should we reject sadness and admonish ourselves for anger? Absolutely not. Be in the moment, with the emotion, understand it is a feeling, acknowledge it and let it go. You’re all that’s left.

 

Just as we aren’t tied to labels; we are not one genre, we are all genres.

 

Why is it important that we understand this?

 

Two reasons:

 

If we are boxed in to what the world has categorized us as, to our labels, we won’t know we can change. We become stagnant and perpetuate behaviors that are detrimental to our happiness and the benefit of humanity.

 

Secondly: We will feel trapped. And trapped animals lose the will to live. Without will, without passion, we cannot create, we cannot solve, we cannot continue to thrive in the world.

 

So how do we escape?

 

Here’s the dirty little secret:

 

I’m not entirely sure.

 

I think it has something to do with opening your mind to new ideas, allowing yourself to be different, to change the things about your life you don’t want to be a part of anymore, without guilt or self blame, and to let go of the idea that you are the personification of your thoughts and feelings.

 

You can be anything. Or just some things.

 

Or nothing at all.

 

Cross genres. Explore. Maintain your free will. While those that seek to control will tell you, free will is our greatest vice as human beings, that it causes us to make decisions that don’t align with status-quo, religious concepts, or dictator-imposed law and thus brings about the downfall of society, this is not the case.

 

There’s a reason the Dark Ages happened.

 

Free will, your ability to change, to move, to think differently are vital to not just survival but your purpose in life.

 

So what genre are you today?

 

VerseDay 2.0

Hey Darlin’. Listen, I know this is a little late in the posting, but I was spending an amazing afternoon with my kiddos touring Fort Collins’ awesome Museum of Discovery and spending upwards of three hours testing out every. single. musical and weather related experiment. It was a rare moment of beauty when I could drop being the “serious parent” and play. I hope you can find this in your life too.

Today is an oldie but a goodie. I’ve hung on to this one, revamped it, tweaked it, poured over it and abandoned it in a thousand ways, so I’m submitting it to ya’ll with a grain of salt and the caveat that I’d love to hear your thoughts and suggestions.

Partly inspired by that amazing song of Paul Simon’s “Train in the Distance”, partly from the muse of young love (like I said, this one’s been around a long while because we all know, I ain’t no spring chicken.)

Enjoy.

Letting Go

Hard is the moment when your heart loses hold,

Throws you down the last stair you didn’t see.

Shakes your body, breath-catching, squawk of fear.

The impending release, a train in the distance.

Hear the canyon-rolled moan, feel the grumble,

Shaking through the bottoms of your feet.

When you thought there was time.

Time to roll the memories over your tongue.

The smell of his shirt,

the fleshy warmth of his bottom lip between your teeth.

The particular scrape of stubble against your neck.

Time to hold your lonely gravity against his charming heart

Time to hope for a chance

that his soul might settle into yours

Like some god made him just for you.

The key to your dreams.

But that damn train…

Howling as it knife-edges closer.

Until, predetermined on its track, it rolls in

and the horror hits you.

They have to go.

And trying to hold them is like holding on to madness

Except, you’ve already stitched him there,

With that unreasonable spark hope. Incredible notions of destiny.

The train pulls away; tugs at delicate threads,

Unevenly, where your heart has grown around the stitches.

(Like the stitch of crows feet around laughing eyes.

The stitch of a stolen kiss while he watched you sleep)

And you ache from the pull. but you can’t stop the train.

And when it’s billowing stacks are all you see,

When its mournful bawl is all that’s left your ears,

you look down.

To all that remains… a gaping, bloody mess.

Shredded tissue, dripping a fever

Soaking wooden platform beneath feet.

That’s what letting go feels like;

Dripping blood, hot on your toes, shadowed by the fading

light of a train in the distance.