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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

On Letting Go

The ability to let go is a very good indicator of wisdom, positive attitude, as well as sound mental health. To some, letting go is a means of coping with the complexities of life. To others, letting go is their last resort when they feel that they have been  beaten by the irreversible hand of fate.
Our natural propensity is to want to have control over a big chunk of our life. Although we are aware that there are circumstances beyond our control, we nonetheless attempt to construct an order or system to make us feel we are in control. To get hold of ourselves, we meticulously schedule our activities and we plan our life ahead in terms of years--when to get married, when to have children, when to have a car, or when to have a vacation. We cannot afford to slip. Life is precious. Time is running out. We are reluctant to effect major changes in our life because changes are risky and offer no certainty.
We cling to some persons as though our very life depends upon them. We become bewildered and lost if they leave and we feel ourselves losing grip of what was once a secure relationship. We hold on dearly to the way "things have always been" without realizing that we're no longer living in the present but are caught up in the past. The more we cling, the more our world becomes smaller until we find that we are living a crustacean existence, unmindful of the vast ocean, aware only of our own tiny space in which to coil complacently.
What does it mean to genuinely let go? Letting go means letting people be, no matter how unreasonable, crazy or wrong they appear to us. We cannot and should not mold people according to what we want them to be. If we do, we steal from them their preciousness, their uniqueness, as well as their freedom of self-determination. It is one thing to guide or assist. It is another thing to control or dominate. If our advice falls on deaf ears, then let it be. If they become stupid or downright ignoble, it is their choice. And although we might not understand, at least we respect them despite of themselves.
Letting go releases us from the encapsulation of our negative emotions--hate, resentments, jealousy, bitterness and a host of non-contributive feelings. When we learn to let go, we begin to look at those cumbersome negative emotions in a new light: we don't have to be enslaved by them. By letting go, we learn that when we hate, get jealous or become bitter, it is not because some people made us feel that way but rather because we allow them to make us feel that way. Letting go means confronting these feelings and realizing that by continually nursing our wounds and pains we don't become better persons but rather we become our own enemies. When we let go of these ill feelings, we free ourselves and we can then recognize our worth as persons. At the same time, we can see the pettiness of it all. Then and only then can we become bigger than our heartaches and problems.
Letting go means surrendering to and accepting the inevitable--the what is and the what can never be. It took me quite a time to accept that my father was dead.  I was then nine years old and for a child's mind death was a puzzle. I kept consoling myself for days that my father would come back, would bring me a lot of goodies the way he used to, and would again hold me in his arms. Slowly, almost imperceptibly,I became aware of my own solitariness until it dawned on me that my father would never come back. When I was able to let go, I began to play again and to smile. I had to surrender my father so I could live again.
Letting go also means forgiving ourselves and others. We all make mistakes, sometimes intentionally, sometimes not. We all have stories to tell. The wrongs that we commit at times, no matter how simple or grievous, can be a source of uninvited guilt or a refreshing awakening. "If only I could turn back the clock, I would have chosen differently."  But there's no turning back anymore. There is only a moving on. We just have to let go of the sorrow that comes from sinning and forgive ourselves, to hope that there have been lessons learned along the way, to pray that we become better persons, and that we can right the wrongs we have done. Letting go is allowing ourselves, unafraid, to confront that which cannot be undone anymore and to take heart that we can still do otherwise.
At most, letting go is really a matter of being more loving and kinder to ourselves and others, within the horizon of what we can be and cannot be, of what we can do and cannot do--to the best of what we are and who we are.  Letting go is best expressed in the oft-quoted prayer: "Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."

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