I had to laugh when I came across this comic in the L.A. Times recently. Ha! Relating to it, I cut it out and posted it on my peg board. I wanted to hang it in a prominent place to remind myself that at times, I need to… just…LET GO!
There has been a plethora of books written on this subject. Among them, Letting Go: The Pathway to Surrender by David Hawkins, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers, and The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. All offer reasons we hang on, much of the time way too long, to thoughts, habits, and even people who no longer serve us. I’ve read two of these texts as well as many others, always interested in why people do the things they do, and more so, why I do the things I do.
From my journal: September 22, 2015 Newbury Park, California
“My interview was awful, just the worst…I feel so bad, so disappointed…I should’ve prepared more…need to let it go, but I can’t stop thinking about it…”
Sound familiar? Have you ever said or done something and the after effect is a never-ending cycle of could’ves, should’ves, and would’ves, playing over and over in your head? If so, there are reasons for this, but better yet, there are ways to help us get out of that rut.
Holding on to bad feelings causes pain, stress, and frustration. It keeps us stuck. But, when we can let go, we are able to accept things as they are, instead of how we want them to be. When we let go, we suffer less, feel lighter, and are more at peace. I, for one, want that. So, the question becomes, why do we, or why do I, have a hard time letting go?
It’s simple. It involves change. Change is needed to get a different result and the fact is, people tend to stick to what they know. It’s more comfortable to stay put than it is to embrace the unknown. Letting go, also takes time. It isn’t as easy as waving a magic wand and saying “Abracadabra” and then Poof! you are free. It is a process. Some experts liken it to the Kubler-Ross stages of grief that include: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance.
Over the decades, I have recorded my struggles with letting go in my journals. Each time I am able to let go however, I get better at it, and I learn more about myself. Only then, can I move forward.
When it comes to releasing negativity, there are a few techniques that work for me. I may use all of my tried-and-true tools, or a combination, depending on the issue. However, I always start by letting my emotions flow. I do this by putting my pen to paper. Writing out what is on loop in my mind, allows me to “see” what’s bothering me. Then I have the chance to break down what I am feeling into manageable pieces. Next, I try to be gentle with myself and think what a loved one would say if I share what’s happened with them. Oftentimes, my friends and family are kinder to me than I am to myself. Then, I engage in some type of self-care. I may take a long walk, work on an art project, or listen to music. These activities nurture me and root me in the moment. Being present lets me focus on something that feels good. And when needed, I lean on others for support. Everyone has a different point of view, and it can be helpful to hear others’ experiences and ideas. And maybe most important of all, at some point during my process, I sit quietly with the discomfort. It’s amazing what insights come when you sit still long enough to let them in.
Even now, I can recall that September day when I opened the door to the conference room at the Oxnard School District office and was directed to a seat at one end of a long rectangular table while facing four serious looking educators on the other. Wasting no time, they fired off questions that I had been asked dozens of times, but this time I had a hard time answering them. Once home, I was still stunned at how poorly I did, so I asked myself why. I remember being frustrated with my current job situation within my district. I recall feeling unsupported and burned out. And I remember wondering if I even wanted to teach any longer. All of this weighed heavily on me even before the interview began.
Over the weeks that followed, I realized the reason my answers to the panel’s questions weren’t clear was because my thoughts and feelings about my situation weren’t clear. Did I really want to work in another district? Did I really want a Response to Intervention position instead of a Multi-Disciplinary teaching job? Did I really want to work in another field? Once I was able to let go, I then found the space to focus on what was right for me. As it turned out, my next interview was one of my best and I accepted a short-term 4th Grade teaching job in my current district, which gave me the breathing room I needed just then.
Letting go may feel scary and while it takes time and effort to work through, what waits in the wings: mindfulness, freedom from suffering, and peace of mind, will ultimately be well worth it.