Last Friday in yoga class as we were holding pigeon pose our teacher Chuck said, “Go a little deeper, whatever that means to you. Then, let it go.” At the end of savasana Kathleen, a fellow student, told the class, “You know, letting go can hurt.” I asked her later what she meant; she took her stretch even deeper and then felt a new kind of pain. She tried to let go. She explained the pain didn’t diminish during the time she held the pose, but it became easier to bear.
Wow. The pain didn’t go away, but it became easier to endure. This got me thinking about “letting go.” We are often thoughtless when we tell others to “let it go,” but it is not that simple. Letting go, even though an integral part of life, is a painful process. We are all expected to “let it go” after difficult and challenging times. Keep smiling. Be strong. Life goes on. Let it go.
But as we are entrenched in the letting go, our hearts are shattering in a billion pieces.
I will never forget my husband telling me how he felt as he watched his oldest daughter Rachael drive away for the first time. After their trip to the DMV he made sure she was buckled safely into the little red truck he bought her. He watched with a mixed sense of pride and sadness as she pulled out of his driveway and drove away without him. He was slowly letting go of his little girl.
When I took my cat Samantha to the vet for the last time, I stayed with her until she was gone. We had been through numerous boyfriends, eight apartments, five jobs, a marriage and divorce, and two kids together. I couldn’t let her go alone. My attachment to her was deep; the letting go of this little black feline wracked my body with aching sobs.
My retirement from teaching has been a “letting go.” Over the past year I had to let go of my identity as a teacher. I no longer am in charge of a classroom or my yearbook staff. I am me, only different. I am not longer queen. I had to let go of that crown. (Perhaps I should buy a tiara, so when I feel low, I can place it on my head and privately reclaim my throne.)
All of us have had to let go throughout our lives. We achingly let go of childhood, children, parents, and relationships, and often we are consumed with grief as we tentatively walk through these moments. Also, if we are lucky and wise enough, we learn to let go of all the guilt, shame, worry, and regret that comes with letting go. The pain is still there. It covers us, but with time, it slowly becomes easier to bear.
“I think there’s something incredibly honest about trees in winter, how they’re experts at letting things go.” - Jeffrey McDaniel