Top 10 Things to Remember about Letting Go


For whatever reason, I don’t do well with change.  I don’t do well with uncertainty.  I don’t do well with loosening my white-knuckled grip, that over-my-dead-body,  I’ll-be-damned grip on absolute control of almost everything.  I like to know what’s coming and where I’m going because of it. 

Bottom line:  I’m kind of a control freak in this regard–not good–and something I’m far from proud of.

But when your partner works in disaster response, life is almost always about change, adjusting to change, to sudden shifts, loosening that grip.  That’s the thing about disasters.  They’re so, well, disastrous.  And you never know when they’re coming.  You never know where.  You never know when.

So in honor of my own issues with uncertainty and in anticipation of Mindy’s post tomorrow about accepting change, today I bring you the “Top 10 Things to Remember about Letting Go.”

  1. That letting go is about control and a willingness to give it up.
  2. That letting go is about strength.
  3. That letting go is about tomorrow.
  4. That tomorrow is coming soon.  (Remember Little  Orphan Annie’s anthem to tomorrow:  “Tomorrow, tomorrow.  I love you tomorrow.  You’re only a day away.”)
  5. That letting go means waiting willingly for what’s to come.
  6. That it sometimes means “good-bye.”
  7. That it often means “adjust.”
  8. That it forces us toward faith.
  9. That it requires us to trust.
  10. That it nudges us toward tomorrow, that it requires us to trust that God, or the universe, or the kind hand of a friend will take us where weeed to go.

The bottom line is this:  I can no longer be a tip-toed toddler teetering toward tomorrow.  Neither, at the other extreme, can I be a control freak, forecasting my own future,  frothing to make it less frontier and more toddler-friendly.

I need to remember what Joseph Campbell said: “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting.”

So, yes, letting go is often about waiting.

And it’s also always about accepting–

Letting go, letting love.

45 thoughts on “Top 10 Things to Remember about Letting Go

  1. Letting go can be so hard that we sometimes lose sight of what it is we’re holding on to, Kathy. For me, letting go is mostly just about letting go – into the unknown and the uncertain – and that’s the hardest part and the most rewarding too. Sometimes my jaw is clenched so tight with not letting go, it hurts.
    Sunshine xx

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    • Really, interesting comment, Sunshine. Hadn’t thought much about the fact of holding on so long and hard that you forget what you were hanging on to in the first place. But, gosh, it’s so true. Too true! Take care————–

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  2. Beautifully said, Kathy. Some of the people I know who have especially difficult times letting go grew up in volatile situations, where life was either precarious or unpredictable. Understandably, they then held on to whatever they could, whether it served them or not. I think we all have degrees of that in us. To ultimately get past the fear and to release is so powerful.

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  3. Kathy, thank you for the lovely perspective on change that I often forget (as I’m the disaster response worker and my partner is not 😉 !). With every change that you and Sara have endured, you have come out gracefully and better at the other end. In fact, I have always admired your ability to adapt and make the best out of what can be some very difficult situations. I cannot wait to hear about your next adventure in the world and where fate may take you.

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  4. I also don’t cope well with sudden change. In a way I think it’s related to my health issues. I never know what kind of day I’m going to have, so I like to keep things in my life as calm and constant as possible. Maybe you’re similar in that way?

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  5. Love that Joseph Campbell quote. I can appreciate your death-grip on life. I find myself clawing at straws most days to feel that I am in charge of things….then the baby wakes up, and I realize I was mistaken 🙂
    Can’t wait to hear from Mindy tomorrow! Will we get more insight into your memoir soon?

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  6. I think I’m very abnormal. I love change. I loved moving, when I was a kid – from Colorado to Louisiana to Kentucky. To me, it was (and is) always a chance to start over. In fact, right now, I am eager to leave Lexington and start over somewhere else. As I said, I am completely abnormal! I don’t anybody who feels this way.

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    • See, it’s no wonder you and Sara are such great friends–because, of course, she CRAVES change. We are such opposites in this regard, it actually works well for us. Can’t wait for everyone to read your post tomorrow!

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  7. This post couldn’t have come at a better time for me! Thank you for the reminder that having (or thinking you have) a death grip on control is really about fear. Fear of losing it, or fear of the unknown.

    In the meantime, there was an Anthony Bourdain feature on Haiti last night and I thought of you! He spent some time with Sean Penn in a refugee camp. Here’s a link to a clip from the show. I thought you might be interested in it. http://tv.yahoo.com/anthony-bourdain-no-reservations/show/42087/videos/24306089

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  8. I’m with you, Kathy. Change can be one of the hardest things there is. And I agree–the hardest part of change is not knowing what’s coming at you and from what direction, and whether you should face it or duck for cover.

    But I applaud you for facing change on a daily basis because you know how much it helps people in need. I truly commend the work Sara does and the way you support that work. Kudos to you both.

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    • Thanks, my dear Maura. It’s really weird being the partner of someone who makes meaning by responding to disasters. It gives us a really weird approach to lots of things. And Sara loves change as much as I dislike it, but somehow the combination works for us.

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  9. What a wonderful list! I’m going to save this aside for future use down the road. Thank you so much for this post! 🙂

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    • Glad you found it helpful, Mark! Always believing we have to be in control can be a cause for the Big “D”–if you know what I mean!!!!!!! Now get on that bike and RIDE, my friend, RIDE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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  10. Hi Kathy, I can identify with your need of control. But we do fool ourselves, don’t we, that we really have any control? I find when I let my need of control get out of hand it only put the breaks on my evolving life. I more fully understood this some years back when going through a painful divorce. When I found myself mizerable and in big pain, it was because I was holding on to something (trying to control it) – something that I needed to just let go of. I didn’t always recognize what it was I was trying to control; but with journalling, talking it through and with a little time I always came to understand. When I intentionally let go it brought me a sense of healing and courage to move forward and into a new beautiful life. I learned to accept what was, take responsiblity for my experience of it, and trust that my higher power would see that my needs were met. That is the powerfull experience of living in “choice.” It’s a way of living and thinking that I use today to help myself live life fully and to move forward with anticipation and joy of what is yet to come. Marlene

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    • Wow, Marlene, this is a great comment! You’re right–often we don’t know what we’re holding on to, or we think we’re holding on to one thing when it’s really something else. And we can’t stop life from happening–yes, who are we to fool! It’s like spitting in the wind. Thanks for this, Marlene. I appreciate this insight. We miss you, my friend! Hugs from both Sara and I—————–

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  11. Kathy–
    lovely…
    my goal is this–to always hold with an open hand…so that the letting go doesn’t hurt so badly–
    granted, I fail at that–a lot.
    It’s hard to hold things loosely that you care about/love/worry over…

    life is…struggle.
    Just as Jacob–he struggled mightily, and with God, no less…

    blessings
    jane

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    • I can’t thank you enough for this comment, Jane. I love the idea of holding with an open hand–so zen! And it’s true, “Life is struggle.” I think that was the first sentecne of an M. Scott Peck book. Actually, I think Peck used the word “difficult,” which it also is.

      The Jacob had Jacob had some guts, didn’t he? –to wrestle with God!

      (You’re kind of amazing; Jane, you so often seem able to push my insight one level deeper. That’s a huge gift! Thank you, my friend! Thanks so much!)

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  12. Letting go is hard and terrifying, but I am slowly recognizing that letting go allows me to discover new and wonderful things. ❤

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    • And if you don’t let go you will miss those things–that’s the really important message in your comment. If you are so damn busy clinging to X, you’re not going to notice Y, when it goes wizzing by. Great insight—————-

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  13. Letting go is one of those things I’m trying to learn. Wanting, needing, control is, I’m sure, behind some of my fears. If I could let go of that need for control, I suspect I could also let go of those fears. I sometimes think it has to do with the vulnerability required to be open enough to let go.

    It ain’t easy, is it? 🙂

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    • No, it’s not, Robin! But you are right about the vulnerability. I think that’s it exactly! Vulnerability and the fear of vulnerability are very much at the core of this for me too—————

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  14. The grass is always greener on the side. I think I crave change, but have little chance of obtaining it, so it’s easy to crave. Maybe if I were faced with it it would be a different story.
    Your life seems – to an outsider – so adventurous and exciting. But an outsiders perspective is rarely accurate, I realize.
    One small step at a time, Kathy.

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    • No, I think you are right, that Sara and I have an exicting life, it’s just that I don’t always appreciate the lack of predictability that goes with it. Maybe that’s actually how I should express it–it’s not so much change as change I can’t predict and be incontrol of. Don’t know if that makes sense. It’s so hard for me even to understand.

      But you are so right–one step at a time——————-Take care, my friend!

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  15. Letting go is something I really struggle with as well. My mind understands the concept in a cerebral sort of way, but TRYING to let go is not at all the same as ACTUALLY letting go. (After all, the conscious attempt to surrender is just another manifestation of the need to control! Sneaky!!)

    It sounds like Sara is a great partner for you, though– a constant reminder that change is inevitable but not always bad.

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  16. Thank you for this. I think most of my stress comes from foaming at the mouth over stuff I can’t control. I am working on this. 🙂

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  17. Haven’t visited in a while but did today and maybe there is a reason. I, too, am not good with change and awful at letting go. And here I am, out of work nearly a year and a half now, looking for jobs writing and/or in development — or nowadays as administrative assistant — and facing the prospect, if I don’t find a job very soon, of having to let go of the car that makes life so much easier for us (my partner is disabled), and maybe even our apartment, even though we have no real other place to go. There are so many decisions about what to let go and what is worth trying to keep, not to mention the continuing work of letting go of anger and resentment at the various elements that left us in this state and the politicians trying to make it even worse. At the bottom of the document where I put various versions of job search cover letters to draw on for new ones, I have a list of quotes that encourage me. I have just added the Campbell one (I have always loved him, and I need this one now).

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    • OMG! This is rough! Really, really rough———— Take care. I’m so glad the quite helped. I wish there was some way to help! You’ll be in my thoughts and prayers! Hugs to you and your partner!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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