Letting Go, Letting Liz


Guest post today from my friend and fellow writer Mindy Shannon Phelps. 

A journalist by training, Mindy is a project management and communications specialist.

How remarkably we humans are made, that once a child reaches a certain age, she is able to say goodbye to all that is known and familiar to her – parents, mother, father, sister, cousin, close friends – and her bedroom, her house, the only home she has ever known –and, just, move on.

Remarkable that the human child willingly and even longingly leaves the familiar – the scents, the sounds, the comforts – 19 years of cuddling and coddling – pancakes for breakfast and tea in bed –  I will admit the first 12 years were more fun for both of us than the next seven – but she is just so ready to be an adult daughter and I can’t see beyond her beautiful little hands and sweet, expressive, perfect face. She will always be my little Liz. My baby.

I had just said goodbye to Lizzie.  I’d hoped it would be a warmer parting, even though she was eager to get to her dormitory and the small space we created together for her yesterday and just settle in. But, at the end, she seemed tired and ill at ease from the days we had spent together.  Uncomfortable, and in need of privacy.  I noticed that she had not read her Bible or written in her journal – had only captured her thoughts and emotions in the emails she had written and sent each evening to people she did not identify for me.

It’s hard to read Liz – often difficult clearing the fog off the hard glass she surrounds herself with.  Her glass is not brittle but it is breakable and I try not to shatter the shield when she has it up and in place.  It is her safe enclosure and there is no need to breach it.

We had been traveling together for three days, from Kentucky to Colorado in her tiny Volkswagen Beetle. Our travels were glorious—the billboard-sized copy of Van Gogh’s “Sunflowers” in the middle of a Kansas wheat field,  the vivid blue September skies and the rain we could see a hundred miles away that never touched us.  So peaceful and fun and adventurous, even blessed. 

And now, the end.

Liz would keep her car at the school where she would begin training as a missionary with an international NGO. I would fly home after helping her settle in.

 A quick ride to the airport and, suddenly, Lizzie seems as if she doesn’t want me to go.  She wants to park and come in with me.  I think this is what she wants to do, but, again, her glass is up and I can only peer in, bringing my nose and eyes and face up to the enclosure, trying not to cloud the view with a sudden exhalation.

I decide a quick goodbye is for the best because my prayer this morning had been for a bit of grace and a letting go with joy.  This is what I’m supposed to do, I think.

So I quickly hug her and say too loudly, “I’ll call you when I get home.”  “Yes, do that,” she replies.

And I turn and go, denying Liz the tears and sorrow of saying goodbye – an emotional farewell we might have shared but did not. It’s for the best, I think.

I turn and walk a few steps and begin weeping as I enter the terminal.

 I still weep when I think about the time I let Lizzie go.

Now 27, Liz is married and expecting her first child.

 

 (Note:  When Lizzie was born, Mindy was an evening news anchor for the NBC affiliate in Lexington, Ky. Viewers (about 250,000 at the time) avidly followed Mindy’s pregnancy and loved Lizzie from the moment they saw her.)

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.