May 1, 2017

Loss and Letting Go

After a car accident about eighteen years ago, I was undergoing massage therapy treatment. At one point in my treatment my therapist must have been frustrated with my lack of progress because she said to me, 'You have a hard time letting things go, don't you?' At the time, I was insulted. How dare she psychoanalyze me? I remember thinking, 'Just give me the massage, lady, and let me go home.' Her statement, for it wasn't really a question, wormed its way into my soul and stayed there, mostly because it was true. I carried a lot of stuff around in my muscle memory, old grudges, past hurts, much self-protection, and the enormous expectations of personal 'success' that came from, well, various sources, including my own rather self-punishing version of perfectionism. Oh yes, I had baggage. Carousels of it. Thankfully, I also had a sort of irrepressible optimism, a cheerfully sarcastic disposition, and a love of laughter to counter the weight of all that baggage. After ten months of therapy, and with youth on my side, I recovered from my injuries and joyfully returned to running, dancing, and living (mostly) without pain. I wish I could say I also started letting things go, but I can't. That process would take many more years.

Loss has featured largely in my life for the past couple of years. I have lost people, ideas of people, ideas of myself. Through loss I have shed several layers of my hard-earned sense of self, and the process has been both painful and freeing. Like the snake that wriggles out of its old, worn skin, a person who struggles through a period of great personal difficulty has the power to emerge shiny and new. I am not yet shiny and new, I am covered in post-rebirth gunk, but I have hope I will fully emerge in smooth and radiant glory, eventually.

I was texting with my niece the other night. She had posted something on Facebook about a young friend who had very recently died. She told me what had happened to him and three of his friends - a serious car accident in which the friend had died on the scene, two were critically injured and one walked away relatively unhurt. My niece said she had gained a newfound appreciation for the preciousness of life. I found myself texting her the words: 'We always, always learn a lot from loss.' When we lose someone or something precious we rage and ask why? why? The loss seems so unfair and so arbitrary. But, somehow the act of losing also gives us, dare I suggest it, an unexpected gift of a deeper appreciation for what is left. We often pledge to live better and more authentic lives.

I suppose that is where I am at now: trying to live a better and more authentic life. I have been saying 'no' more often, which is a challenge for a people-pleasing person such as myself. One of the hardest things for me to let go of is the sense of disappointing others. People pleasers need people to think highly of them, even love them, and they derive a certain amount of pride in achieving that love and approval from others. I have worked on developing something of a new mantra to help me in my aim to say no more often: They'll get over it. I've had to let go of the idea of success and replace it with doing what I love for the joy and satisfaction it gives me. ME. I've had to let go of my children as they grow into independent adults, forging their own divergent paths. I would not say I have been a helicopter parent, but I did exhibit some tendencies in that direction over the years. My youngest said at one point, "Mom, you're like the mother duck who has been leading her ducklings all over the place, and one day she turns around and they're not following her anymore." Ever wise, she said it with a mixture of pity and 'deal with it, Mom'. I have had to let go of my pride, the main thing which has held me back and held me in all these years.

Throwing bag after bag off the carousel of my life leaves me feeling raw and vulnerable but I am okay with this. Left also with a sense of lightness and freedom I can now embrace what is before me. I have little idea of what the years after my youngest graduates from high school will hold, but at least I know they won't have the endless nature of a baggage carousel going round and round carrying the same heavy stuff until someone claims it.




  1. I chose to read this .. Of course! I am kinda your fan! But here's a thought. Spoiler ... it's out there. The saying no thing. From one people pleaser to another, I get it, we want to meet the expectations the world has of us? We don't want to let people down ... yadda yadda yadda. When I too decided I needed to reclaim some of myself and time, the words in my head were similar to yours, but I got this flash that shone on my ego, too. Yes people will get over it if I say "no", but ... also ... those people will go on to someone else and ask them. What I discovered is, I wasn't as indespensible as I thought. My "no's" are crucial mostly to me, not the rest of the universe. Ouch, right? It felt very good though to put myself on the plane of the rest of the human race. Ego, begone! Your post reminded me just when I needed it. Your da bomb!

  2. Brava Rebecca. Rings true.

  3. You have a lovely and satisfying way with words, and your thoughts touch all of us of-a-certain-age. Letting go for some of us is really hard. Moving ahead into uncharted waters is always a bit scary. Every day is new, but then one morning we can begin to hear the rumble of the falls downstream. They were always getting closer, but now we are more aware of the impending challenge and the rapids that will come quickly after, but we have also, almost imperceptibly, been increasing our navigational skills. It will be challenging, but we are prepared to take this on and make it through whatever lies ahead.

  4. Love the concept of entire carousels of baggage! Lots of black ones that all look the same, that you need to check the labels of... Bombproof ones with rivets, and several of those bulging boxes with string and labels that go round and round on the international arrivals level...


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!