Learn to Let Go
When you are willing to let go, you take an active role in shaping your own life.
Having to let go — of things, of the way it was, of your notion of what the future will look like — often creates an identity crisis. We like to live according to our memories of ourselves, of how we were, of the way things used to be. Inside us are templates of these memories, armatures on which layer by plaster layer we have crafted our identities. We think we still are who we once thought we were, but changing circumstances can force us to reevaluate. As with the alcoholic bag lady roaming the streets who still thinks of herself as the prom queen, the college valedictorian who’s suddenly just an average student in law school, it’s hard to let go of an old identity and move on. But if you don’t let go of who and what you once were, you won’t be available to become whoever and whatever this crisis is inviting you to become. For instance, without the courage to let go, the small business owner who temporarily drove a cab, the special education teacher who was a waitress for a while, and the young accountant who had to move back in with his parents — might have missed becoming the life coach, the owner of a catering business, and the hospital administrator that they have respectively become. Of course, it’s easier to cling to the identity of who we once were than to imagine who we might now become, but, frankly, there isn’t any future in it.
Letting go, on the other hand, asks you to believe that somewhere across the Big Tent of Life there will be another trapeze bar that you can take hold of after you’ve let go of this one. It’s an act of terror and freedom, of trust and faith that when you let go, you will find something new, better, different.
But unlike the sidelined CEO, instead of letting go with grace, we’re often more like the monkey who reaches into the narrow-mouth jar to grab the coconut inside and then get can’t get his hand back out, because he just can’t bear to let go of the coconut. Often, it’s our desire for more that lies at the root of a crisis, and we have to let go of this desire. The happy shopper can’t come home with every bargain at the mall. The refugee can’t walk out of town with the kitchen stove on his back. Every form of freedom has a price. You can’t have everything you’ve already got and everything you haven’t had yet. The living room isn’t big enough for the old couch and the new couch both at once. You gotta let go; you gotta take your pick.