Debbie Ford posed this question on Facebook and I felt called to respond: “Why is it that so many of us hold on to experiences from our past, refusing to let them go? Is it because we don’t know how to let go and move on?”
I answered: “Perhaps fear that what awaits won’t be as fullfilling as the best parts of our past or or even more challenging than the worst parts.” By the time one has reached my age (53, about to turn 54 in a few weeks), they have accumulated, not just baggage, but a steamer trunk of beliefs, attitudes and behaviors, some that serve us and others that sabotague us. Lately I have been sorting through mine, for so many reasons. With the multitude of changes that have occurred over the past four years, with the passing of my parents, the sale of their home, the publication of my book, leaving a full time job that I had for 11 years, launching my writing and speaking biz, I have come face to face with my fears and have been letting go of my limiting beliefs. I wonder if I have been holding on to them or they have been holding onto me and I haven’t had the courage or willingness to dislodge them. I remember seeing a poster of a kitty cat hanging from a tree branch with the quote “Everything I’ve ever let go of has claw marks on it.” that was attributed to the brilliant and emotionally disturbed writer David Foster Wallace who committed suicide in 2008 after years of treatment. Clearly a man who was holding onto a great deal of pain.
Back in the 1980′s when I saw the poster, I was taking a training at a drug and alcohol recovery center. I was initially amused by the image, but then the impact hit home that for so long, I too had been carrying self deprecating thoughts, hard judgements about myself and my abilities, fears that I wouldn’t meet the sometimes overwhelming expectations I had for myself. Fast forward all these years later and I am still clinging to that tree branch at times. This past week, I tumbled into a swirling whirlpool of not-enough-ness, the strong current of which threatened to sweep me away. Loving and even stronger friends reached out their hands, for which I grabbed and they pulled me out, wringing wet but more resilient for the experience.
So this letting go thing….when I gaze over my shoulder at the wonderful experiences to which I want to hold on, I smile and the memories warm me. I know that they are absorbed into the all-that-I-am. When I look back at the painful goings on, and I have, of necessity, been facing them lately, see that they too had their purpose, since, if not for them, I wouldn’t have had the aforementioned strength and resilience to swim ashore.
What is your tree branch?
http://youtu.be/0jsw_r0hILQ I Can See Clearly -Jimmy Cliff