30 Day Writing Challenge Day 8 - Letting Go is Never Easy!

This article is definitely one of the harder articles for me to write as it is so very personal. I hope by the end I've managed to say something coherent and useful, with ideas presented anyone can explore.

Letting go, breaking ties, changing direction, turning left - no matter what you call it, this road is usually challenging as it involves releasing things we have been holding onto, often tightly.  It could be the letting go of a relationship - spouse/marriage, family member, friend, acquaintance, coach/mentor or other human bond. It also applies to a much wider list of things in my life - job, belief system, personal focus, long term goal, where I live, hobbies I pursue, commitments I've made, bad habits, and the list goes on.

I am a great leaper in terms of embracing new directions, but my very religious upbringing in the Midwest has made many aspects of the counterpart - letting go of what no longer is positive - extremely difficult, especially personal relationships.
  • If I am doing everything right, everyone will like me.
  • If I am doing everything right, everyone around me will be happy.
  • If the people around me are not happy, then it is MY fault and I need to change who I am until they are happy. 
  • The only life worth living is one of service. 
  • You must serve everyone equally whether you have the skills or feel lead to help them.
  • You must always put you and your needs last. If you don't do this you are selfish.
  • Any need to change in a relationship is always my problem, even if it means becoming someone I'm not. 
The concept of Ujamaa which I shared about in my 2nd book, The Wisdom of Listening, helped me understand how to build my tribe, how to nurture it and how to let go of and/or not pursue relationships that don't fit. My life and self-esteem improved immeasurably since I began working to build the right tribe where we share similar goals and the desire to support each other.

Where the glitch came for me was when I needed to step away from someone I was tightly connected with - a very close friend, a family member, a mentor who had made a real difference in my life or a relationship I felt was no longer positive. This idea stood against everything I was told from a young age, which made it very hard to practice.

Even if your internal guidance is clear it's time to cool a relationship, how do you step away without guilt?  This is especially tough when the decision is not shared or well received by the other person. Here are a few musings of mine to help you explore your feelings in this area -

  • Try to let go of the blame game - because you........, I have to.............  If you are guided to let go, you don't need to make excuses of any kind.  It simply is.
  • We are all flawed and make mistakes.  All we can do is be honest about our own and keep trying to improve. We are not responsible for anyone else's. 
  • Just because a relationship has faded (whether marriage, family or friend), it doesn't mean the positives that drew you together in the first place didn't happen. Celebrate those positive memories and honour them. 
  • Whether the other person understands the need to break ties or not, if the connection is no longer positive for you, it's no longer positive for them. It takes 2 to have a strong relationship.
  • Know the backlash could be not only harsh, but very personal. This is hard as private conversations, your personal failings, mistakes you've made and secrets you've shared can become fodder for the blow-back.  This is never easy. All you can do is try your best to release the negativity and continue to move forward. If needed, block all communications. 
  • Don't get drawn into the darkness. Let the love and connection you felt for this person guide you on a path of kindness. When these moments arise, try to bring up the good memories. 
  • Remember we all change and grow over time, so always be open to that possibility. 

Now for the other areas of letting go - eliminating bad habits, walking away from a job that is no longer positive, moving to a new home, changing goals. This list is so diverse I can't possibly cover them all here.  Dealing with each could have a whole article dedicated to it. What I'd like to offer in this article is just a few ideas to start the ball rolling as you consider how you deal with these changes.

  • If it is no longer positive, it is usually negative. There is very little that sits in the middle. 
  • Fighting the need for change, no matter what area of life it is in, only brings unhappiness. I remember talking with a teacher who HATED their job and HATED their students. I asked why they stayed and they said because by god they were going to get that pension. They were going to get that pension even though they made themselves and all the kids they taught miserable.  Poor kids. 
  • Major life changes used to elicit fear and a desire to "solve the problem." I desperately tried to plan out the new direction in detail. There was major stress. Now I love when a door closes unexpectedly and sends in an a new direction. I lovingly call it "turning left" and do my best to view the experience as an exciting new adventure in the making, to embrace the change as a leap of faith. My view is now that change brings surprises and gifts I never would have imagined. This isn't always easy, but if I take it one moment at a time it truly changes how I move through my life. 
  • Letting go of something you felt was a part of you is also hard. You've always thought you'd have a certain job, be a musician or artist, write, run every day, be rich, stay married for the rest of your life or have children. You've chosen to head toward a life goal with full passion. You've worked in a specific job for years.Then one day you realize the passion for it is gone.  These kind of changes can be particularly difficult. What I've been learning over these last few years is we aren't required to do the same thing our entire life. It's healthy to have our interests shift and a joy to change passions. Just because you did it before, doesn't mean you have to keep doing it over and over the rest of your life. 

  • An interest or hobby doesn't have to become a career. It's okay to do things just for fun and earn your living another way. I had a niece who was a fabulous pianist. Everyone around her felt she would embrace a career in music and she believed them without really thinking about it. After getting a degree from a prestigious music program, she ended up with damaged wrists as well as the realization that the musical professions open to her weren't that appealing. She'd always been an artist as well and ended up working for awhile with a bookstore creating all their visual materials. She loved it and considered going back to study graphic arts, but just didn't want to start over. 
  • Moving excites some, but for others the change to a new city, a new country, a new neighborhood, from a house to a condo or away from the family and friends you are connected tightly to can be frightening.  All I can say to this is if it feels guided, like you are being undeniably drawn to the move, embrace it as something wonderful awaits. I had to make a leap of faith when I married my husband - leaving country, job, family and friends.  It took over a year before my new country felt like home.
  • Fully embracing the changes that occur after a shift can be a long process. As I said above, it took me a whole year before I began to feel at home after my move. In looking back, however, my life here has led me in wild new directions I never would have imagined before like writing and becoming a published author. And even those didn't happen until almost 2 decades after I arrived. I am so glad I took that leap. I am home.
In closing I want to share a simple phrase I learned from my mentor Sue Dumais of Heart Led Living that has carried me through many difficult moments.  It addresses how I now try to walk every day, through every problem, concern, worry and change.  To use it I suggest you begin every day with a deep breath and as you release that breath, visually try to wash away all those worried thoughts with it. Then gently affirm to yourself - "One step, one moment, one breath at a time."