Letting go does not happen in a glorious supernova, like some cosmic severing from what was.
Letting go happens in inches. It happens in small, solid steps toward your ghosts. It happens quietly in wordless prayers and whispers.
To let go is to let be.
It has driven me to near madness, trying to understand how to “let it go” – the holy grail of recovery and growth, fed to me in the pages of self development books and blogs. It’s always the secret ingredient of success stories, without ever telling me where to find this elusive “let-go-ability” or what to do so I could, at long last, let go too.
I’ve longed to let my dead rest in peace, to make the past sit still.
I’ve wanted to let those things I did - or oftentimes worse, the things I didn’t do – fade to blackness and forgetfulness, to turn into myths as though there were a chance that maybe they didn’t happen after all. The things I’ve said – or definitely worse, the things I didn’t say – to be unspoken or confessed.
To be released from gravity and history and lifted from me.
“You need to let it go.”
Famous words that are usually offered by hoarders of their own regrets, Professional Projectors of Advice who don’t even know themselves how to follow their own suggestions.
“Just let it go.” – as though I could stuff all my sorrows into a balloon and send them off to the sky.
You can’t simply let go of decades or years, of fleeting moments that have lived on like eternities, lined up like headstones in a cemetery of everything you’ve ever said or done.
I always thought that letting go meant forgetting.
But letting go is the opposite of all of that.
It is about connecting. Resurrecting. Honouring. Allowing. Transforming.
It’s about letting go of the desire to change the unchangeable. It’s about letting go of myths to make space for the truth of what happened or is happening. Of learning the language of your pain so you can sit with it, comfort it, and accept it.
As it is.
As it was.
Without wishing it were different.
Letting go is not a quick unclenching of events or feelings that you are clinging to, but rather letting go of the suffering that is created by trying to change them.
Letting go is allowing those events or feelings to be as they are, and to allow them to become solid. To become real. To let your dead have died, to let your words have been spoken, to let your deeds have been done.
Letting go is finally signing your name as the witness to unchangeable facts.
Letting go, paradoxically, is the same as owning. Instead of getting rid of what you perceive to be holding you back and holding you down – you learn to own it. To take it. To accept it. To carry it, and to comfort it. To accept our own history and coming to see it as having served its purpose.
This is how to let be.
And it happens in inches.
It happens by sitting with your stories, replaying them without guilt or shame, or the desire to rewrite history or the present moment.
Over, and over, and over again.
It happens in the slow, creaky release of should-haves and wishes, and it happens in quiet, liberating moments of honesty.
There is no such thing as forgetting.
But you can learn how to remember differently. You can learn how to change how you see. You can learn how to see the past with purpose, regardless of how tempting it is to wish things had played out differently.
I am here to remind you that they did not.
When I set out to get sober, I wish someone had told me that not drinking was the easy part. That understanding how to let go of all that drove me to numb and to run was the real issue, and that my addiction was to escaping reality – not wine.
And it is that addiction – wishing we could traverse time and space and undo what’s been done, to change the facts and in turn, our pain – that causes our suffering. It is our addiction to not allowing things to just be that keeps our wine glasses full and our hearts heavy.
For better or worse, whats done is done. As solid as the earth beneath your feet, the past is unchanging and unchangeable. This moment right now is exactly how it is – and now, it too is gone.
As is this one.
And this one.
And this one, too.
You can’t un-read what you’ve just read any more than you can un-spend the time you’ve sat here reading this. Every moment in your past, every death, every loss and misdeed, every celebration, every hangover, every misspoken slur and slip are no different than the moments you have spent here.
A butterfly spends up to three weeks in the chrysalis stage, while its wings are forming. Once it emerges, it has the ability to fly. And it does, taking flight – and freedom with it – leaving her cocoon behind.
She doesn’t try to climb back in.
She doesn’t try change its shape or the truth that its where she came from. If she tried to carry it with her, she would never leave the ground.
And so, she lets it go and leaves it behind, knowing it has served it’s purpose.
And she soars.
Sober. Recovery Blogger. Writer. Photographer. Storyteller.