letting go just isn't as easy as they say

letting go just isn't as easy as they say

After three years an old friend of mine and I finally managed to meet again. Our reunion was long overdue and so I finally hopped on a plane and visited him. But it never really matters how much time passes by because whenever we talk, it just feels like we’ve seen each other only yesterday. Time seems to have no impact on our relationship. Irrespective of some greyish hair and a couple of wrinkles starting to show, time seems to be inexistent for both of us. He is still running successfully in the start-up world and I am still the wandering bird, who asked where I picture myself in five years, still haven’t figured out an answer to such a sassy question.

Just before stepping on the plane, an email newsletter popped up in my inbox with a fat black title:

„let go of what was to make space for what will be“.

Of course this note can apply to everything and nothing really. But during the seemingly infinite waiting to board the plane I couldn’t help but wonder what is it that I could let go off right now to create new space. I also wondered what is it that each of us leave behind when going away, even if just for the weekend? Where do our foot steps take us and which feelings do we give up or bring home?

While I was dreaming away and thinking of this flight as just another flight since flying has become a means of transportation that will deposit me just like a little FedEx parcel at a far away destination. A young man sitting next to me abruptly brought me back to reality and taught me differently. In fact he showed me a much needed little reminder. How exciting something like sitting on an airplane actually is. He was so thrilled about flying 10.000 meter high all up in the sky, playing nervously with his little camera and telling the stranger next to him that he has never been to that city before. But the butterflies in my stomach only aroused by nervousness of meeting my long-missed friend.

Slightly before take-off, my seat neighbour suddenly leaned over my lap, not carrying a dime whether it was alright for me or not, sticking his cam on the window and filming the take-off. To be frank, I never thought that a take-off is actually worth a video. However, in this moment he reminded me of a huge epiphany: life, and I mean literally, our individual life, which at times can seem so meaningless on the large scale, is just as valuable and precious as we believe it to be.

So while he kept smiling at me with this boyish amazement and glittery spark in his eyes, he taught me something far bigger. In the end a smile is all there is. Receiving a smile, returning it and giving the smile away to others as the day goes by, isn’t that the sweetness of being? Isn’t that actually all there is to it? A smile costs us nothing but it makes everyone a bit happier, a bit richer and we can give it to everyone who crosses our path. And it works like magic because it connects all of us without giving up anything or having to use words.

Back to my inbox though: All too often, I just scroll through these articles half-attentively and delete them right after. But for some unknown reason this post caught my attention and so I started reading:

doing the hard work of digging into the muck, hands dirtied… to unearth what it is that draws me to hold on tight for dear life is the first step to letting go. It is only in this messy, uncomfortable place that I begin to untangle the roots of my fear and find my way to freedom…“

There it was again, this abstract, vage ladida of how to undo fear.

I don’t know how you feel when reading posts about minimalism, following recipes on how to live the moment, end your suffering and truly learn to love. All inspiring reads for sure but reality, at least mine, looks a little different. All of this ladida is easy when we are not deeply involved or struck by whatever shades of fear. And I’m afraid to say it out loud, but we all have our little shadowy self sitting on top of our shoulders whispering an endless string of concerns and worries into our ears and disabling us to do the right thing when absolutely necessary. It doesn’t matter how much we mask them with funny costumes or try to forget about them, they aren’t just going away just because we ignore them.

Finally I met my friend, forgetting about all the newly spun cobwebs in my mind. Unfortunately, our week long flirting and laughing didn’t prepare us for reality. Because reality was coloured differently. Hello shadowy self!

He is still charming, intelligent, handsome and a marvellous catch for everyone, but me. Why so? I wondered. But actually I say that about many of my male friends. I think some of them would be a true blessing for every woman and gift for mother-in-laws, except me. Why is that? I like to believe, it’s because I am too passionate about my work. At least that’s what I tell myself. But as a trustworthy friend surprisingly pointed out, why would you have to compromise your work while loving someone? A fair enough question, I guess. So then maybe it’s because I prefer assholes? I do have a fad for men that treat me like the second violin. Is this so because intrinsically I don’t honor myself enough for allowing someone to be simply nice to me? Whatever the answer may be, he’s definitely one of those men that will climb up the sky for you and bring down all the stars you wish for. But why can’t I let him find my star up there?

While observing myself closely on that weekend as all the flirting just faded away. I sometimes scrutinized at him so closely as to hope to find the answer written on him. But what a surprise — it wasn’t there. It was only until our last coffee that I realized something huge. In a way, it was our good-bye that made me figure it out.

Again I can’t help but wonder why do so many of us always open up right before taking off? Why do we start feeling the value of something, when it is going away? Why not on our first night when we have all the time in the world to share and figure things out? Anyway let’s get back to the story.

Something called first true love has broken his and my heart years ago and ever since we haven’t been in a relationship. He had his flings and I had mine, surely. But we’ve never been willing to actually commit again. That might just be because we’re infected with todays drug of longing for freedom and change. But the more I thought of it, I started doubting that this is the reason. It surely was many times before but not this time. Since after years of traveling and living abroad we both long for stability, a place to drop our baggage and come back to in the evening. A place called home, at least for a few years. We are both craving for routine and with it longing for someone who gives us a small daily dose of love to make us survive the daily trials. Both longing for a special someone to take out on a Sunday morning brunch or after years of traveling solo to actually share a flight with. Basically to just hold each other’s hand when needed. So you might wonder, why don’t you both grab each others hands then?

It’s strange but we can’t.

We were hurt and are afraid to be hurt again. But while being a coward, you might say, aren’t you missing out on new memories? While he was the one gotten hurt, I am afraid that I am kinda the bitch who hurts. After a weekend of shared love stories told by different friends, I realized something tremendously ugly about myself. I am the woman who breaks hearts. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I am a caring and very sensitive person but truth spoken, I was always so terrified to commit, thinking a relationship will take away my freedom and so thrilled about the next new person and experience, that I just never had the courage to stay. This doesn’t mean though that I didn’t love. Ooooh I did. But I still remember one of those not so pretty morning-afters, where I told my mirror’s reflection, that I’ve gotten abandoned enough and that no one will ever do that again to me. So from there on I established, just as unconsciously as consciously, a habit where I would call it off, right before it would get to sweet and responsible or above all before that other person would change his feelings for me. Trying to protect my heart at all costs, I just learnt to break it myself. And I have become a well-skilled expert in this field by now.

And I mean, I do know that habits can change, once they’re acknowledge, accepted and buttered with self-love but if you are reading this, would you mind including me in your next prayer?

But this story isn’t supposed to be about the two of us and our unskillfulness of holding each other’s hands.

It’s about this all-in-all letting go thingy that is sold to us like candy, like the matrix pill that will take away all our fears and worries in order to make us move on and somehow make us more efficient as a human being. It has gotten so popular and gone viral. And while I welcome the idea of a minimal lifestyle, resisting an overtimed schedule and making space for new experiences, I also believe it is very misleading.

Sometimes letting go can be as easy as throwing away a bag full of rubbish but at other times it is a tough one. Why? Because not always is it easy to find, unwind and undo the source of a fear. Also because sometimes we care so much about someone that we don’t want to be the one to hurt him or her or because some scars just keep aching.

A few years back at a monastic stay in a Buddhist monastery, I was taught the meditation of letting go and it has been very healing in many aspects. It can be tremendously beneficial and has given my outlook on life a positive twirl. But what perplexes me when reading such articles is that it isn’t quite as easy as portrayed in all these online posts and spiritual journals. 

Letting go in terms of getting rid of stuff and to-do’s can be an easy task if we use it to declutter our homes and minds. But letting go of old rusty memories or outgrown behaviours are not as easy to ridden ourselves of. Unfortunately we cannot literally go into our hearts, open some drawer, take the old garbage out and through it away. We can only do that symbolically. And while we might have outgrown some anxieties, others stay cosily tucked in place, hindering us from moving on. Sometimes there are wounds in our hearts that have taken years to heal but all the letting go practice just cannot erase the bruise.

Of course, we should go on living by challenging those fears but how do you actually do that? What is there to do in a situation where holding someone’s hand unleashes an inner cyclone and becomes too much too suddenly? Do you just hold on and sit through the storm? Or do you run as fast as you can? Or are we just seeking refuge in something called fear because we are so used to being alone and don’t want to compromise? Or have we simply forgotten how comforting it feels to be touched by warmth? Or are we gradually forgetting how to hold a hand once out of kindergarden? Have we actually unlearnt how to be intimate?

Because it isn’t just about touching someone else’s hand. Our hands touched and instantly some of our fingers slipped into each other — like they’ve known each other for much longer then we do. Instantly his world opened up and like a fast-motioned trailer showed me what he’s been and where he’s been. It was so overwhelming that I couldn’t help but pull away. Because I knew holding it would be a promise I couldn’t commit to. Not yet.

To me there is something about hands that make them even more intimate then a kiss or an I-love-you. It’s because the day I’ll be expired it’s your hand that will place a rose on my bed. That’s why before all the strings intertwined, I pulled away my hand.

But by now I believe that all that needs to be discovered, are little less words and little more touches. Holding someone’s hand is just as exciting as the take-off of an airplane. Not anticipating the destination, not staying stuck in fear where the relationship will be in five years. However, just enjoying the warmth and softness of the others person’s touch. Marvelling at our beautiful skin colors, its softness of the texture and shapes of our fingers and how beautifully they complement each other.

Maybe that is all there is to it. Maybe we don’t need to do anything else. Maybe there is no need to let go of anxieties, no need to dig and understand who has bruised us, when and why. It’s the letting go of analyzing too much, getting out of the head, not anticipating what should or could be, cancelling expectations and just realizing that holding your hand in this moment is the greatest blessing life has given us.

And so just as the plane took off to deliver me back home, swimming in tears, I couldn’t help but smile.