I recently came across a life-changing perspective of the concept of “letting go.” When the penny dropped on this one, I felt an inner freedom like I have rarely experienced before.
It all began while we were visiting my husband’s family in New York. I became irate over a parenting disagreement with my husband and called my sister-in-law to meet me at the mall so she could talk me off the ledge. Ever on my side, she shocked me when instead of commiserating with me on the difficulties of dealing with men, she said “sweetie, you need to let go. I have been watching you and my brother all weekend and you need to let go.”
At first I was appalled. Let go? I thought. These are only the most important issues in my life! How can I possibly let go of something that involves my children’s wellbeing? But I kept listening and allowed her wisdom of 30+ years of marriage to sink in.
I don’t remember exactly what she said, but I woke up the next morning with a newfound clarity.
I realized “letting go” is not about letting go of beliefs, philosophies or principles. It’s about releasing the tight grip we have on them. Instead of responding in a split second with a knee jerk reaction, it's about taking a breath and being open to another possibility. If that possibility turns out not to fit within our framework, or it simply doesn’t make sense, we can reject it kindly.
I also realized, and this is big, that it’s about letting go of judgments, the sense of superiority, and the mental tally of who is doing what and how much of it.
Later that day, after the long drive home, my husband and I were putting our 21-month old down. He asked if we should maybe not put a sweater under her sleep sack. I have no doubt I would have responded quickly and somewhat unkindly before my realization. After all, we have proven she is more likely to sleep through the night when she’s warm--and sleeping through the night is crucial to our wellbeing. But instead, I stopped and heard him out. He said it was a warm day and would be a warm night. Perhaps her long-sleeved pajamas and thick sleep sack would be enough? Yes, I realized once I thought it through.
Of course, I have found myself slipping back to my old ways since then. It’s especially easy to do so on the mental tally of who does how much. Like most women, my days are jam packed; my to-do list never-ending. They really weren’t kidding when they said our jobs are 24/7. So, when I see my husband sitting on the couch watching the news or his favorite TV show, I do sometimes cringe a little. But then I remind myself to let go (of the tally) and ask him for help with the laundry or prep for the kids’ lunch instead of getting angry.
There is a church a few blocks away from my house that always displays insightful sayings on its message board. The week we got back from New York, the saying was: “Love yourself enough to know when to let go.”
As I read it, I thought, Yes! It’s about loving ourselves enough that we won’t allow negativity to crowd our hearts. It’s about letting go of the perspectives and competitions that not only have little weight outside our heads but do us way more harm than good.