Thursday, September 8, 2011

On Letting Go

Yesterday, I had the best intentions. I was going to get through my first day back at work after a four-day weekend, then do a 9-mile bike ride and a 2-mile run to prepare for the same distances I'll be racing in this Saturday's triathlon.

Of course, things did not go to plan. My (much-needed-by-me) absence yesterday meant piles of work awaited me today. I arrived home late, feeling tired, hungry and well-aware that my legs were not ready to get back in the game after what I put them through on Monday.

It would've been too much to ask of them, so I chose not to ask.

We — my legs and I — decided that chocolate-chip pancakes, a cold beer, a stint in the hammock and a copy of The Hunger Games was what we needed.

We are very, very smart.

It's easy to see why The Hunger Games is so popular. I'm just over halfway through the book and tearing through the pages every chance I get. It's nice to be reading again, and even nicer to be doing so while also granting myself permission to relax, which is not always easy for me to do.

The warm, clear evening made my reading time so pleasant, and I continued to devour the book as dusk settled. I read past the point of darkness that would cause my mom to warn, "You'll ruin your eyes!"

But I pressed on, just wanting to make a good thing last.

I finally gave up and dog-eared my place, setting down the book and letting my eyes relax. Whatever I was missing on the next page faded away as I embraced a different kind of enjoyment. The subtle swaying of my hammock, the stillness of the air, the last watercolor streaks of sunlight melting into the horizon — all quietly began to settle into the void, like an ocean wave rushing to fill a hole dug in the sand.

I watched the sky as darkness enveloped what was left of my reading light. I was, in a way, still sad to see it go, even though I knew it would disappear all along.

This is when I felt a familiar feeling, one that you'll instantly know as soon as I describe it — the feeling that something has crept up from inside you and clutched at your throat, squeezing it to the point that you know crying is inevitable. You can try to swallow it and blink past the tears, but even so, the sting will remain for a while.

This is not the knee-jerk reaction you have when you slice your finger or stub a toe. This is what the very deepest hurts feel like.


It is difficult to walk away from a good thing. The easy thing, almost always, is to keep doing whatever you're doing. The hard thing is to realize that something must change.

To make this decision is not simply to choose one thing over another, but to commit to sending ripples through all facets of an otherwise peaceful situation. It means disappointing people. Losing relationships. Ruining plans. Breaking hearts. Uprooting yourself from someplace comfortable, and leaving a void that will forever change the landscape of your life.

All in the name of doing what you know, somehow, is right.

I recently made one of these decisions — hence that throat-clutching feeling. Beforehand, I thought about all of the ripples I would send out, weighing each one and fearfully imagining what impact they'd have on some things in my life that I care very deeply about. Eventually my fears sent ripples of their own, which only grew the longer I let those fears bounce around.

Here, on the other side of that decision, I see that some of my fears have come true. I have lost my best friend. My world is that much quieter and lonelier. My throat stings more than I would like it to.

But there are some things I never considered, like this quiet evening in the hammock, that rush in like that ocean wave to slowly, gently fill in the void.

Jenny Blake, who recently quit her job to become self-employed, wrote: "Fears are so much smaller on the other side. Prior to my decision to leave, my fears rang in my ears so loud I could barely hear myself think. ... Now that I'm on the other side, my mind is quiet again. ... I am not afraid."

I knew the darkness would come, yet I longed to hold onto the evening's light for as long as possible. Then I let go.

Last night, I lay curled in the hammock until I saw the first pinprick in the sky — a star, followed by many others, that seemed to pop out of nowhere. It's hard to remember, sometimes, that they are there all along.

You can only see them when all the other lights have gone out.


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  1. Hope your OK; this sounds serious. Take care.xx

    -oh, also LOVE the quote about the stars at the end; very special!

  2. Thank you for the kind words. :)

    I am OK and I didn't mean to alarm anyone! No one died or anything. I just wanted to write this for anyone who might be afraid to make a change or walk away from something, to let them know that they will be OK on the other side.

  3. I love this. As Robin Sharma says, "Run to Fear"

  4. There is nothing in life more precious or that will have more meaning than a best friend. I am a believer in keeping the good things in your life, keeping those very rare special loves, best friends, and heading to the new journey or place of fear with those special people. Building a history of memories and experiences with those you love is what makes life's experiences meaningful. You can do this at your own pace. I believe in letting go of things that are negative and treasure those which are good. Miss you. This hurts for us as well. Hugs.

  5. Wow, you're so right about change ... and our personal inertia. Then there's a kind of change we make when we're running away from what's hard. Your story is inspirational to me, and I thank you.

    there are things more important than even best friends and/or family. 'Rescuers' and heros prove this every day when they leave the comfortable and safe harbor of one's village to rescue others from harm. Ghandi, Jesus, MLK ... none of them put friends or family first.

    thanks again ... I needed this nudge

  6. MLK's wife who was by his side always, remained after his death with the life mission to carry on his message and legacy. His family does so to this very day. I disagree with the above statement - family/friends were very important in their journey, missions, rescues to all above if you do your research.

  7. Did you and Aaron break up? Did I just totally miss that?

  8. I'm sorry. That's always rough. Awesome job on your tri though! Sorry for the awkward segue there... Also didn't realize I was an anonymous creeper before...


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