The Art of Letting Go
It’s that time of year.
Every time it rolls around, my heart remembers and I start praying.
Help each and every parent I know, God, to master the art of letting go.
Even as I sat under my beloved beach umbrella (yes, I sat there quite a bit) and read the words in Gifts from the Sea, I remembered…you.
Many of you are taking your first or second or maybe even your last little “bird” (child) off to college. And many of you are taking your first little ones to preschool or kindergarten. Either way, you are experiencing some form of angst, I would guess. There is the joy and possibility of time for yourself, but then what to do with that time? For me, I had things to do. I was working on a graduate degree and had writing and speaking engagements, but all of a sudden, the house was empty all day. Really empty.
I remember dreaming of the day when my house was all to myself.
And, just like the mothers before me, I realized it really does come and it comes fast. Just eighteen summers and off they go. Lindbergh writes it so poetically:
“The tide of life receded. The house, with its bulging sleeping porches and sheds, begins little by little to empty. The children go away to school and then to marriage and then to lives of their own. Most people by middle age have attained, or ceased to struggle to attain, their place in the the world. That terrific tenacity to life, to place, to people, to material surroundings and accumulations—it is necessary as it was when one was struggling for one’s security or the security of one’s children? Many of the physical struggles have ceased, due either to success or failure. Married couples are apt to find themselves in middle age, high and dry in an outmoded shell, in a fortress which has outlived its function. What is one to do—die of atrophy in an outstripped form? Or move to another form, other experiences? Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, be completely oneself. And what a liberation that would be!”
If I had read those words in August 2004 (after leaving Candace at the University of Virginia) or in August 2008 (after leaving Brooke at Liberty University or Grant at Gordon College), I might have thrown the book into the ocean.
Why? Letting go of my three children was literally one of the most painful “sheddings” of my life. I loved being a “stay at home” mom (whatever that really means)—actively engaged in the lives of my family members. I’m known to do anything to delay the goodbyes. In fact, after leaving Candace, I actually called from the parking lot of Bed Bath & Beyond (Rob was returning something she didn’t need in her little dorm room) and asked her if she was sure she had enough Tupperware. Go ahead, laugh. I was crying so hard I couldn’t even get the words out.
I’m not ashamed. I love hard. Too hard at times, I think.
To me, letting them go was going to take a great deal of patience (from my three children) and a great deal of practice (from me).
Five Simple Practice(s) to Strengthen Your Letting Go Muscles
- Practice the art of letting go and begin living in the RIGHT NOWS of your life, especially if your children are little. As frustrating and difficult and exasperating as they can be, the never-ending cycle of your right nows are creating the tapestry of your tomorrow. Isaac Marion writes,“You should always be taking pictures, if not with a camera then with your mind. Memories you capture on purpose are always more vivid than the ones you pick up by accident.” I have come to find out that if I live and breathe the RIGHT NOWS, I tend to have less trouble letting go. Life will never be what it was and it isn’t meant to be (more on this later).
- Practice the power of prayer. I found great strength and comfort in Psalm 9:10, “And those who know your name put their trust in you,for you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” God is with you. He sees your pain and knows how much you love that boy or girl. Trust him like never before.
- Practice intermittency. Yes, intermittency. Please take a few moments to really let this one sink in. Defined, ” Stopping and starting at intervals; alternately containing and emptying of water.” Anne Morrow Lindbergh helped me really understand this practice. She writes, “When you love someone you do not love them all the time; in exactly the same way, from moment to moment. It is an impossibility. It is even a lie to pretend to. And yet this is exactly what most of us demand. We have so little faith in the ebb and flow of life, of love, of relationships. We leap at the flow of the tide and resist in terror its ebb. We are afraid it will never return. We insist on permanency, on duration, on continuity; when the only continuity possible, in life as in love, is in growth, in fluidity, and in freedom. The only real security is not in owning or possessing, not in demanding or expecting, not in hoping, even. Security in a relationship lies neither in looking back to what it was, nor forward to what it might be in dread of anticipation, but living in the present relationship and accepting it as it is NOW.” We’ve been talking a great deal about the ebb and flow of life. Practicing intermittency trains us to appreciate the changes, not dread them. Cry, yes, but don’t cry forever.
- Practice developing your skills and talents. Ask, “What is next for me?” I had to give myself permission to do this. And if I am 100% honest, which I try to be, it wasn’t until two weeks ago that I actually embraced this fully. Through Anne’s writings in Gift from the Sea, I got it. It is time for shedding the old shells and looking for the new.
- Practice enjoying the newfound freedom of planning marriage-things or friend-things. I have friends who are really good at friend-things. I, on the other hand, an extroverted-introvert, am not. There have been seasons where I’ve been better at it, but the latter years of soccer and dance and school, etc., I tended to neglect the development of my own relationships. This is really important to put into practice. Making friends during the middle ages of life isn’t as easy, but it is possible.
I hope this helps you transition a little easier. That is what I am here for. If you need a little help, contact me. In the meantime, I’ve searched the archives for more practical tips and encouragement.
From the Archives: Two VLOGS on the disorientation often felt during transitional periods.
Read more about letting go: