Taking Hold and Letting Go

I appreciate Beth's comments on letting go; I think she's onto something important here. And I think she's right that fear is often what stops us from letting go, and that many times it is our fear that we need to let go of in order to move forward.

As my years advance, I have come to look at this question from another angle, which is to look at life as a series of two-step progressions, taking hold and letting go, taking hold and letting go. It's almost like breathing: inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale...

We started taking hold of tasks, challenges, interests, relationships, and things that gave us identity when we were very small. "I differentiate myself from my brother and sister by the things that I do and the way that I do them. I take ownership of my chores as a sense of pride. I belong to this family, for better or worse. I know I can ace this test. I know I can ride my bike up this hill. I am going to join this group."

These are all examples of taking hold of things. It's the way we engage with the world, the treads of our boots gaining traction in the rocky soil as we climb toward our goals. These are the kinds of goals we are accustomed to making, the ones we can achieve through persistence, dedication and letting go of our fears. We set goals to climb higher, to run farther and faster, to earn more, to gain a wider audience, more friends, deeper love.

But sometimes the goal itself is simply to let go. At the end of a hard day of work, to come home and relax and let it go. It's vital for our health that we do this.

The process of letting go

As someone who has suffered a serious health setback these past few years, a heart condition that is not well understood, I have learned a lot about letting go. Once an avid cyclist, I would often ride a hundred miles or more over a weekend. I would set goals to ride more miles each year than the year before. Today I am not able to ride at all, though I am hopeful that I will be back in the saddle before too long. Over the past weeks and months I would sit at my desk and look out the window at the people riding by on their bikes. It would fill me with a combination of longing, envy, and self-pity. Over time I was able to move on from that, to wishing them well and hoping that they appreciated their good health. It's all part of the process of letting go. I knew that if I didn't let it go, it would only make me miserable. In the mean time, I have taken hold of other challenges, writing a new book, for example, and composing a series of songs for a CD that I hope to record.

Mountain that had once been a valley

Most of the things we take hold of, we will eventually have to let go of. That's just the way that life works. Over the past few years I lost both my younger sister and my mother. I was very close to both of them. I felt like my life had undergone an earthquake and what used to be a mountain had become a valley. The grieving is a process of taking hold and letting go, too, almost like the breathing you do when you are in pain, to help you get through it. I take hold of the memories, looking at pictures, or just thinking of some good times we shared, and then I let go, often with tears along the way, a little bit at a time, almost like descending stairs, climbing down from a mountain that had once been a valley.

Tess and Laura SiegelMy sister died a couple of years before my mom did. The two of them had been inseparable. They lived in the same area and saw each other regularly, while I lived several hours away. I had deliberately moved away as a young person as a way of taking hold of a sense of independence and so I could hear my own inner voice more clearly. I know that my sister's loss was even greater for mom than it was for me, because of their day to day contact. So I vowed to try to make up some of the difference by spending as much time with mom as possible. I visited her every time I could and became a familiar face at the independent living facility where she lived, which was in the same town I grew up in. We also instittuted a regular phone call every Saturday morning at 10AM, just after she got back from the beauty parlor. We would often talk for an hour or more, about what we had done that week. Then we would delve deeper into what was on each others minds, offering comfort, advice and sometimes a little humor. I grew to look forward to those calls and I know that she did too.

When she became ill, I became her protector. I would drive six hours each way to be with her every weekend. I took hold of that role with a passion I hadn't even known I possessed. I knew she was going and I wanted to be sure not to leave anything on the table. Sometimes I would bring my guitar and sing to her.  One night, I will never forget. There were four of us in the room singing and mom sang along with such gusto, you would have thought she was perfectly healthy. That room was bathed in a golden light that fed something in all of us. Taking hold and letting go. Isn't that really what love is?

Today I still miss them both terribly, especially my mom and our Saturday phone calls. But even as I let go of her presence in my world, I hold on tight to my love for her that I will carry with me for all of my days. This week, on June 21st, Mom would have been 91 years old. Happy Birthday, Mom.


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Reader Comments (1)

I am so sorry for your loss! Your mother and sister seem like wonderful women! Your dedication to your mother is inspiring. I wish more children would spend more time with their parents. To realize that they are not going to be with them forever. Thank you for sharing your experience.

June 18, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterBethann Gonzalez
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