The Gift of Letting Go

When I write fiction, I write about relationships. Siblings, spouses, children, parents, friends. Our lives are shaped and molded by our relationships. And sometimes they can be tricky. So, I write about them to help illuminate what’s important, what’s universal, what we all struggle with, what we all sink into and find comfort in — both for my readers and for myself.

“Friends are there for a reason, for a season, or for a lifetime.” One of the cheesiest cliches out there… and also one that has helped illuminate so much for me. I didn’t like it at first. I didn’t want to believe that everyone I loved might not someday be there. I fought it with every ounce of my being, held on too tightly when I should have been letting go. Found myself hurt, angry, betrayed, self-righteous.

And here’s what I learned in the process.

When a relationship has served its purpose, it no longer serves anyone to try and hold on to it. When it no longer serves you both, it’s much healthier to let go, to move on, to stop assigning blame, to eradicate that little hard ball of hurt and anger in your heart, to wish the other well and move forward, move on.

That can be a bitter pill to swallow when you’re not the one who chose to walk away. But when you look back, you will realize the gift of that freedom, the necessity of that original, heart-breaking, how-could-you-do-this pain. What once felt like a slap in the face will eventually feel like a breath of fresh air… if you let it.

I know I’m not the same person I was twenty years ago. I’m not the same person I was five minutes ago. It’s not fair to expect people to stay the same, to be the same, to serve the same purpose in your life, to fill a place in your heart that you reserved especially for them.

Their needs change, your needs change.

Someone may serve them better.

Someone may fill you more.

It’s okay.

My marriage, my children — those are the relationships I’ve vowed to hold onto forever. Those are the people, no matter how much they change, to whom I’ll always hold fiercely, always fight for. Those core family relationships are different — at least to me.

But I’ve learned (with a great deal of resistance and kicking and screaming and finger-pointing) that other relationships — even the ones you believed were for a lifetime and not merely a season — don’t always last forever.

Every person I’ve loved has changed me in irrefutable ways. Most for the better. In return, I hope I’ve blessed each of them in similar ways.

Letting go of anything is hard. Change is scary. When something you once believed was forever becomes obsolete, there is a mourning period. Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. Those phases are not clear cut, either. You can move from to Denial to Anger and on to Bargaining and back to Anger. The path is not a straight and narrow line. The journey is never easy.

But Acceptance? Oh, Acceptance. That is where you can finally sit back, sigh, and say, “Thank you for what you gave to me. Thank you for your gifts. Be happy. Be at peace. Safe travels on your journey, old friend.”

And the wave goodbye is no longer tear-stained. It may tug a bit at the heart — cherished memories often do — but when you walk away, your soul is filled. It is filled with love and  peace and the knowledge that moving on is the right thing to do. That is is, in fact, the only thing to do.

For both of you.

Thanks, Michael D., for the poignant reminder today.

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