“The way we exhale is the way we surrender in life,” says my favorite breath teacher, Lauren Chelec Cafritz.
Admittedly, I’m a bit of a control freak. I like to think of myself as low maintenance and go with the flow. And then comes a deadline or an expectation that hasn’t been yet, and I find myself forgetting to breath and feeling a tightness as I try to make the situation turn in my favor.
Years of my life have been spent bent under the tight, rigidity of trying to control every outcome.
One of the hardest things for me has been knowing how to let go when the time comes, without clutching.
Yet, life is a constant process of letting go. Letting go is a lifelong process of unlearning to clutch and learning to practice releasing.
For a lot of years, I tried to surround myself with people that seemed to do letting go well. When I was in my early 20s, I lived with a family that had a three year old, Henry. I thought it was remarkable when Henry would come into the kitchen in the middle of dinner preparations and everything would slow while his mom or dad listened to his story or even sat for a few minutes to color with him before getting back to the task.
I watched his parents release the expectation of dinner being made in exactly the way they’d intended and relax into what was present. It was deeply healing. And I got to watch and practice.
Letting go is a practice. It’s like the first time you make a particular dish for dinner. You follow a dang recipe, until you learn the nuances of spices and flavors. You experiment with time and the heat of the oven. You have to practice a lot to find a recipe you like the best.
As a recovering Catholic, it took me years to realize the power of growing up with such rituals. As a kid, I found a lot of comfort in knowing EXACTLY when to sit, stand, or kneel during mass. I LOVED that I knew exactly what was coming. No question.
But adulting means we can’t predict the future, and goodbyes or transitions sometimes come without warning.
Many of you know that I went through a breakup in January. I’ve been writing about the dichotomies of waking up tender and fierce. In the months that have followed, I woke up more deeply happy than I have been in years. Coaching/Therapy/Healing have all helped me walk this path, not to mention soulful communities and loved ones that have supported me. There are a lot of ways that I was nourished in these past years and months that led to this, so I’m not pretending that there is a fix all.
However, as I awoke to this new life, I craved closure. My inner control freak wants closure on HER terms and the thing about letting go is that you have to release your expectation. You have to be present to what is.
I’ve never been great at grieving a loss AND still holding that person, place, or experience in your heart.
I’ve usually tried to excavate that shit so that I don’t have to suffer the loss. Yes, we need to detox the toxic, but excavating our hearts in order to avoid suffering, just leaves us numb. I wanted to surf the waves of loving and letting go.
I knew that I needed my own ritual of closure.
I did three things in a really structured way, because structure makes way for flow:
*I went to an activity that we used to do. My heart pounded as I walked in. I hoped no one would see me and deliberately did not think about what I would do or say if they did. I stood in the back. I thanked every person that I used to spend time with in my head. I put my hand over my heart. I looked around and deeply took in the room, the sounds, the folks that were there. I walked out. I walked a few blocks, making sure to move my body AND breathe so that the tension could move through. Then I called an Uber to pick me up and take me back to the place I was staying and I slept in the next day.
There are layers of clearing. There are layers of healing. There are layers of wounds that need tending and loving and forgiveness. Letting go does not have a specific recipe and it does not come with a specific time frame (Turn to 400 degrees and cook for 45 minutes.. I WISH!).
I have a feeling some of these layers will be revisited as I create a new version of my life.
I have a feeling some of these layers will be peeled back again as I begin new relationships.
You get to create your own rituals. Structure supports flow.
A few more ways of practicing letting go:
You don’t need to excavate your heart. You do need to release.
Create your own ritual of closure. And if you need, perform it again, and again, and again without judging the time and space that’s needed, because on the other side of that is the joy of living.
To releasing so that you can live in the fullness of your heart,