November 4, 2011

Why Don’t “Lasts” Come With A Warning Label?

Letting Go (And Moving On) Is Hard To Do.

It never occurred to me that I had gone trick-or-treating for the last time.

Last week, in rapid succession, my children opted out of our traditional, family-oriented Halloween. My oldest started it when he informed us that he was too old to trick-or-treat. He planned to hang out with his buddy and watch a movie. (Oh, and would I mind buying him some candy?). Next, my middle child announced that she would be trick-or-treating with a friend. Upon hearing this, my youngest hammered the final nail into the coffin of my parental Halloweens. Since she was dressing up as Thing 2, she asked if it would be OK for her to go out with her friend, Thing 1.

As I started to resist, my husband laid a hand on my shoulder. “It’s time.” he said softly. And he was right. After all, who in their right mind would separate Dr. Seuss’s Thing 1 and Thing 2?

Right or not, saying, “Sure, honey. That sounds fun,” was really hard to do. What I really wanted was to beg them to stay with me. I wanted to hold their cold hands in the dark. I wanted them to sneak me Snickers bars as we went from house to house. I wanted to straighten a king’s crown, re-attach a fairy’s wings and carry candy bags that had gotten too heavy. What I really didn’t want to do was part ways with yet another vestige of their childhood.

Letting go is hard to do.

Practicing yoga is an opportunity to practice letting go. On our mats we practice letting go of our fixed ideas about our abilities. Sometimes this means we have to let go of our beliefs that “I can do that!” This isn’t a lot of fun, but it is universal. In all of our journeys there will come a time when we must take a step or two (or five) back. Doing so is hard on our egos. Doing so can undermine our faith in the practice itself.

That said, acquiescing to an injury or newly tight muscles by retreating to modifications of yoga postures is no more permanent than our “progress.” In fact, stepping back and exploring the practice from a new vantage point can be a powerful learning opportunity. I never learn more about my body than when I’m working through an issue – a sore wrist led me to some intense exploration of my shoulders, a suddenly absent lotus position taught me to better understand my hips.

Sometimes, on our mats, what we’re letting go of is wholly different. Sometimes we have to let go of our beliefs that “I can’t do that!” This can be frightening. After all, in many cases we hide from our fears behind the statement, “I can’t.” It can also be very liberating. When we manage to let go of our limiting beliefs, we free ourselves to try new things. We free ourselves to grow and to change.

I spent years believing (really believing) that I could not support my weight on my hands. It took a “double dog dare” from a 12-year-old student to get me into Crow pose. The fact that I had taught her the posture knocked the legs out from under my belief that I didn’t know how to do it. I rose to her challenge, tried and succeeded! This opened a whole new world of yoga postures for me to explore. Letting go on our mats – no matter if it feels like a step back or a leap forward – always leads to growth.

The same is true off our mats. Letting go this Halloween allowed my kids and me to grow. While it was a little blow to my ego, (The fact that my kids no longer think I’m the most fun person in town is hard to swallow!), acquiescing allowed me to see my kids from a new vantage point. By letting them go, I allowed them to spread their wings. I allowed them to try something new. I allowed them to grow up a bit more. Each time I manage to let go, they rise to the occasion, stretching themselves and exploring. I can almost feel them looking back, letting me know it’s my turn — my turn to stretch and explore my way into my ever-shifting role as a mother.

While it took my husband’s gentle prompting to get me to let go this time (at least he didn’t have to double dog dare me!), maybe it will get easier. After all, they each came home from their adventures with a Snickers for their old mom.

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Amy Nobles Dolan  |  Contribution: 9,100