April 11, 2014

Thoughts On Letting Go, From Someone Who Holds On.


I hold on to things.

I hold on to them for dear life because I don’t want to forget, I don’t want to lose moments, I want to make sure that every bit of life is felt deeply and thoroughly and with all of me before it slips through the cracks of my soul and is never seen again.

There are times that I treasure this quality, and times that I resent it for all of its heaviness, for all of its flaws.

I have an unfortunate tendency to hold on to the good moments and leave myself blind to the bad ones, the ones that are telling me that something is not right, laying out in front of me reason after reason to turn around and walk away.

I also find myself clinging mercilessly to moments of self-doubt, criticism, and general unhappiness when the rest of the universe is doing everything it can to show me just how bright and beautiful my world really is.

I hold on to so many things that my mind doesn’t know quite how to process them all, how to categorize them properly, how to simultaneously sit with everything I want to sit with and still go on living life.

It takes me out of the moment.

It frequently leads people to tell me that I never just let myself go, that I need to lighten up, that I take everything too seriously.

That’s probably true, in some ways.

But in other ways, in what seem like more prominent ways, I have always felt like “letting go” would be inauthentic of me.

I am quiet by nature. I am shy. I am exponentially more comfortable in moments of introspection and solitude. In a large crowd, you can find me tucked away in a group of two or three other human beings.

Still, despite the overwhelming opinion of those around me, I do like to have fun.

I love to dance, bursting out into song is one of my favorite pastimes, and fits of uncontrollable laughter are among the moments I hold onto with the most fervor.

It’s just that these moments are harder to come by for me than for most.

I cannot tell my heart when to stop beating for the person who has long since stopped listening for its rhythms, or soothe its cries on a night that it just needs to beat sadly.

I have tried tirelessly to force a change in mood, a change in my desire for aloneness, and every time I have tried to force it, I have found myself tucked further inward than where I was before.

I also find myself taking 10 steps inward when someone else—who has nothing but good intentions—tries to force me to let go, and to those people, I have a message:

Be gentle in encouraging us, the ones who hold on. Nudge us outside of our comfort zones, but don’t shove. Show us the ways we can let ourselves go, but don’t be disappointed or angry if we don’t follow suit. 

Remember that we are the way we are for a reason, that holding on is not all bad, and that we are not always unhappy with our heavy chest of collected moments. 

We have chosen to live a life that is authentic to us—or, maybe we have been chosen by this life—even though it gets hard and gets lonely and can separate us from the world for a little while. 

We relish in laughter and in moments of release, but our home is a warmly lit log cabin, sitting on the vast acres of our souls under a navy blue sky sprinkled with an uncountable number of stars—at least, that’s how I picture it—and it is to this place we will always return when those moments have passed.

That is not to say we will never let go, or that I never let go. We do, and I do.

I let go in those moments when I lose myself in the music and my body gets lost with me, when I let my mediocre voice carry through rooms of my apartment, and when I laugh the kind of laugh that leaves me keeled over and gasping for air—no matter how rare these moments might be.

I let go every time I allow myself to feel, deeply and without reserve, whatever my heart is telling me it feels.

I let go when I feel that those around me will still love me even if I do not let go.

I let go when I write words that I have never spoken.

I let go, I just do so quietly, and without much external evidence. 

I wonder: Maybe it is not that I need to reconcile how to both hold on and let go. Maybe it is that I need to revisit the idea that letting go means changing who I am, that my letting go will look the same as someone else’s letting go.

I wonder: Maybe the most dangerous thing I have held on to all this time is the notion that I am incapable of ever letting go, when really it seems that I, and all of us who are the holder-oners, do so in many of our own, silent ways.

author: Emily Bartran

Image: Flickr via Martinak15 

Editor: Jenna Penielle Lyons

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Erin Sep 2, 2015 10:38pm

Every word of this seems like those I could reach up and grab from the typical swirling thoughts in my head. I felt compelled to respond, still in tears. Thank you for making sense of it all. Seeing all the responses, it is comforting to know we’re not alone!

shelly Sep 2, 2015 10:04am

I'm so grateful for finding this post as just this morning I am judging how I hold on so tightly or pretend that i let go and don't care when i really do care. Well, now I am committed to not pretending anymore and I am face to face with the heartbreak of not being able to let go…..reading this quiets my mind and allows my heart to continue to break open. I guess i'm just a "holder onner" and maybe like a woman said in a previous post….that we are needed in this world of addiction, grief and chaos. I'm not sure that more indifference is the answer. I still feel confused about this question, i have practiced yoga and meditation for years and really have "let go" a lot but i am still not clear …..so I guess all there is to do is accept and love what is about me….

Carol Sep 2, 2015 9:28am

YES! You have stated thoughts that have been in my head and I couldn't get out so they made sense. Essentially, you have contributed to my recovery process. That's amazaing.

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Emily Bartran

Emily Bartran has been a Writer and Editor with Elephant Journal for five years. She has a Master’s Degree in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and is particularly interested in exploring writing habits, authorship, and how we put the experience of modern life into words. You can find her on Instagram.