It seemed impossible that I would ever let go.
I walked around with a heavy heart—and a mind that kept returning to memories that were growing increasingly faded with time.
I did that “paint by numbers” trick we all do, in which we give our memories a rosier tone than they actually had, and I didn’t think the ache, the longing, would ever go away.
I loved when it was not wanted, and the love didn’t go away when the lover did. So, I held onto what I had left, which was very little. Just my feelings, which were too large for me to carry around—and the memories, which were too small for all the need in my heart.
Hello, from the other side of letting go.
I’m just sending you this short note to tell you about my own journey, in hopes it may help your own. I can honestly say I wish you were here, because here is a good place—a possible place, even when it feels like a fairy tale or an impossible dream.
How did I make the leap from holding on to letting go?
It wasn’t easy or quick, and there was no instant cure. There were moments when prying my fingers from the past was painful in every way that it could be painful—physically, mentally, emotionally.
My stomach hurt, my heart felt heavy—and yet, somehow hollow—in my chest, my mind raced, and every emotion I had experienced along the way, from falling in love to breaking my own heart, revisited me. It was a cycle, and I was the one perpetuating it, although it seemed to happen on its own.
Some little thing would remind me, and all the memories would come rushing back. With the memories came the pain. I could not figure out how to extricate myself from the cycle and still hold on to the memories.
Letting go of the memories seemed impossible. How could I let go of all that I had left?
Then, I remembered myself. It happened slowly—but I remembered who I was, and that I wasn’t lost just because I was left behind. I remembered that when he left me, he actually left behind all of the potential we had and a truly wonderful life that I was living. He’d lost me and all of the potential, and I still had myself and a wonderful life.
I remembered myself, and remembering reminded me that I deserve better than a love who would leave. I deserve more than what I’d allowed for myself. Slowly, my grip on the past loosened.
And I remembered that just because the object of our love leaves, we still retain the love. They, the people who leave us, don’t take the love with them. We still hold all of it. It’s still ours.
When I remembered that, I allowed myself to share some of that love. I baked cookies for helpers in the community. I practiced random acts of kindness. I let some of that love live outside of myself. It helped me to breathe, and it lightened the load of all that love I was carrying.
Then I removed the rose-colored glasses. I saw that a love who would leave was never mine to keep. It was an illusion—a pretty one, to be sure, like a prism the light shines through. But it was only ever “real” to me. On closer inspection, I saw the flaws, the ones I never would have admitted when I wanted things to work out.
The flaws were as real as the reality that this person wasn’t the one for me. My eyes hurt from staring at the truth, but once glimpsed, I could not turn away. I had polished those memories so that they shone, and the truth is that I had white-washed the flaws away. It helped ease the ache, and I began to release my grip still further.
Then, I began to cancel my “trips” to the past. I stopped allowing my mind to revisit those memories. And I went a step further and stopped allowing myself to daydream of what it might be like if I rewrote the ending to the story. Instead, I canceled the trips to the past and booked a new one to possibilities, to hope, to a future imagined without him in it.
I began to think about what I wanted for my life. I began to imagine the possibilities of my life and to dream without limits.
I even took a dating moratorium to make sure that when I dated again it would be very a healthy perspective. I contented myself with the single life, and I found that I enjoyed it. I raised my children in joy, and when they went to sleep at night, I had hours of time to myself.
I chose how I spent it, and I made sure to give myself small indulgences—chocolate I enjoyed, a soothing facial, an aromatherapy bath, a candle lit while a record played, a movie that I alone enjoyed. I focused on setting and meeting personal goals, like running a 5K and signing up for an obstacle course run. I scheduled activities that I enjoyed, and I reminded myself that life was still good.
I declared myself single for life (in my own mind only), I and began to enjoy life again. Then, as nearly always happens in stories like these, I met someone who showed me what love actually feels like. He reminded me that an unrequited love will never be enough, and we all deserve someone who looks at us like we hang the moon, who appreciates who we are, and who never leaves us feeling like we’re not enough or too much.
That last grip I had on the past loosened so that the past slipped away from me entirely. Because when we know what real love is, we stop longing for the shadow of it. We don’t want a poor imitation of something that is real so we choose a different track.
We remember ourselves, and we begin to let go. We remember the past as it was, and we move away from it.
We stop taking those trips into our memories, and we begin to imagine possibilities for the future. We take care of ourselves and make sure that we’re in a healthy place. We learn to enjoy our lives, even when they don’t work out the way we once thought they should.
And…we let go.
It is possible. There is hope—and you can do it.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Yoli Ramazzina
Copy Editor: Catherine Monkman
Social Editor: Callie Rushton the Queen of Stinkiness