Letting go is hard.
It’s harder for some of us than others. Being the highly sensitive person that I am, it seems to be extra hard for me. While some people can simply flip a switch and turn off emotions allowing them to let go much easier and faster, I can’t. My emotions are like a facet set to high and it won’t turn off. Someone call a goddamn plumber.
You may have seen my Instagram story from several weekends ago. It started out with an extra emo picture of me that reminds me of my high school days – I always thought the sky was falling back then.
In the caption, I talked about those moments in life where something you see or hear catches you off guard and old painful emotions resurface. I hate those moments.
The rest of my stories talked about how to move through that situation fast while still honoring your emotions. And while the steps I took to get out of that headspace worked – I did feel better in record time – it still called to light something I’ve known about myself for a while. Letting go is not my strong suit.
Letting go is one of my (maybe many) fatal flaws.
I’ve done so much growth work and I’ve committed to becoming a master of myself and emotions. And still, letting go is a major challenge for me.
I tend to hold on to things far longer than necessary or even normal. Emotions, grudges, people, objects – you name it, I hold on to it. I struggle to let go almost anything that I once found significance in. I’ve termed my letting go abilities “letting go with clenched fists” because I try to let go… I say I let things go… but I don’t actually let go of shit.
I can’t be alone in this.
In college, when I would get a B on a test, I’d rehash my study strategy for weeks after and think of all the ways I could have done more to get a better score.
When I got Rhabdomyolysis from an electric stimulation workout, I spent a week in the hospital. But I spent a year thinking of all the ways I could get revenge on the moran who lead me to injure myself.
When my middle school boyfriend and I broke up, I wrote about it in my journal for months — we only “dated” for 2!
I even wonder how I’d react if I saw the girl I got into a physical fight with in high school. At 32, I still dislike her.
As you can see, letting go with clenched fists is something I am a master at!
While these are all amusing and I’m sure relatable examples of being unable to let things go, these don’t even touch the surface of the deeper issues I hold on to.
I struggle to let go of feelings of abandonment and resentment.
Growing up, my dad was my hero. I thought he was probably the toughest man on the planet. He would have done (and will still do) anything for me. I love my dad and always have.
But today, he’s the person that gets under my skin the most. I can go from zen-woo-woo-chick to in-your-face-street-thug in .05 seconds when he’s around. Literally no one else on this Earth can disturb my peace the way he does. And why?
When I was in high school, my dad became very absent.
He was always out working his hands to the bone to make ends meet. His hands were literally cut up and wethered from all his hard work. Yet, there was no money coming into our household.
We weren’t able to pay the bills which lead to our gas, electricity, and water all being shut off.
My mom made an agreement with our neighbor to let us use his water until we got back on our feet. So twice a day, every day, she would take two large buckets and fill them up so that we had water to wash ourselves, brush our teeth with and flush the toilet.
I remember my mom told me that she thought my dad was having an affair.
I remember being beyond pissed to hear this. I didn’t believe her. I thought she was being paranoid and insecure. NO WAY would my dad do that to us – no way would he leave us in this position on purpose.
Then one day, the other woman showed up to our house – drunk and looking to cause trouble.
My mom had been right all along. How could I have been so naive? The man I once thought of as my hero, the man I thought would turn the world upside down for me, left us with nothing more than four walls and a roof over our head all while he paid for the lifestyle of this other woman.
He abandoned us. He abandoned me – his one and only daughter – his “baby girl”.
Over the years, I’ve tried my best to forgive him.
I tell myself that he really is a good man and I do believe this.
I remind myself that he went through his own pain and abandonment which led him to make some awful decisions. I like to believe that I’ve forgiven my dad for his betrayal, but far too often, a dull sense of all those old feelings reappear and I realize I never truly let it go.
When he starts to get under my skin, I realize that what’s actually happening is that the hurt angry teenager in me is reacting. My inability to fully let go of his past missteps prevents me from having the kind of relationship with my dad that I used to. When I look at him, I don’t immediately see betrayal, but it doesn’t take long for that image to surface.
So yes, I said I have forgiven him. I think that I have. But have I fully let that go? I might still be working on it.
I also find I have a hard time letting go of people.
I don’t get close to people very easily.
I generally don’t feel safe to be fully myself in front of anyone so I put up a wall. That wall is something I’ve decorated with pretty flowers and lots of green plants so people have a hard time detecting that it’s a wall to begin with. Butt pretty or not, it’s a wall and it’s one that won’t come down. Not for anyone, not even my closest friends.
Except that it has come down before. Exactly twice for two people.
I can’t pinpoint exactly what it is about a person that makes me feel safe to be seen and heard but there have been two people in my life that gave me that sense of safety. My walls came down before I even had time to realize it.
I met my former best friend at work several years ago.
Our friendship formed fast. We went from strangers to work besties to ride-or-die in the blink of an eye.
It was the kind of friendship I had always wanted. Growing up, I had tons of girlfriends but it was rare that I ever felt comfortable being myself around them. Those damn walls.
With this friend, something made me feel safe around her. We could spend hours talking about deep serious topics, or just as easily spend that same amount of time making weird noises and laughing at each other – either way, the time always felt so well spent. We called each other forever friends.
But our friendship didn’t last forever.
It was pretty short, actually. We got into what I considered a small disagreement one day. To be honest, our friendship was complicated so this wasn’t something unusual. I thought we’d move past it quickly like we had before. But to her, our disagreement wasn’t small – it was big enough to cut ties.
There was no big blow out. There were no insults yelled at each other. There was just a series of texts and regretful words shared. And it was done. Just as fast as our friendship formed, it faded even faster. I was confused and hurt.
I did my best to let it go but of course, I found that challenging.
While she moved on without a second thought, I rehashed the whole ordeal over and over again. I wondered what exactly happened, what was really behind the cut-off? Had I really done something so wrong, or was there more to it? Could I have done anything differently and would I have wanted to if I could?
I had so many questions – there was so much confusion, hurt feelings, and anger.
Each time all of this would go through my head, I’d stuff it all down deep inside of me and tell myself “I accept what’s happened and I’m moving on”. What else could I do?
She eventually moved away.
I was glad to find this out but sad still. I was happy that I’d never have to run into this person who so deeply impacted my life. I was also just as hurt by this idea. Someone I once thought would be in my life forever was gone without a word. I felt insignificant.
In time, I stopped rehashing the whole ordeal and I was over it. I finally let it go. Or did I?
Several weeks ago, I was mindlessly scrolling through Instagram when I caught a tiny preview of a friend’s IG story. In the preview image, I saw my former friend. She was back in Austin…and still, I wasn’t someone that crossed her mind.
That old sting from years ago set in.
I felt a rush of anger, confusion, sadness, and insignificance rise up. The emotions felt so fresh that my stomach literally moved. I wasn’t expecting to see that image, I wasn’t expecting to see that person.
I didn’t even watch the actual story, I didn’t need to. I had seen more than I wanted. A 1cm x 1cm image was enough to remind me about how she moved on with ease while I lagged behind, struggling to let it all go.
People. Relationships. Friendships. Those are tricky to let go.
But the thing I have the hardest time letting go of? Myself.
Especially the old version of me.
I find it incredibly challenging to let go of the girl I used to be. There are old stories, old belief systems, old habits and old ways of being that I’m used to but they don’t seem to be serving me anymore. Changing them up, no matter how much I want it, is so hard to do. I hold on to who I used to be though I know I need to let her go.
Before I set on my spiritual path and before I started this self-development journey, I spent 28 years of my life creating my identity. The girl I was and the woman I’m becoming, they seem very different from each other. But how can that be if I am me and I always have been?
I struggle to understand this.
It reminds me of the caterpillar and the butterfly.
What a caterpillar has to endure in order to become the butterfly is quite honestly really fucking insane. In order to transform from this unattractive groundling into the flying spectacle that we love to look at, it must completely digest and destroy itself.
If you were to cut it open at just the right time, all you’d find is a gooey mess. But in its safe cocoon, it continues to transform – it rebuilds, develops, and matures. When it’s ready, a butterfly emerges. (If you don’t believe in miracles, sit and think about this process for a while.)
Well I feel like a newly formed butterfly waiting to bust out of my cocoon
But I’m scared.
I’m different now yet not quite ready to step into this new version of myself. The world as I’ve always known it is very different from this perspective – I’m not too sure how to navigate it. It keeps me wanting to hold on tight to my old self. She’s all I’ve ever known.
My old patterns and old belief systems have kept me safe for so long that setting them aside feels almost like a betrayal. I keep holding on to all of this even though I know none of it serves me anymore.
This new version of me is looking for far more than just comfort and peace. I’m looking for growth and perspective. I want more, more than I have ever wanted before, and that’s mildly terrifying because what I want forces me out of my comfort zone. It forces me to be better, less intimidated by everyone and everything, and more strong-willed.
If I want more, does that mean letting go of the girl in me I’ve always known? Maybe.
What a challenge.
I know these struggles of holding on and letting go aren’t unfamiliar to most.
We all experience this — we hold onto things for far too long. We keep a clenched fist on things that once brought us so much joy, or even wrongdoings we felt were inflicted on us. We hold on to hope of closure, remediation or even revenge. But this does us no good.
I struggle with letting go every day – of things I like to tell myself I’ve forgotten about weeks, months, even years ago. Some days that’s true; other days I feel like I’m right back where I first started. But the trick is, I keep practicing. I remind myself of how far I’ve come. Even if today feels like an enormous setback, it’s really just a small one.
So if you find yourself in a place where you can either hold on to something or let it go, please know that either choice will be a struggle. Either choice might bring pain. But letting go is always the better option.
Letting go means there’s a light at the end of the tunnel – an end to the misery of clenching your fists so tightly. Instead of struggling to hold on, we should focus that energy on letting go, because it’s hard to see a bright tomorrow if you’re holding on to yesterday’s darkness.