Why is it so hard to let go?
I go to yoga to sit on my mat and practice “letting go”. I’ve read enough and believe that “clinging” to what I think I want, instead of accepting what “is” causes me to suffer. The suffering may be slight, like watching my plans to go to Zumba be cancelled due to other obligations. Or, it may be something bigger like learning to let go of who I think my children (and everyone else) should be.
When Tyler was first diagnosed with autism, my world completely fell apart. I was beyond despair. It felt like there had been a death. My ideas and dreams of who I thought he should be were completely obliterated. The anguish and suffering were indescribable.
I remember sitting with Tyler in the car. We had gone to see, after 6 months of waiting, a neurologist that our pediatrician recommended. This was at a time, over 10 years ago, when there wasn’t The Seattle Children’s Autism Center. In our naiveté, my husband and I thought a consultation would just be a quick visit before we came away with any sort of, well, anything. We were completely unprepared for a diagnosis, so I was there alone. After “the diagnosis”, the neurologist sent me away with a 1-800 phone number to call the Autism Society and wished me well.
I pulled over to the side of the road with our son blissfully buckled in his car seat. I remember just staring out the window at nothing and feeling complete emptiness. I was numb. I didn’t know what to think or feel, and worst of all, I didn’t know how I felt about my son. The label completely confused me. Who was he? Who would he be? Who was I and how did I feel about him now? Nothing was at all “right.” Nothing was the way it was supposed to be.
I made a quick appointment with our son’s pediatrician to try to begin to understand. I had absolutely no idea how to move forward with our lives.
We talked, and I cried; we talked some more and I sobbed. And, after that, there was no more to say. She couldn’t make it better. She couldn’t make it go away.
But, she kindly shared some wisdom that I try to remember as our children grow. The pediatrician said, “You are learning something that many of us don’t begin to understand until our children become teenagers. Our children are not put on this earth to fulfill our dreams and wishes. They are here for their own lives. Our job as parents is to love them, guide them and help them have what they need to be the people they are to be.” I understood that as “loving unconditionally”.
I know this is wisdom of the ages that should be passed along to all. She shared this to help me begin letting go of who I thought Tyler should be. But, I’ve had to think of this lately with our younger teenage son as well.
I loved being a good student growing up. I valued straight “A’s”, reading and studying. I strongly identified with being an excellent, compliant student. One day, our son did not have the grades I thought he should have. I felt myself become intensely irritated and angry inside. I wanted to control the situation, take away privileges, and just fix it the way I wanted it to be. I was bound and determined that he would be an excellent academic student like me. I dug a little deeper, and found that my ego and identity were completely wrapped up in his grades. What a splash of ice water in my face!
His grades were fine. But more importantly, he appears to be a very happy person with well-rounded likes and interests. He is not me. He is not my husband. He is himself. Our boys are themselves.
I’ve always loved rules, boundaries, identities. And, at the same time, I notice that I push against them. As soon as I “proclaim”, by way of actions or words, that I am “something”, I want to break free from that identity. I am always delighted when I discover that someone I’ve formed an opinion about reveals unexpected facets of themselves. It reminds me that we all are dynamic and constantly changing. We get to be who we want to be. We can “reinvent” ourselves if we want to call it that!
This parenting role is challenging. Life is challenging. I want to share my values with my children and husband, but it’s a hard walk to gently let them figure out who they want to be and enjoy what is meaningful to them. How do we keep everyone safe when they want to venture out into the unpredictable world or play risky sports? How do we let go of the fear that they may get hurt, or that they aren’t who we think they should be?
I know this will be an ongoing challenge in my life; to support enough for safety and to share my interests and values, if certain meaningful notes strike a chord. But all I can do is share, not impose. If I can practice “letting go” with each breath of how I think life should be, I may find a bit more ease. All I have is this present moment.
Latest Fabulous Revelations:
- All I have is this present moment
- When I attach my intense feelings about the way things “should be” I may suffer when they are not that way
- Letting go over and over is difficult
- It can be challenging to let the dearest, most beloved people in our lives, be who they want to be
- The ultimate gift I can give my children and those who are dear to me is to let them be themselves and love them unconditionally
How about you? Do you struggle with “letting go?” Do you feel that things are awful if they don’t go the way you want them to go? How do you deal with this? How do you let the ones you love and your children feel the freedom to be themselves, if you don’t agree with their choices and goals? Can you love unconditionally? As always, I would love to know!
Cheers and hugs,