It’s official. I’ve been published. And I think it may even be printed in an anthology, to be sold on Amazon and everything. Stay tuned!
This is my first time getting inches on a non-corporate space since 1995; that amounts to twenty-three years of working (only) for the man.
But back when guest-blogging for my friend Katherine, I was invited to answer this question on LifeRaft.com: “How do I let go?” Here’s what I wrote.
Letting go is a vastly overrated skill. I’ve always excelled at the art of release, but what good has it done me? Not much more than the stale satisfaction of having been first to call things off.
I think all oldest children have to learn to let go once a younger sibling arrives on the scene and mom drags out all those toys we thought we’d outgrown… All of a sudden, we realize:
“Hey! Stop drooling on my headless, naked Rub-A-Dub Dolly! Give it back!”
So for me, being the oldest meant having to share, having to act more generous than I felt, having to relinquish the meaning of the word “mine”.
Yes, from a very early age, I learned how to let go of things: things I needed, things I wasn’t sure I wanted, things I was too afraid to try for, things I knew I would lose whether I loosened my grip or not…
I figured it was easier to just let go. Unlike “______ Who ______ Too Much” (fill in your own noun and verb), I never needed to make that phrase my mantra. Instead, it somehow got hardwired into my nervous system, popping up like a little leg whose knee has been tapped with a hammer.
The taps on my knee were frequent and unpredictable, in a predictable sort of way. My family moved 12 times in the span of 15 years; I attended 5 elementary schools, one junior high and 2 high schools. Upon my arrival at college, I carried on this proud tradition, moving 8 times in 6 years–not to mention the odd summer and leave-of-absence spent under my parents’ roof. I held the record in pages taken up in friends’ address books.
As for friends, I’m sure you can guess what effect all my relocations must have had on my ability to keep them. Things didn’t always work out. I picked up an uncanny ability to dispose of people who didn’t play nice, teased me too roughly, didn’t hold my interest well enough or appeared to be on the verge of letting our friendship go.
I just couldn’t allow that to happen.
Instead, I developed a keen sense of premonition; as soon as I felt a dumping coming my way, I precipitated it by becoming suddenly unavailable, by finding a new best buddy to eat lunch with, by rushing home after school rather than looking around in vain for the friend I’d been walking with every day for the previous few months.
As I grew older, this game got easier and easier as my world grew from playground cliques to college dormitories and eventually to my present situation in which the line between work and home can be drawn according to my taste. I can be as private or public as I choose about the details of my life; I can allow people inside the high fence of my reserve or lock the gate as I see fit.
At a masked ball one Indian Summer night, I fell in love at first sight for the first and only time in my life; less than a day later, this man sadly revealed his long-standing plan to permanently relocate–a thousand miles away–by Thanksgiving. After a brief consideration of whether a couple months of happiness would be worth the certainty of separation, we figured we had too little time to waste it all on risk assessment, so we got in and held on.
The relationship lasted past the move and made it for a while long-distance; but by the New Year, I sensed things were fading fast, so I held my breath and yanked off the bandage. Broke up with the man who, at the time, felt like the love of my life. Carried a torch for two years afterward. Wished I hadn’t been so quick to jump the gun; but couldn’t escape the nagging doubt in the back of my mind that it wouldn’t have worked.
To this day, I can’t shake the question: was it best to let go before I got hurt? Will I ever experience the full circle of risk, love, pain and forgiveness–or will I keep jumping at the first sign of danger?
The way I see it, my parents’ residential instability, combined with my natural introversion, have contributed to my habit of leap-frogging from one near-heartache to the next. So no, letting go is not what I need to learn; rather, holding on is my life’s greatest challenge.
If I am ever to become a true friend, daughter, sister or lover, I must persevere and risk the pain that is so frightening to me. It makes me think of something I realized a few summers ago when I tried water-skiing: I’ll never feel the exhilaration until I let go… by hanging on.