Our weekend just gone was a bit crazy. It was almost a movie title “Three Birthdays and a Mother’s Day”! It was my mum’s 78th birthday, hijacked by my husband’s 50th birthday party, and then my dad’s 80th – followed by magical Mother’s Day. The lead in was my excuse for missing my weekly blog post for the first time since I began in late November last year.
Reflecting on life
In the lead up to the culmination of these events, I have indulged in spending time writing a speech for my husband and a photo book “essay” for my dad on these milestone birthdays for these, my nearest and dearest men. I say “indulged” because I think, particularly these days, where our life stories are told in snippets of photos or quick-witted comments on social media feeds, we rarely take the time to reflect in this way, let alone take the time to record our thoughts in writing.
I had also asked every guest attending my hubby’s birthday bash to send in one of their memories of him and a photo with him, which I compiled into a hanging gallery that formed a fairy lit canopy over our back deck. Their words hung with their photos and have left Craig feeling overwhelmed as he has spent time in the days following reading over heartfelt words and funny memories.
I also asked several others to speak to each decade of Craig’s life – his childhood, his teen years, his care-free singledom, his married life and his more recent decade as a parent.
The words said and the sentiments expressed made Craig’s night – and they have had me thinking.
How important it is to stop and mark special occasions.
What a blessing reflection can be.
How our actions speak to others. People never forget how we make them feel.
What power our words carry and how meaningful they become when we take the time to express them.
But it was Craig’s own speech that touched many of our guests, when he spoke about how hard he finds it to let things go. He spoke of how he is not by nature a person who seeks out new experiences. He prefers instead to stick with the known, the comfortable, the good. Yet he recognises, that life is not about staying still. It is about growing and changing and moving from one phase to another, one season to the next.
“Holding on is believing that there’s only a past, letting go is knowing that there’s a future” Daphne Rose Kingma
It is true isn’t it? From the “little things” like trying new foods, to the bigger things like traveling to experience different cultures; from enjoying the single life, to becoming a parent; from have little, to enjoying a bit more – all of these things require us to let go of what we are used to and to turn to face the unknown.
Craig shared a story about how hard he found it to let Zigi run ahead of us to cross at the school crossing independently – not because he didn’t think Zigi could do it, but because just days earlier he almost ran out in front of a car. As parents I think many of us know the feeling of having your heart in your throat, of watching from a distance and not being close enough to reach out – all part of the sometimes painful part of letting go, to move from one season to the next.
I pity the poor boys Teja might date in her coming teenage years! Craig will not be letting her go easily either!
The strength it takes
Sometimes we get the choice to let go and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes people leave our lives or things are taken away from us or lost. In some ways not having a choice about letting go can be harder because we haven’t had the time to prepare or process in advance. But either way there comes a time when there is a point of no return and our hand must loosen its grip, stop reaching and instead let go.
“Some of us think holding on makes us strong, but sometimes it is letting go.” Herman Hesse
I recently read about how we as parents often use distraction or diversion if we are trying to get toddlers to let go of one toy to move onto the next thing – as an analogy of how sometimes we hold onto things too tightly that we miss out on the better things. I totally agree with this, and yet I also know it to be trite in circumstances where we don’t have hope for “the better thing”.
In these moments, Craig and I take comfort in our faith – in the belief that when we let go, God takes over. It is for us (as the serenity prayer espouses) having the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Acceptance, Courage and Wisdom
Whatever your beliefs, it seems to me that these are the three keys to letting go – acceptance, courage and wisdom.
Serenity comes when we accept the things we don’t have power over. Courage is needed to take the next steps into the unknown, to embrace the changes and to grow…older if we must. And wisdom comes from the multiple experiences in life when we learn to discern, when to keep reaching out and when to just let go.
Looking back over your life, what are the things that have been the hardest to let go? What helped you to finally loosen your grip?