The Art of Letting Go
I turned 41 last month. Not exactly a milestone birthday, but it felt more significant than I expected. I’m not just 40 now. I’m in my 40s. That sounds…mature.
The reality, though? Being in my 40s is awesome.
Right now, I have it all. I’ve been working long enough to have experience but not so long that I’m old-fashioned (mostly). I’m old enough that people trust me with big responsibilities and still young enough to have the energy to take them on. My kids are big enough that I enjoy hanging out with them and still little enough that they actually will hang out with me.
So, sure, there are quite a few wrinkles (and also, strangely, acne), but I’m loving this stage of my life. My hands are full in the very best way.
Then there’s last month in Central Park. My daughter and I wanted to climb one of those big rocks to get a view of the city, and I suggested that I’d rather go around to where the slope was less steep. My daughter raced up the sheer face using hands and feet. When I made my longer, easier way, she met me at the top shaking her head. “You’re acting like an old lady, Mom.”
Yeah, so she’s wrong. I’m not acting like an old lady. But I’m not acting like I used to, either. Ten years ago, I would have scrambled up with her. What I’m now calling prudence will someday be necessity. I can already feel it.
My hands may be full right now, but I can’t hold on to all of this forever.
I’m not just talking about the reality that anything we have could be taken away by tragedy at any time, though that is true. I’m talking about the inevitable future. My season of letting go is just over the horizon, and I get closer to it every day.
Slowly but surely, my body is getting older. I already don’t have the energy I had at 25, and that’s only going to get worse. I’m going to heal slower, have less energy. I’m going to have to let go of my lengthy to-do lists and constant pressing schedule.
I write books, and my husband works in publishing. Have you seen the direction that industry is going? No chance our jobs look the same in ten years as they do now. Or five years. Or two. I’m going to have to let go of my routine, of my plans, maybe of my current job altogether.
In just a few short years, my kids are going to be adults. They are going leave here and go be wonderful in some other home. I am going to have to let them go.
The life I have right now is the one I’ve always wanted, and most days, I want to hold tight for as long as possible. Which is exactly why I can’t.
Letting go is an art, and like any art, you only get good at it by practicing.
I’m talking about active choices, about letting go of the little things while it’s still up to me.
I’m practicing letting go of my stuff. The fact is that one dress I love doesn’t fit my 40 something body. It’s time to let it go. My reality no longer involves a lot of crafting or the use of chocolate molds. Those supplies belonged to a mom of young kids. It’s time to say good-bye. I drop a bag or two at Goodwill at least once a month. It always feels fantastic.
I’m practicing letting go of my deadlines. I have four book projects in the works right now, plus a website, some freelance work, and three dozen future ideas. For the last several years, I’ve mapped out my writing schedules, made weekly lists, and taken immense pleasure in checking things off, in accomplishing my goals. Productivity is awesome, but I’m gripping too tightly when I feel pressure to pass on spending time with the people in my life because I need to be working, to be executing the plan. This fall, I’ve blown past two deadlines on my current novel, and for the first time, I’m letting it go. I’m putting up a new deadline and disciplining myself to work, but I’m also taking days off to watch TV with my husband or read a book. I’m taking longer walks. I’m breathing. And I like it.
I’m practicing letting go of my kids. This is the hardest of all of them really, so it takes a lot of practice. I’m learning to let them need me less. They can set their own goals. They can manage their own homework. They can resolve arguments with their friends without my interference. My son is eleven and doesn’t want to confide all his thoughts in me anymore, so thought I still ask, I don’t press. I wait for him to open up on his own. And when my thirteen-year-old wants to hang out with friends instead of trick-or-treating with her siblings, I say yes. Because someday she’s going to leave here for good, and having a close circle of friends is going to save her life when I can’t.
I’m letting go a little bit at a time, and I pray that when the big changes come, I’ll be ready to handle them with practiced grace.
Photo Cred: Kaitlyn Huff