(This article also appeared in The Charlotte Observer)
Just over 20 years ago, I was a recent college graduate and had just gotten my first job in the “real world.” I was very excited about earning a good living and being able to pay all my own bills completely on my own. One of the things I had dreamed about was buying my own car.
I feel fortunate that I had had a car to drive through high school and college. As a matter of fact, I had three different cars; the first was a hand-me-down from my dad and the second two were ones I had selected, but, they had been used and mom and dad had paid for them. So now that I was an “adult” and had my own money, I could pick out the car I wanted without any “limitations” or need to obtain someone’s “approval” of my choice.
I began looking around at the car lots. There was a specific car that interested me but I could not afford to purchase one that was brand new. One night, I was looking at this “special” car in the used section of the Ford dealership. It had fairly low miles and looked like it was in pretty good condition. But then, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted something I’d never considered; a Thunderbird.
Soon thereafter the salesman came out to greet me and we started talking. As we discussed the two cars it struck me that this new Thunderbird was the same price as the used other car. I remember test driving both of them and being more impressed with the way the Thunderbird “felt” when I drove it and the fact that it had more room and trunk space than the other car I had thought I wanted. I wound up buying the Thunderbird that night; my first car I had ever bought with my own money.
What I didn’t realize at the time is that the car is somewhat rare; Ford only built 2000 of them in 1994 and only 700 of them like mine with a manual transmission. I so loved driving that car. None of my friends or family had anything like it. It made me feel special and unique.
For the next 20 years, that car was very important to me. If anything stopped working on it, I immediately fixed it no matter how small the problem. I washed it. I waxed it. I put car covers on it and cleaned the interior regularly. I loved every moment I spent driving it and taking care of it after all, it was my car.
In the first week of June this year, I decided to sell it. I placed several ads but no one seemed to be interested. I finally listed it on eBay and it still didn’t sell. Just when I thought I would never sell it, someone contacted me and eventually bought the car.
Once all the paperwork was done and the new owner had driven my car away, I felt a sense of sadness. This car had been a big part of my life for over 20 years and now, it was gone. So even thought I knew I had made the right decision because it was time to let go of the car, why was I feeling sad?
Often in our lives, we hear about the importance of learning to let go. We are told that we need to be able to let go of bad feelings, bad relationships, bad situations; anything that makes us feel “bad.” After all, we can’t begin to feel “good” until we let go of all the “bad” stuff right? But letting go is not just about leaving “bad” feelings behind us; sometimes letting go is simply a passage from one phase of our journey into the next.
Consider the parents whose young adult is just graduating from school and starting his or her new life. What type of future will that young individual have if the parents are unable to let go? How will that young person learn how to handle themselves as a true adult? In this example there is no “bad situation” the parents are trying to avoid by letting go, yet the difficulty remains the same.
What does this mean? The answer is fairly simple: our difficulty with letting go has much less to do with what we are releasing and much more do to with our fear of what might happen next – without it. So frequently we refuse to let go of something because it is familiar and, regardless of how wrong it may be for us, that familiarity brings us comfort. New things and experiences are often very exciting yet we avoid them simple because of our fear of the unknown; what holds us back is always fear.
There are so many things we hang onto because life is easier that way. If we are at odds with someone else, it is much easier to remain mad at them and not talk to them than to work towards a resolution and discover some painful things about ourselves we needed to know to progress on our journey. If we hold onto our children, we may feel more comfortable knowing they are “safe” but we deprive them of the ability to make mistakes, learn and grow. Regardless of whether we feel “bad” or “good”, refusing to let go blocks energy flow and ultimately hinders growth.
We must have the courage to stand in our truth, see where we want to go, recognize where we are, and cheerfully release anything that no longer serves us on our journey. What no longer serves us can take many forms;
It may be a thing.
It may be a habit.
It may be a relationship.
It may be a belief.
It may be our own resistance to the unknown.
Whatever we hold onto continues to receive our energy and limits our ability to direct our energy where it is most needed for our journey. We may have sad feelings or become very nostalgic about Letting Go but we must do this if we are to move forward. When we hang on to old things or feelings from the past, we are limiting the “room” in our life for the new. Think about a very cluttered house; how can we possibly consider new furniture or new window dressings when things are strewn about and we can hardly move? That “stuck” feeling we have in a cluttered house is the same thing that happens to our energy when we resist letting go.
Why do we walk instead of continuing to crawl like we did when we were infants? Because, crawling no longer serves us. Yet we didn’t learn to walk overnight; we took gradual steps to leave the “old” behind so that we could experience the “new” which is exactly what we do when we Let Go.
When we Let Go, we acknowledge that we will be alright in our life regardless of what we have or do not have. We realized that those we care about will be OK even if we’re not there to help them avoid mistakes. We understand that life contains ebb and flow and holding on too tightly causes us to loose perspective on our journey. We acknowledge that all is well and that as we remain in alignment with ourselves, we continue to grow and receive the life we seek.
Just as it is impossible to drive a car while staring in the rear view mirror, we too must look ahead on our life journey. We must allow certain things to become smaller and eventually disappear from sight in the rear view mirror. We will only enjoy where we are now and what lies ahead of us once we stop looking back on where we’ve been.