“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” ~ Raymond Lindquist
Looking back, I can see that I was taught to hang onto other people’s ideas, other people’s preferences, other people’s dreams, and other people’s rules.
And that made me feel powerless. And I went through much of youth and young adult life like that — not knowing how to take back my own power. Or, even worse, not knowing that I had any power. I thought everyone else had the power and that I was destined to do what I was told, to never speak up, to never decide my own fate.
It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment or series of moments that I realized that the only way to get my power back was to let go of what others thought my life should look like or what I should look like. It was more like a series of decisions that created the moments that all strung themselves together, like an arching stream of holiday lights welcoming me to a new place.
I spent years letting other folks critique my life. You need to get a conventional job. You need to have children. You need to keep the boat steady. And my appearance. You should cut your hair. You should wear muted lipstick. You should wear capped sleeves. More blah, blah, blah.
Enough I decided.
One of the first things I did to let go was to sign up for an assertiveness training weekend back in my late twenties. The two women that led the class blew my mind away. They had this “give yourself permission” attitude without ever actually saying that.
Before I took their class, I couldn’t even return something to a store that I’d bought on a whim. I was TERRIFIED of the reaction of the clerk. A stranger. And I could not talk back – express opinions – my mother had labelled all such things “talking back” and they were met with a punishment of some kind. And I could not express anger. I was a walking cage, pretty much.
And a year after that program I went to Italy by myself. I went to visit an acquaintance but that turned into a nightmare of sorts, so I ended up traveling by myself to a few cities. It scared me and liberated me at the same time. And it was hilarious because I had to let go of knowing where I was going. In Rome, I ended up getting on a train hoping it was going where I wanted to go — some small village to stay with a friend’s sister I’d never met. I was to call them when I got to the train station but I got off at the wrong one and subsequently had to get back on the train. Meanwhile, they went back to the first stop. So I was still at the wrong station. And I had to get back on the train again …
Once I figured out I felt better every time I let go, I let go a little bit more. A finger here, two fingers there, one arm. Now, I can let go and enjoy the freefall because I know that an adventure awaits me at the end of the fall.
Here a few tips for letting go.
1) Say, “Yes” if it’s something that interests you.
2) Don’t talk yourself out of doing something new by falling back on some “obligation.” The obligations are always there. The something new might be a one-time thing.
3) Find a letting go partner that can support you and who you can support.
4) Spend some time figuring out what it is you want to do in life versus what others want you to do.
5) Ask yourself, “What is the worst thing that can happen if I let go in this particular situation?”
Hope these letting go tips help! If you have any more, please feel free to mention in the comments section.
p.s. if you want to sign up for Wild Painting in Holliston on Saturday, December 6th, 2 to 4:30 pm, please follow this link!