The other day I was playing fetch with our puppy. Despite my inconsistent training she’s proving to be a very clever dog. I throw the ball, she runs to get it and when I yell “come” she brings it back to me. The part we’re still working on though is “give.” Most of the time she grips the ball firmly in her teeth and she holds on. If I try to forcibly pull the ball from her teeth she resists, or she pulls back. She will not share the ball until she is ready. But I’ve found if I gently hold the ball, while reminding her to “give” she seems to come to an understanding that the game can resume if she lets go. As we practice she comes to this realization quicker and quicker.
And as we played it got me thinking about what I let go of, and what I hang onto in my own life. Not unlike the dog I/we want to enjoy the game. And I don’t know about you, but when I started out regardless of what was happening I was all about the game. I would run after lots of things with vigour. But I can be a stubborn bitch too, ha! When it comes to releasing, I often struggle to let go. Somethings I can let go of easily. Usually the lighter things, the joy, the achievements. I can face them easily, I can even share them and talk openly about them, knowing that these things put me in a good light. I accept them and the game resumes. But other things I find difficult to let go. The darker parts of myself, anger, resentment, shame, my efforts to control (sometimes in the name of good or love), looking for validation, begging for attention, feeling embarrassed about all of the above and again the anger that has been an ever present companion in my grief. All of the things I/we might wrestle with. So maybe we hide them. Not just from others, we try to hide them from ourselves. Or we defend or deflect, we right fight, or shove them deep down so we don’t have to face it. We bare our teeth, and if anyone tries to get in there and look at what we are holding onto we resist. It seems no one understands why we must keep holding tightly to it. So we pull back, or we fight, or we twist ourselves up so no one can get it. No one must see it. But before we know it this friendly game of fetch and release, has become a tug-o-war.
Sometimes it’s internal, and it affects our physical and mental health (ahem, me). Sometimes it’s external, maybe we lash out, blame, runaway or hide. most likely it’s a combination. And we think we have no choice.
So we hold on. But I’m discovering if you hold onto it, you never get to escape it. Somehow, someway it’s right there even if we run from it. And you start to think the people around you are to blame. Why do they always have to test you? If not them, is the universe testing you? You find yourself thinking, “Seriously? What the f*ck!” all the damn time.
I’ll give you an example from my own life. My husband and I have been trying for another baby off and on for the last several years. The last couple of years I had been working really hard on myself, and my health issues. We were doing what we could and seeking fertility treatments. I couldn’t let go of this picture in my head of having another. But I started to realized the dream was getting in the way of enjoying what I had right in front of me. I would either feel really good and clear, or really bad and confused about everything (not just fertility). So after a lot of thought I finally decided to call it quits, I called the clinic and canceled the treatments for the cycle. And I thought I was ok with it. But I kid you not, the next several days I could not escape pregnant women. Every woman I see is pregnant. And then the final kick in teeth. Not even a week later, several people I know announce their pregnancies. One of which is a teenager, and the other is a drug addict. And while that news is great for them, I think my head almost exploded. I was home alone so I lost it. I beat up our garbage can while trying to rage clean. I went to town and tried to distract myself, but I couldn’t stop crying. I was bawling in traffic so I turned around and went home. I think I had let go of the dream, but I hadn’t let go of the emotional toll that infertility brings. Those emotions where just waiting to explode.
I had felt so angry and scared, knowing it’s not fair, ashamed of myself for secretly hoping the drug addict would miscarry, feeling that I’m not worthy as a woman if I can’t do this easily, fearing maybe I’m not worthy as a mother. I still hadn’t faced those things because they are so ugly. And what if I find out they are true? So I held them right there in my teeth, and as I resisted letting them go they persisted. And despite the struggle it’s so hard to admit that we are the only one standing in the way of game. By holding onto those emotions we stand in the way of our own peace and happiness.
But here’s the good news. I’m also discovering we always have a choice. And you don’t have to become a hermit or tell off every person you encounter. Because friends it’s never about “them,” or those things that happened to you. This is about you and how you feel about yourself after they happen.
I had previously deemed light as good or beautiful, and dark as bad or ugly. So I hid what I thought may be perceived as dark. Or I focused my energy on trying to figure out who was right and who was wrong, what was good, what was bad. But by doing so I denied the dark, and in turn I denied a part of myself. And the more I hid it (or the more I lashed out), the more I held onto what I believed were dark emotions. And the more I held them close, the more they blinded me. It became harder and harder to see or fully experience the light. And although at times I’ve wished it wasn’t so, I’m coming to accept that I/we are and will always be a combination of light and dark. And as I peel back each layer in this self discovery journey, I find more and more light and dark. Sometimes it’s not easy to let go, and as I learn I often make mistakes. Like I said, I’m stubborn. But now when I’m playing the stories in my head on repeat and I feel a lot of emotions bubbling up, I know there is something I’m holding back. So instead of fighting it, I gently hold myself there. I try to be aware of it, accept it as it is. Just cry, or yell, just feel it. I know I won’t let go until I’m ready. So I lay more love on it. I ask myself why I feel that way, I ask myself what I need, and if there’s anything I can do. And lately I’ve found it really effective just to look at myself in the mirror and say, “I was there and I acknowledge those feelings, thank you for the experience, I’m willing to let that go now.”
And while it’s taking a lot of patience and practice on my part, I keep getting better at it. And each time I let go, I accept myself more, I love myself more, I feel stronger physically and mentally. And the award for all of this hard work; I notice more and more light as I get back in the game. So bring it on self! Let’s play ball!
What are you holding on to? How do you let go? For those of you that are struggling with the chronic condition we call life today. I hope you can find enough self compassion to love yourself in whatever way you see fit. When life gets heavy, let love do the lifting.