No, not quite like the Cheap Trick song… But I have been thinking about the idea of letting go much more recently.
I actually started writing this a few months ago, as I was moving through the “clean out everything” stage of a second? third? lockdown, but what I really was meditating on did not quite emerge until after this week, and really, not until I was in the middle of this yin yoga session this evening, and the word “surrender” kept being repeated. Surrender into the pose, into the ground, become heavy – take up space, take up time, take up breath, let the ground support you, let go. To indulge in being fully embodied and release everything, to luxuriate in a single pose for several minutes just breathing, feels rarely permissible in a world that did not even allow people to breath or reduce their outputs in the middle of a global pandemic. But if I have learned anything over the last year, it is that we need that kind of space more than ever, space to just claim our own needs despite other peoples’ demands and claims on our time. But to do that we need to be more attuned to letting go, to giving ourselves permission to let go.
When I moved to Edinburgh to do my MSc, one of the things that was most dear to me was a care package sent by a friend who at this point is one of the few I have left who have known me most of my life. Along with some candy (a lot of candy) it was full of camp swag – bracelets, a sticker, and a reverse tie-dye staff tee-shirt, a piece of home that made me feel so grounded in a new space.
Those camp t-shirts were something that I thought I would never run out of. I’ve had piles of them for years that always seemed to grow. But at one point over the winter I put on the one that I had brought with me for my PhD (not the one in the photo), and realized that it did not fit the same anymore. I had been spending the winter reorganizing our apartment. After the super-structure of wedding planning and finishing a thesis, the sudden gap in my life needed to be filled with something, and I had watched many organizing shows on Netflix through the summer. I launched myself into making things easier to find and access, and declaring war on things that had been nearly unused during the years we had now been here. Clutter needed abolishing. There would be a vision for closets and spaces and an overall guiding aesthetic focused on being able to have either of us use any room for any purpose easily. But while I had flung myself into all the other closets in the house, and even gone through the bookshelves before we moved everything around, I had yet to face my own clothes.
When it comes down to it, I have a tendency to feel like my stuff roots me, and I hate to let it go. And I hate being reminded of change, that life implicitly changes whether I want it to or not. Unfortunately, when you start to go through clothing you packed into suitcases about three years ago, inevitably, things will have changed. Like this t-shirt. So I spent a couple days in January trying everything on, letting go of things that either no longer fit right, or had been worn through, or even things that did not make me feel like me. It felt indulgent, but also refreshing. In a way, I was making space for me in the moment, but also space for who I wanted to become, how that person might change or grow, or shop differently. I was not letting my past choices weigh me down. I was not forcing myself to hold on to things as if losing the things would somehow even take away the nostalgia I had for them.
Moving forward a few months, still in a period of life-limbo, moving out of this stage of being where constant overachievement and production coincides with constantly feeling not enough, I finally had a four day writing workshop I had applied to in the fall begin. And suddenly, I was not the only person in my life looking for release. Over the span of four days, what started as a class turned into some kind of international group therapy, where suddenly, we all had permission not to produce things, but just write for us. Just play on the page, in ways that no one would see unless we wanted to. The performance of writing was eliminated. And for me at least, there was an ability to surrender to a joy that was buried under so many other more negative emotions.
Surrendering to joy, to creativity, to what we want to do and the stories that just have to get out is something that is conditioned out of us so often. And by letting go of what we should do or ought to do, we make more space to become what we need to be. We have to be allowed to outgrow our past selves and our past choices, and do so without guilt. It does not mean that we reject who we were, it just means we keep giving ourselves permission to keep growing, transforming. I needed this workshop to relearn this. The image of me and my future in the back of my mind is a bit like that old camp t-shirt that I have worn to bits. I keep squeezing into it, but it does not quite fit anymore. And I have to let go of it to make room for what might come next.
So what might surrender mean for me, going forward? It means being selfish with my time, my space, without guilt. It means not holding on to things that are not fulfilling. It means making choices based on my own needs rather than other peoples’ ideas of what and who should be making demands on my time. It might mean trying new things, or making space for the workshop experience to continue. It will mean giving myself up to the spaces and people who are supportive and nurturing. And what I think I want out of life ultimately is to be able to have the space to become not the best version of myself, but the version of myself that makes me the happiest. If that means learning even more to let go, to surrender more deeply to what might yet come, then that is what I need to keep practicing. But while I do that, I am going to hold on to the joy of that workshop experience, hold on to the satisfaction that putting the house in order after some major life events gave me, and I’m going to let those two emotions be what drives me going forward.