The term “let go” has been tossed around in self-help circles a lot. Usually as in, “just let it go.” This vague term is used as a prescription for decreasing stress. Because it is fuzzy, it is can also be a frustrating statement. Prompting the response, “if I could just ‘let it go,’ trust me, I would!”
What exactly does it mean to “let go”?
First, A Story
When I was 23 and getting married, I expected to have a life like many of my friends did, or were going to. We’d be married for 5 years, buy a house, I’d get pregnant, and we’d eventually raise two kids. As a woman, I was looking forward to being pregnant. I had dreamy thoughts about singing to my belly and sitting at my baby shower completely glowing.
Like most people, I based my thoughts about what life should be like on what it was like for other people, or for movie characters (never a good idea).
When, 8 months into my marriage, I was told that pregnancy would be detrimental my health and the health of an unborn child, I was stunned. This was decidedly not in my plans, and I threw a BIG hissy.
I started calculating all of the statistics of how I could make a pregnancy work: 85% I’d have pre-eclampsia and need to deliver too early, 30% I’d lose my remaining kidney function, more than 50% likelihood my unique anatomy would restrict the growth of a fetus, nothing was adding up, but my mind spun round-and-round in stressful circles.
My husband, Phillip, was much more accepting. He brought up adoption early on when the loss was still fresh in my mind. I couldn’t go there because I still had a death-grip on my expectations of how our life was going to play out. I had not let go of the idea that I deserved to experience pregnancy.
I was unwilling to accept our reality because I was still attached to the dream of pregnancy.
People make “let go” sound so easy, as if it is like releasing a helium balloon to the sky and watching it effortlessly float away.
For me, letting go was a more painful process of slowly prying one finger at a time away from my expectations.
The truth, that no one wants to tell you, about letting go is that releasing attachment is a lot like grieving.
I spent four months very sobby after I learned that pregnancy would not be safe. At this same time, I had a close friend who was going through her first pregnancy, and I didn’t tell her my news because I wanted to share in her experience.
I allowed myself to hear her stories of what pregnancy was like and then hang up the phone and slowly cry my expectations away.
Piece-by-piece I thought about my fantasy and let my emotions flow as I allowed myself to know that I would never experience that.
Most people are unwilling to really let go. We shy away from painful emotions. We try to convince ourselves that we are happy about the turn of events or that we will somehow, someday, figure out a way to mold life to fit into our fantasy.
At the end of that summer, I was finished letting go. I had fully closed the door on expecting to be pregnant.
Finding New Dreams
Once I had “let go” of pregnancy, I could talk about adoption. Phillip and I sat together one evening and discussed what it meant to be a parent and how we felt about growing our family through adoption.
Since my attachment was gone, I had space in my heart for a new vision of the future, and I found a spark that loved the idea of adoption.
That spark eventually turned into a passionate fire that knew adoption was the plan for our family all along, I just had to get myself out of the way first.
Remember, fires can’t flourish if there isn’t air supply, and my own expectations were suffocating.
Letting go isn’t easy, or necessarily pretty (it can be downright snotty), and you may want to have a professional therapist walk you through it, but it is the process that releases you from your own suffering.
If I can have the pleasure of offering one tip, it is that it helps to slam the door on any hope of whatever you’re attached to working out. This was key for me. Because none of the statistics added up, pregnancy was really not an option; this allowed me to release it. If I thought it might still be a possibility, my mind would have continued to stress and try to work it out.
Even if there is some hope that your dream will come to fruition, still grieve it’s loss. You will approach it with much more ease if you are no longer tied to the outcome.
For the ten years since I grieved the loss of my fertility, I have been completely at peace with the way life turned out for us. I can share in the joys of my friend’s pregnancies and their children. I don’t harbor jealousy or feel sad after attending a baby shower. I have truly let go. The freedom that comes from that is well worth a few months of sadness.
We have been looking into adopting, but we need to wait until life is no longer up in the air. When the timing is right, we know that will be our path.
How have you been able to “let go” in your life?