The Reckless Art of Letting Go

In writing about this past year, where do I begin?

Should I start with the home-shattering conflict that led to a dismal, lonely, and grief-filled holiday season and many sleepless nights for my household? 

Maybe it’s better if I start with the scene where I’m crying alone in the public bathroom of the nicest hotel in the state. Staring into a toilet full of blood, wondering if I should host some kind of funeral. Should we talk about that? Can we talk about that? 

Perhaps it’s better to begin with something more universal, the pandemic that rocked us all. Feeling a sudden onset of fear that the things that kill us are no longer planes that crash into buildings but rather take on a more silent, omnipresent form. The tears and anxiety that well up inside me when I walk into my favorite market and find it completely empty, people scrambling through the store like it’s about to catch on fire.

We could talk about the quarantine. How we all went from busybody social butterflies to doing workouts in our driveways and trying not to kill our spouses. How on good days we enjoyed the slower pace and the relief of pressure of always having to be on. But on the bad days we felt the fear that life as we once enjoyed was over. Loneliness and fear pressed down with hot hot heat.

There was also that one part where the whole country caught on fire, and there was nothing to be said or done to fix it. Common ground got swallowed up in the blood of all that hurt. Violence abounded.

I’m speaking of these things in past tense, but none of this is over yet. 

As a business owner, Enneagram 6, strict abider of Murphy’s Law, and just general worry wort, I spend a lot of time thinking about what I’ll do if X, Y, or Z happens. But I’m not sure X, Y, or Z covered any of the above catastrophes. 

I’ve spent a lot of time grieving losses that never happened. Filling my emotional toolkit with responses to hurtful things no one has ever said to me. Preparing for what I’ll do when the economy goes south, or my health takes a dive, or even something as trivial as planning for being too busy to get to the gym as much as I’d like. 

But this year looked at all of that and said, “Screw you and your caveats, your back-up plans, and your escape routes. You’ll never really know what’s next. How cute of you to think you were ever in control anyway.”

I realized it wasn’t the lack of control that kept me up at night, it was admitting the lack of control that scared me.   

I know that the world moves and grooves the way it wants to without me really having much of a say. But yet I hold on with firsts ever tighter to the notion that if I think, plan, and worry my way through it, somehow that will make some kind of difference. This year reminded me that it doesn’t. 

And that sounds really terrible, except despite all of the above, I’m still here. My escape plan didn’t work, my backup fell through, and somehow I lived. There are people past and present who have encountered trials far greater than I could even fathom, and they survived and even thrived in spite of those tragedies. 

I’m far more creative and resilient than I’ve ever given myself credit for. 

I used to mourn what would happen if I was no longer able to travel and roam the earth looking for new adventures. Then I realized that my mind could be just as entranced by watching the morning light flickering through the trees in my backyard as it could by a sunset over a winery in Tuscany. 

I used to fear being hurt by others, but then I realized I have built an incredible support system that will check in with me and love on me whether they can be with me in person or not. 

I used to hold on tightly to this business. What it would be, what I wanted it to become. Now I understand that I will always create, I will always contribute to the world using the gifts God gave me. It may look like being a professional photographer, it may be making bread for a sick friend, but I’ll always find a way. 

I used to hold onto my social life tightly, finding worth in how many people wanted to spend time with me, finding identity in how busy I could become. But now I value sleep and quiet and margin–space to breathe and weed out the fluffy stuff that never mattered anyway. 

I used to loathe the idea of growing up, of settling into a routine and creating permanence in my life. But now I see that there is so much learning and adventure that goes into building a life. That perhaps one of the most reckless and spontaneous things we can do is stop long enough to let life really happen. 

And if I’m wrong about all of the above, that’s okay. Knowing me, I think I can figure out a way to make it work. 

So as for 33, I’m off to do what’s next, and I have no idea what that looks like, but if I’m honest, I never really knew anyway. Truly, it’s better that way.