Whenever I heard someone say “You have to let it go,” I would think of the cliché of serenely surrendering to whatever the universe had in store for you, mindfully breathing through the difficult times. I don’t know about you, but I found that an impossible image to recreate. These past two years of my life, the universe has put me through a masterclass on how to let go, smacking me with opportunity after opportunity to rid myself of harmful relationships, expectations and emotions. Needing some help, I turned to nature for inspiration and what better teacher on how to let go than the fall season? Here are four key lessons I have learned about letting go from fall.
1) Letting go is necessary to survive difficult times
Trees push off their leaves as the weather cools because keeping the leaves would use too much water and the tree would not survive the cold winter. It is a survival mechanism, a cutting of losses so the trees can come back in the spring.
Similarly, I have had to let shit go to survive through challenging times. I had to let go of a stable job to preserve my mental health. I had to let go my need for control when I found out unexpectedly that I was pregnant right before I left that job. And I have had to let go of countless expectations as I transitioned into the difficult role of motherhood. Each time, as difficult as letting go was, it would have been much more difficult if I held on to things that were depleting my energy.
2) Letting go is a process
Trees don’t lose their leaves overnight. It is a gradual process that takes weeks. The tree slowly creates conditions to make it harder and harder for the leaf to continue holding on.
If you are having trouble letting go of relationships, behaviors, emotions, or whatever, it is only because those things are deeply entrenched in your life. It will take time for you to come to the decision of jettisoning your emotional baggage and then more time to go about creating the conditions in your life where it is possible to live without said baggage. Be patient, show yourself compassion for the difficulty of the task and know that you will take the plunge when you are ready.
3) Letting go can leave you feeling bare
The sight of a tree without leaves always makes me think of a person without clothes: stark, naked, and vulnerable.
Know that once you let something go, you may feel grief, doubt or sadness afterwards. It is normal. Becoming a mother elicited so much grief for the person I once was, the freedom I once had. But holding on to my wish for my old life was making me resentful of my new one, making it impossible for me to find my footing in this role. Once I started coming to terms with all that I lost, then came the daunting task of redefining myself as a mother. I still feel like I do not know who I am but I remind myself to show compassion for my grief and to be patient with the process of reconstruction.
4) Letting go is not giving up: it is a manifestation of your empowerment.
The blazing colors of fall are legendary: the red, yellow and orange leaves are stunning sights to behold. Leaves don’t just fall off of trees just like that: they go out with a bang! Interestingly, those brilliant colors exist in the leaves all along; it is only because the green chlorophyll disappears that the other colors can shine through.
I find that letting go of certain things has allowed other parts of me to shine through. I remember spending many sleepless nights, burned out from my job but unwilling to let go of the stability it offered. It was only when I finally showed self-compassion, recognizing that my suffering required action, that I had the courage to stand up for myself and leave. I found a self-confidence in me that convinced me that I was good enough to find work elsewhere and that this time, I would make my health a priority.
Letting go is not always the easy, serene, immediate process that it is sometimes made out to be. It can be messy, difficult and will not leave without kicking and screaming. But if you take the time to reflect about what you truly need in this moment, you may come to the conclusion that what you thought you could not live without is the very thing that is stopping you from living fully. And you will learn to let it go.