“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.” – John Green
The leaving, the letting go, that part is easy.
Approaching letting go, entertaining thoughts of leaving, that part is excruciating. When faced with loss, the loss of a person, of a lifestyle, a job, a preconceived idea of ourselves, when faced with letting go, we cling. Forget the platitude – I cling. Somewhere deep inside I know, I know that nothing is permanent. I know that I will age, that I will suffer illness, that people I love deeply will leave, may die before me, that material wealth can be lost, that my love may not be reciprocated. I know all of this, and I cling even more.
“If she is to love life and freedom and be brave then she must learn to let go. To see beauty without clinging to it, to feel pain without holding it hostage, and to feel love without worry of losing it.”
― G.G. Renee Hill, The Beautiful Disruption
Right. That part. It does make a lovely quote, but to quote Ron Weasley, Bloody hell!
The times in my life that have been the most painful, the times I thought I could not possibly survive, these were the times right before I left, before I finally let go. These were the rock bottom times, the times where I dug my fingernails in and clung desperately to the idea, the person, the thing that I thought was essential for me to survive. None of them have turned out to be essential for my survival, so far.
The Journey by Mary Oliver
One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.
I love this poem. It also make me a little angry. I want to say journeys like these don’t happen all at once. That you make this journey, that you make your own way in degrees. That, unlike the movies where the leap of faith gets made – generally to a profoundly moving musical score – and then life gets tied up in a neat bow, becomes perfect, and the credits roll as a glint of a tear forms in your eye and you wonder why can’t you just figure your shit out. Unlike that, in life you have to keep making the terrifying next step, you have to continue to make your journey. It gets easier, but it never gets easy. I have started on this journey many times, and to varying degrees, got pulled part way back by the cries of “mend my life!”, or turned back myself when the storm seem too much to endure.
It seems odd to be writing about this as I sit in front of our Christmas tree, surrounded in over 20 years worth of decorations, of traditions, of stories, of memories. The ornaments my friend Cathy and I made the last Christmas before she died more than 15years ago, the baby’s first Christmas ornaments for each of my children, beautiful things my mother made, the gifts from my favourite Aunt, the handmade gifts and ornaments from my children. All of these carry their own special weight, and this is the last year they will all be together in one place. This is the letting go, the leaving. This is the final Christmas in this house, in this town even. All our beautiful things will be divided, things I will keep, things that will go to each of my children, things that belong with their father, and things I can give away to add meaning to other family’s lives.
Twenty years ago, when my first daughter was 2 1/2 years old, my son, a 6 month old baby, and my youngest not yet born, we received a beautiful hand carved horse named Hilde. Tonight, after years of sitting quietly, Hilde went to live with another family with three young children who will love and play with her. Letting go of that stage of my life. I’ll keep the pictures, many of the books, but it is time to move on.
Milov’s sculpture silhouettes rigid, back to back wire adult figures, within their frames stand children reaching towards each other. At night the contrast between illumination within the wire frames “…demonstrates a conflict between a man and a woman as well as the outer and inner expression of human nature … Their inner selves … in the form of transparent children, holding out their hands through the grating … This shining is a symbol of purity and sincerity that brings people together and gives a chance of making up.” – Alexander Milov.
I don’t feel the optimism the artist does when I look at this piece. What I see is a stunning representation of how we separate ourselves, in spite of what our hearts, our most inner self loves. There is no turning of the wire frames, they will forever remain separate, despite the inner reaching.
“And the moon rose over an open field
Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping
And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why
Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike
They’ve all come to look for America”
Simon and Garfunkel
Pete Fornatale said this lyric was a “metaphor to remind us all of the lost souls wandering . . .struggling to navigate the rapids of despair and hope, optimism and disillusionment.” Stephen Holden wrote it “simultaneously illuminates a drama of shared loneliness”. David Nichols called it “a splendid vignette of a road trip by young lovers; both intimate and epic in scale, it traces an inner journey from naive optimism to more mature understanding.” I can’t explain as eloquently why the lines resonate deeply with me – “Cathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping, And I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why” – but they do.
‘Man and Woman’ by Georgian sculptor Tamara Kvesitadze
The towering statues are two humans made out of metallic discs, who move toward each other, seem to kiss, to embrace, to combine together, and then to pass through each other, parting and end facing in opposite directions, much like Milov’s work. They represent a Muslim boy, Ali, and a Christian princess, Nino and their tragic love story, but again, to me it represents how we separate ourselves from love.
This last year has been a series of journey’s, many, but not all of them, painful. This fall had some profoundly painful leavings. Letting go of my brother will not, and should not, come easily, if at all. Letting him leave in small increments, or starting to let go of the idea of his place in my life is like pushing through metal. Finding out who I am separate from the things that I had been clinging to for various lengths of time, separate from being somebody’s mother, somebody’s daughter, sister, somebody’s love, finding who I am separately will be my journey.