We need in love to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily–we do not need to learn it.
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Two weeks into spring, and the clearing out/cleaning up energy is in full force, breezing through both my inner and outer houses. It arrives like a strong wind behind my back, pushing me forward to let go of stuff that’s past the point of usefulness. You know: clothes that don’t fit, outmoded life structures, old magazines, fading relationships, a rickety garden shed.
To be sure, such spring cleaning pursuits are meaningful. A few years ago I read that when we fail to periodically sift through the inner and outer surplus, we fix ourselves at a certain point in time and stop growing.
No wonder the act of purging a stack of ancient papers or eliminating unfulfilling obligations gives hope and possibility.
So I’m pretty good at that kind of letting go. What makes it easier, I think, is that I don’t particularly want whatever it is in my life.
Truth is, I don’t love it anymore. Which means I can more readily bid it a fond farewell.
So long. Gotta go. See you around.
I wish it were always that simple.
It’s not, though, because there’s another kind of spring cleaning. Different from the gusty winds that sweep through my inner and outer houses with their mission of dejunking and tidying up.
This other kind shows up sometimes as a wistful breeze. Other times a dense fog. But however it appears, it’s always about letting go of things I love. Or could love.
A LOT OF LOVE
Some have said we can have it all.
Flash back 20 years, and I’d be the first to agree. Even now, I sort of agree. Just consider a woman who wants to have both career and family. Absolutely. Not always easy, but entirely doable.
Yet in the big picture of human life, I no longer agree we can have it all. And that’s because of one word: LOVE.
Both you and I have an abundant capacity for love. An endless supply. Many lifetimes of it, in fact.
I don’t just mean love of people. Undeniably, that’s a wondrous part of life. But love is huge. Infinite. It extends its embrace to places, ideas, things, animals, art, science. All of it.
That’s a lot of love to squeeze into one lifetime.
I know, because I’m always falling in love. Take places, for instance.
I’ve fallen in love with more places than I can remember. Bainbridge Island, Washington. Newport, Oregon. Door County, Wisconsin. Patagonia, Arizona. Minneapolis. New York City. Chicago. San Francisco. New England.
I could happily live in all of those extraordinary locations, not to mention the ones I’ve only dreamed about so far: London, Paris, Australia, to name a few.
Yet I know it won’t be possible in this one lifetime I get.
So now, when spring cleaning rolls around, I’m paying as much attention to letting go of love as I am to letting go of what’s obsolete and out-of-date.
LETTING GO OF LOVE
The irony is that to live a life we love, we have to let go of what we love.
I love to travel, but these days I’m sticking close to home to care for a sick cat that I love dearly.
I love writing plays, but these days I’m concentrating my energies on my love of writing a book and this blog.
I love swimming, but these days my love of walking takes precedence.
Now, you might say that this is temporary. That one day I’ll be traveling again. Writing plays. Swimming.
You could be right. Or not.
Long ago I sold everything I owned and moved to New York City to pound the pavements and act in plays. Turned out I did little of either, and two years later the dream changed: finish my degree, pursue a doctorate, and become a college theatre professor.
But again, the dream veered, and I found myself studying counseling.
Even so, I reasoned, I could act in community theatre. I knew how much fun that was. But it turned out that juggling rehearsals five nights a week with a full time job wasn’t so fun after all.
Still, I hung on to that love for a long time. I kept thinking I would get back to it.
Until I finally got it: my love of acting on a community theatre stage would never change, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t let it go.
Lately I’ve begun to grasp how much freedom there is in letting go of some of the things I love.
I’m learning to give the love its wings now, while it can still fly, rather than waiting until it becomes worn and withered inside of me.
And I’m finding this more meaningful, in fact, than cleaning out discarded sweaters or saying no to committee work that doesn’t suit me.
MAKING IT EASIER TO LET GO
I’d love to hear from you about this.
What experiences have you had letting go of loves?
How did it go?
And do you believe you can have it all?