Last week I suffered three shocks in a single day that were valuable lessons in letting go. The first shock was extremely hurtful. The second was more of a surprise, and the third infuriated me. By the end of that day, I felt like I had been through a meat grinder.
I don’t get upset easily, but three whammies in one day was more than I could efficiently process. Even though I used every mature coping mechanism I could think of, it took until the next evening to come out of my stupor. It probably would have taken even longer if I hadn’t vented to a few friends along the way.
Letting Go of Expectations
One friend, whom I told about the first hurtful shock, offered a new perspective on the matter. “I think you’re hurting because you expected a different response,” he said. “Yet, unconditional love doesn’t have expectations. It is entirely without judgment.”
At first, I was resistant to this reminder. Even so, I knew he was right. In this case, it was not the other person who was the cause of my suffering. It was my own expectations. Once I was able to let go of thinking they should have responded to me differently, the pain began to subside.
As my peace was being restored, I realized how many expectations I inadvertently put on others. In fact, expecting people to respond how I would respond appears to be my default mode. Yet, we are all different. It is unfair and unrealistic of me to think otherwise.
Not only that, but I’m sure I have also failed to live up to other’s expectations. I haven’t listened when I could have. I haven’t hugged when I could have. I haven’t been there when I could have. No matter who we are or how hard we try, this is simply part of life.
Letting Go of Outcomes
The second shock I suffered that day wasn’t as hurtful as the first, but it was still deeply emotional. In order to navigate through those waters, I eventually realized that I had to let go of more than just my expectations. What I needed to let go of was any attachment I might have to a particular outcome.
Since I couldn’t influence anything about the situation, I found myself caught up in conjecture. I tried playing out possible scenarios in my mind, but that wasn’t getting me anywhere. Neither was clinging to the hope that I would at the very least have the opportunity to _______. In the end, I saw that it was only by letting go of ‘what if’ and instead accepting ‘what is’ that my peace would be restored.
This wasn’t easy, but it was incredibly freeing. From this perspective I was able to set healthy boundaries for myself while still offering my unconditional love. Through this process I learned that I can’t save anyone from the lessons that are theirs to learn in life. All I can do is offer my support and not take it personally if they don’t want it.
Letting Go of Relationships
As for the third shocking event, it was by far the easiest to address. Where anger serves us best is when we see that someone is not respecting our boundaries and we take swift and immediate action. In fact, this is the very purpose for our instincts.
Even so, I wrestled with myself after doing what my gut knew had to be done. Part of me felt like a mean and nasty person for needing to be so firm and direct. When I shared this with another friend, my peace was restored by his reminder that I need never feel bad about speaking my truth.
The bottom line is that each one of us gets to choose which relationships we will continue and which ones we won’t. We alone get to make that call and we alone are responsible for enforcing it. Of course, we can’t make anyone do anything, but what we can do is cease to engage.
The Three Lessons Learned
Although I did not enjoy the pain, frustration and anger that I experienced with last week’s shocking events, I am grateful for what they taught me. Not only were they reminders that we create much our own discomfort, but they also taught me three valuable lessons in letting go.
Lesson 1: Letting go of expectations frees us from suffering.
Lesson 2: Letting go of attachments to outcomes frees us from speculation and worry.
Lesson 3: Letting go of relationships that no longer serve us, frees us to continue to learn and grow.
Letting go is essential to living an unencumbered life. Yet, this letting go rarely comes by way of a welcome gift. Most often it is the result of wrestling with pain and learning to embrace it as containing a seed of wisdom that has the potential to mature and enlarge your heart.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson