“I’m so angry I could kill him. And to think, that was over two years ago. If he walked in that door right now, I swear….” she stared into her coffee, absently adding another sugar packet. That made four. I wondered if she was even aware.
Her sister, or was it her friend — same hazel eyes, same heart-shaped face, leaned in to say something, then scooted back in her chair and shook her head.
Glancing up from her sugar with coffee: “What? Say it.”
The sister-friend hesitated, “If only you could just let go. He let go of you a long time ago.”
“LET GO?! If I only knew how!” And with that, she flung her chair back, grabbed her purse and scarf, and headed toward the front door. Sister-friend rushed behind, with a look of slight embarrassment on her face.
At an adjacent table, I watched as two cups of barely touched coffee, one with a sunken sugar treasure, were collected and taken away. Now, with no angry and somber faces seated directly in front of me, my eyes drifted to the window beyond.
Directly outside the cafe window stood a tree with few leaves on its branches. A tree, “let go,” just beyond the window, few leaves, “he let go of you a long time…”, leaves hanging limply one moment, parallel to the ground the next — strong wind. “If I only knew how!” Clearly, a storm was approaching. Content to be on this side of the window, hands wrapped around my Earl Gray, I sat perfectly still, staring at the leaves. “Let go, he let go of….” Leaves that held on so tightly. Not a single one relented its grip.
And then I remembered.
A Tale of Letting Go
On a still day last week, I was looking out my window, yellow Lab at my feet, just as yours is now I’m sure. (He was right. She was.) The remaining leaves on a nearby tree were dropping, kind of like feathers dropping. I leaned into that and I listened by giving my full attention to them. What they began to say to me, not in words, but in their very existence and how they were falling, was they were just letting go. They were just letting go and drifting to the earth.
And amazingly, they had held on through all the storms of this Fall. None of all that rough and tough and turbulence took them down. And after that, on a quiet, still day, in silence, they just let go.
The reward for holding on, is at some point, we just let go.”
That is the story of listening and letting go that Mark Nepo shared with me on the phone one afternoon, as we sat discussing his new book, Seven Thousand Ways to Listen. His was a tale of listening through giving his full attention to the message nature was delivering. A message of holding on, and of letting go.
If Only and How?
If only the girl knew how to let go. If only we all knew how to let go. If only, after weathering years of all sorts of storms, we could, on a quiet, still day, in silence, just let go. If only we could be those leaves. But no. Instead we try (and fail) to let go by ignoring. By denying. By repressing. By making believe. By, by, by…. Letting go will never work like that. To let go of something, we first must admit it.
But wait. Ignoring is easier. So is denying. Making believe, or blaming, yes, blaming, I forgot to mention that one before, making believe and blaming can even be fun. Addicting. (To be read in a whisper: But admitting he has moved on without me? Hush, keep quiet now, that way no one will hear how badly that stings to admit.) So instead of letting go, we hold on a bit longer.
But all we’re really holding onto is our pain. Pain that we are, in effect, prolonging. If you’re ready to be free of pain and truly want to let go of anger and resentment, start by admitting the truth of the situation.