We all hate to abdicate control. Encoded into the DNA that makes us human is the desire to keep trying, to make something happen, to change the facts of whatever life situation we’re in. Whether it’s leaving a job, ending a relationship, giving up on a dream, losing a loved one, as the emotional stakes rise higher, our fingers grasp more tightly to the thing we just can’t lose.
But as we all come to know, usually that thing was never in our hands in the first place.
We all know the Serenity Prayer too, beginning with: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.”
But how many times do we say that while simultaneously hoping in our heart of hearts that it’ll actually be in the category, “ . . . the courage to change the things I can”? I mean, maybe if we pray about it long enough, obsess about it more, analyze and frenzy, and . . . well, maybe with all of that, we can move it from ‘cannot change’ to ‘can.’ “I have the courage, God! Let me fix it!”
Funny how our minds work. We have to go through all those stages of grief, bargaining being a big one of those, before we get to acceptance.
And while acceptance and letting go are not the exact same thing, they go hand in hand. You have to get to acceptance in order to let go, but working on the letting go helps you get to acceptance as well.
It all comes back to, well, we don’t want to accept and let go. We just don’t want to.
And just about the time I think I’m pretty good at this (Ha! Now, that’s tempting the gods!), a situation arises to show me just how powerless I actually am.
One that involves life and death.
With someone near and dear to me.
And if I could just run the show, the outcome would be better.
Maybe that’s true. Maybe it’s not. Doesn’t really matter now though, does it? I don’t get to drive this bus—even though all the scientific data backs me up from here to the moon.
Can you still hear the tinge of anger in that last line? The persistent wish to bargain? Yep, the stages of grief don’t come in a linear form of one after the other, but a back and forth as you progress.
So often once the smoke clears, we’re left facing that acceptance, and the letting go. And when I find myself in that position (as I am now), a few steps really help me.
- Have I done all that I could?
This is a big one for me. If I can dissect the situation, and know that I’ve truly done all that I could, it’s easier for me to let go. Because one of my fears is waking up in the middle of the night and thinking, “I could have done x!” With x being a viable thing. But if I go through each step along the way, notice my actions, and know that I’ve done everything humanly possible to affect a positive outcome, a sense of peace washes over me. And I know I did my part.
- Allowing Acceptance.
Even when I’m not to that 100% place of acceptance, I can work on it. Because one thing I have actually learned on the potholed path I’ve sometimes traveled, is that I can’t run the world. Horrors! Did I just admit that? Because you know it would be a much better place and . . .
Okay, I digress. The thing is though, that even if the latter were true, the former is a fact. The further I go, the more apparent the verity that I can control precious little, and what I can concerns only my own life. And even then, I’ve learned that when I think I am controlling a piece, there are other forces at work as well. And shock of shocks, the god of my understanding tends to have a better plan than I do.
- Which leads to the ACT of Letting Go. Because it is of course a verb. I often wish some nice good witch would just fly by and wave a magic wand, sprinkling fairy dust over my head, and voila! My fingers miraculously unwind from that thing I’m clutching dearly.
Wouldn’t that just be cool?
Of course, we all know that’s not how it works.
There are no magic bullets. There is just the focus on unbinding (actually seeing my fingers open up and a whoosh of the thing dissipating into the air always helps me).
And often not once but many times.
And then, turning to face the thing that I actually can change.
How do you let go?