Letting Go 1/31/15
A stranger once said to me, “Life has many chapters.” I’ve carried her words with me ever since. In the new year I’ve been giving much thought to the notion—and conscious choice, or, more often, a series of choices—of letting go and have been experiencing internal movement and a rekindled sense of possibility the more I allow myself to reflect upon it.
Letting go of what no longer serves us—aspects of the past, draining or one-sided relationships, a distorted self-image, joyless work—becomes even more urgent in midlife, that snarled thicket in which I now find myself (cue Dante). The no-longer-deniable reality of my mortality, of narrowing options—all part of aging, awakening, and deepening—have forced me to confront myself in ways I find simultaneously uncomfortable, scary, and enlivening. Let’s just say the universe has turned the volume way up and I’m finally beginning to listen and pay attention rather than defend against it in a host of ways.
It’s been my experience that we invite in and nurture growth and vitality when we attend to, and follow, what energizes and excites us. When we’re shackled (sometimes unconsciously, sometimes not) to a sense of obligation or duty to others—family, society, a profession, a way of being—it can be easy to lose contact with what holds meaning on a personal level, with what feeds the soul. We can also find ourselves “shackled” as the result of uninvited life circumstances: it’s well known that trauma can freeze us in a caul of fear and risk aversion so that any reaching for the new feels potentially annihilating, even though that reaching is life affirming and necessary to our development. All that said, I’m also aware that, for me, letting go is about finding a balance between “obligation” and “freedom”—that one can’t exist without the other.
My friend Leslie McGrath, a poet and writer with formal training in clinical psychology, once counseled me
to let go of what I’ve long thought I should be doing, in my life and creative work, so that I can finally be released to do what I’m intended to do—whatever that might be. American psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.” Stepping fully into life’s flow, with openness and receptivity to all that it offers, is both frightening and exhilarating. So I’m paying attention to those small internal voices and grooming my feathers.
--Mari L'Esperance, Winter 2015
Read more: Review of The Book of Scented Things, Chicago Times
Review of The Darkened Temple, in Rattle poetry journal