I’ve never been great at letting go of things. But I’ve come to realize letting go might be the single most important lesson to be learned.
The one constant in life is that everything changes. If we aren’t able to adapt to that change–to let go of the way things used to be–then we wind up doing immense damage to ourselves.
When I was working at the theater in Michigan, the Artistic Director used to tell a story about a man who had a beloved family dog. When the dog died, the man had it stuffed and brought it home to his wife and kids. They wouldn’t go near it. “Why would you do that?” they asked him.
The lesson is this: things have their time and when that time is up, we must let them go. As Andrew McMahon sings, “Preserving life’s as good as dying.”
This is true of everything. I was talking to a friend of mine last year and he reflected on how every friendship has a shelf life. No one stays close with all their friends from high school or college. People move away, change their interests, forget to write, and eventually disappear into their lives. And that’s okay. No one ever says that’s okay.
By holding too tight, by refusing to let these friends move on with their lives, we can inflict serious hurt on people. Bad things happen when we expect those we love to be who they used to be. And sometimes we endure that same hurt from the people we love.
We’ve forgotten this as social media continues to have its way with us. Whether peeking back into people’s lives or trying to preserve our own experiences, social media prevents us from letting go. We’re so busy trying to capturing the moment, we miss the life we’re living in the process. And are you really present, experiencing the world, if you’re viewing it through your phone screen?
William Blake hit the nail on the head, with his poem, Eternity:
He who binds to himself a joy
does the winged life destroy
He who kisses the joy as it flies
lives in eternity’s sunrise.