Letting go has three directions: past, present, and future. Some of us are well-versed in releasing past emotional hurts or sentiments. Some of us live for the day, approaching each moment with gratitude and anticipation. Some of us are excited about the adventures of the future.
Not my world.
I hang on to it all: the anger about the lies he repeatedly told my colleagues about his actions (which some believed because he’s so convincing!); the conviction that something will go wrong today during a high-stress presentation (because, well, why wouldn’t it?); the belief that the future I want for my life is going to be a lot of hard, unfulfilling (likely unrewarded) work. Such hanging-on tendencies have evoked complicated, constant conversations in my head over the years. What’s worse is that I can’t fix any of these situations. He lied. Stress situations can lead to mistakes. The hoped-for future is going to result from hard, sometimes unfulfilling, maybe unrecognized work. In the midst of all this chaos, if I can hang on to my anger, anxiety, and worry, I can keep the illusion of control and safety (and ultimately, stuckness).
I have been discovering in the past few years that there are some direct ways of shifting how I live in my (anxious, COVID-directed) world. The past pain is only going to be set free when I do the hard work of forgiveness. What does it serve me to hold onto malintent or neglect perpetrated by others? Why do I give power away in the form of attention to someone who doesn’t have my well-being at heart?
The current anxiety about what I don’t want to happen or what I’m against changes to focusing on what I do want to happen, or what I’m for. What do I deeply want? How will I get there right now even if there is rough terrain?
Worry about the future, amplifying my concerns into need for control, morphs into letting go and adapting along the way as I walk toward the vision. What would it take for me to be clear about what matters? How do I trust that, if I am aligned with God’s purposes, this vision will play out, perhaps in ways I can’t quite fathom yet. I am reminded of the wisdom of the stalwart workers of the world who have let go of control:
When Mother Theresa was asked why she didn’t participate in anti-war demonstrations, she said, “I will never do that, but as soon as you have a pro-peace rally, I’ll be there.”
The polarities in our society—theological, political, and all the “isms” one can name—come down to change vs. staying the same. It’s naïve to claim that change can cease, with the exception of in a vacuum, because it cannot be stopped.
The intention of change is the issue here.
Do we embrace massive, quick change to foster well-being for those who are not well or who have discrimination forced upon them every day (see “isms”), thereby leaving others behind? Or do we appropriate change to keep us entrenched in our definition of safety, ruled by control, so we can try to abate our anxiety and worry, leaving others in dire circumstances? Or do we stay a bit the same/safe enough and work for change that brings about well-being for others, including the stranger? A fierce choice is upon us.
The vision from the Source of Life for the planet, well-recorded in the world religions and many other spiritualities, is based on well-being in the sense that every creature will have what we need to live well. The only way I can contribute to such a vision is to let go and forgive the past, focus on what is happening now as a learning opportunity, and trust enough to embrace the adventure of a future I don’t know yet.
Hang on or let go: what will you choose to do?