You Can Let Go Now

It had been nearly a year since I had seen my friend Gerry at church so the news that I had recently lost my job and been left at the altar (figuratively) came as a surprise. “But let me guess,” he said without waiting to hear the details. “You didn’t give up.” Not knowing what else to say, I agreed. “Yeah, you’re right. I didn’t.” We parted before I could tell him all the reasons I did what I did to keep my CEO off my back and my partner at my side. He knew me well enough to know that no matter the circumstances leading up to these events, I wasn’t the one to blink first. Gerry’s comment lingered a few days. At first, I took it as a compliment; he saw me as someone who had the inner strength and adaptability to weather difficult situations. But, as I thought about it more, I saw it differently. My unwillingness to let go of a dead-end job and a troublesome relationship had probably caused more harm than good. Instead of seeing my actions as purposeful and born of strength, it now appeared they were little more than digging in at any cost.

This wasn’t the first time I had done this and once again I was reminded of how my tenacious personality can run amuck when I’m firmly attached to the way I think things ought to be.

Usually, these traits (more than skill or years of schooling) are what I rely upon to achieve my goals. I take pride in the fact I tackled law school at night while working fulltime and lived on baked potatoes to make ends meet. I’m not a fair-weathered friend and I don’t flinch at the sight of blood. So, when had the shift occurred? When had I gone from doing my part to make things work, to doing my part to make things work when clearly they weren’t? Looking back there wasn’t a defined point in time when things went South either at home or at the office. No neon STOP sign, no angel of death. But there was a period of time when I had this gut feeling that very little was working for me, them, or anyone else. That no matter how much effort, time, money, or sex I might throw at the situation, a certain dynamic had settled in that wouldn’t abate. I should have heeded these warnings signs and walked away, but I didn’t. My persistence, I now see, was ego-driven. Somewhere between “yeah, let’s do it” and a “no-win situation” I started to reframe the red flags as challenges to overcome, more victories to prove my mettle. And once that occurred, my actions became unbalanced, less authentic, and more about proving I could do anything I put my mind to rather than what was best for all involved. I admit, I partly held on because I needed a job and I loved the guy.

But a great deal of it was because I didn’t want to be seen as a quitter. I wanted to save face. As a result, I decided recently to revisit the often cloudy line between holding on and letting go.

Daily journaling has helped because I can blurt out the most ridiculous things on paper and let them marinate until an ‘aha’ moment comes to mind. Just the practice of mining my emotions and translating them into words has helped me see the real motives behind what I did. Meditation has also helped because it trains me to pause and be honest with myself. There’s a purity that comes with meditation that’s difficult to ignore and when the mind settles down, the truth peeks through.

There’s always a chance to do better the next time. For example, I hope to recognize more quickly whether the situation or dynamic with someone is a “state” (occasionally happens) or a “trait” (more likely than not to happen). I want to trust my intuition earlier and harness my ego when I start to shift from honest diligence to stubborn pride. I plan to pressure check my motives and honor the strength in saying “no.”

Given my propensity to meet life head on, this will be a challenge but one I believe I am better prepared to handle.

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