Letting Go & Holding On
I work with a lot of people around the dynamics of transition, whether it be vocational, relational or spiritual. My deep sense is we are constantly in some state of transition, even on a micro-level, like the transition from breath to breath. So, when I consider transition I am always looking for the ways in which I am attached to something, or someone, or even attached to an idea. These are hard to let go of when we know them well, or when they provide a sense of security.
I watched the film Toy Story 3 again recently, reminded that the premise of the story is that Andy, the “human” character, is preparing to leave for college and is asked by his mom to pack what he needs and box-up what he no longer wants. It is a great depiction of the emotional process every of us goes through in a transition; what will I let go of and what will I hold on to – both literally and figuratively?
So much of our identity gets wrapped up in what we have and what we do, how we think of ourselves, and what we believe others think of us. When those change, or we have to move on, what happens to our identity? I sense that it is times like this; times when we are called to evaluate what holds meaning for us, that we bump into what we are attached to, and, at least at some level, must assess whether we will remain attached to the person, the thing, the idea, or agenda we believe helps maintain or perpetuate our identity.
I’m convinced that if we do not recognize our attachments, we will act/speak/think out of a potentially unhealthy sense of “holding on” to that attachment. This is one of the very things that keeps us living in the past; not letting go of a particular way of seeing ourselves &/or others.
I often ask parents of new college students to sit with/ponder/wonder/be curious what they feel when I say the words, “Letting Go.” What do you become aware of? What do you feel? I believe it is essential that we recognize what and how we feel about this change, and then appropriately grieve the change (loss) of how it was, and no longer will be.
Just as Andy in Toy Story 3 has to make a decision about his cherished boyhood toys, so do each of us need to make a decision about how we recognize the inevitable (and necessary) changes that come as we transition our sense of how we inhabit our life in the world.