Thursday, November 2, 2017

Letting Go, pt. 1




When I was younger, I may have said that learning to let go is an unfortunate part of life - but now, I think that it is just a part of life. Not an easy part, sure, but one associated with a lot of emotion - sometimes positive, sometimes negative, and one that teaches us a lot. We learn to let go of a lot - relationships, objects, expectations, emotions - among others.

To reflect on this, I decided it was time to do a post (or a series of posts) about letting go, bringing in stories and perspectives from people across the globe. This time, the focus is on relationships - family, friends, significant others - and experiences various people have had. I was interested in hearing about other people's perspectives, especially because for me, letting go has been such an all-or-nothing experience!

Thanks so much to all my contributors! And if you're interested in contributing, please shoot me an email and we'll chat about part 2, which should be ready in 2-3 weeks.

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I would say that from my experiences, the hardest thing about letting go of a negative relationship - be this a friend, family member or partner, has been realising and accepting when the time had come to do so. There had always been so much guilt and heartache associated with the decision. Many times it didn't even strike me as an option. It always seemed to be the 'right' thing to keep trying to make it work - surely I could change myself further or change my approach, yet again, to deal with the situation?

Would letting go mean compromising my value for loyalty?

But staying would compromise so many more of my values.

Each time, I reminded myself that I was a strong and independent woman, who didn't need to be held back and drained by negativity. Life is too short for that. I also accepted that while it's okay to love a person unconditionally, we didn't need to be part of each other's lives to be happy.

Once the decision was made, and I accepted it, I felt free and light, ready to live my dreams without negativity bringing me down.
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Trying to write about “letting go” just reminds me that I haven’t necessarily let it go. Or at least that the ACT of letting go is an ongoing process for me. It’s a constant struggle to allow only healthy relationships in my life. I put up with a lot of negative behaviors from the people I care about, and while a certain amount of acceptance is needed (no one’s perfect), there is a line between companionship and abuse. I’m particularly susceptible to being taken advantage of, partly because I’m naive and optimistic, but also because I find genuine fulfillment in helping others. I am learning, though, and it’s getting easier to recognize when someone’s taking advantage of my kindness.

I dated a narcissist. He loved how good I was to him. But it was always dependent on what I could do for him, never a genuine thought for me or my welfare. I finally got myself out and distanced myself from him. The actual letting go came over a year later, though, when he came back and reminded me how great I was at dealing with his issues and how no one ever loved him like I did. I was so strong for him and it was because of me that he had learned to deal with some of his greatest obstacles. It was still all about him, but it felt good and gave me that special feeling of being appreciated. That’s what I had to let go of: that feeling of being important to someone. It’s a need to be needed and an ego boost that comes from loving the unlovable. Letting go means not letting myself fall back into the self-sacrificing behavior that certain people have taken advantage of.

He’s not the only self-centered person I’ve been attracted too, and he actually wasn’t the last, even though I could have sworn that I had learned my lesson. But he is the one who taught me that I don’t want to be a martyr, and it’s to him I compare everyone else. If the new person makes me feel like he did, I at least admit to myself that I’m making a mistake again, and I try to get myself out of that situation. I try not to get too negative about it though. There has to be balance; I may have been hurt, but I’m not a victim. They aren’t necessarily evil or malicious, but they are unhealthy. And I may feel used and abused at times, but being generous and caring does not make me inherently vulnerable.

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Your family is supposed to be your rock, your constant, your always. Blood is thicker than water, and all that, yes?

How then do you deal with the fact that sometimes, family is toxic, and vile, and pulls you down?

I moved states a few years ago, and thankfully do not have to visit with this person often - but I still deal with the conflicting emotions - "but they're family!" "Family doesn't give up on each other!"

When I decided to let go was when I realised that this relationship was serving as a black hole for all my happiness and success. Do I still love them? Well, yes. Family is family. But do I like them? Not particularly.
Moving away was the best thing I could have done for myself.
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I think it's good to sometimes distance yourself and keep away from certain relationships especially those that are toxic to you. But like it or not, you never really cut them out because they all form a part of who you are and help you evolve as a person (from my perspective). And in some cases, in the future these people can change - so it's good to be open and forgiving but sometimes they're actually the same so it may be better to just keep them out.
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I recently spoke to someone I've known for a bit - someone who had been an important part of my life. He told me that he can't have me be a part of his life anymore. In this case, my experience with letting go was one I was jolted into.

Initially, I felt offended - in light of everything we'd been through together, how could he so easily choose to exclude me from his life? This feeling persisted even after I tried to make myself aware of the external social pressures he was dealing with. I kept thinking to myself - I would never have done the same to anyone else.

Subsequent reflection taught me two things:

-First of all - get over it! Deal with it already. An automatic response was to build a wall up, to keep him out, running contrary to my decision to include him in my life in the first place, with an expectation that he would do the same - an expectation based on zero grounding.
-Secondly - there was no going back.

I felt like I was being forcefully jolted out of the safe and comfortable space I was otherwise so happy drowning in. It did feel like a smack in the face - how ignorant could I have been?

This led me to think about a few things.

Firstly, my relationship with him. It opened me to the reality of not having feelings returned in the way you expect them to be. But shouldn't that be okay? Because,if you are operating from a place of compassion, another person's joy should be a liberating experience for you, and not something that should fill you with pain such that you want to so badly respond - by alienating them.

On this day, I challenge myself to be strong enough to stick it through. I will let every bit of updates from friends in. I will no longer run. I’ll perceive these interactions as yet another opportunity to exercise compassion in an otherwise challenging situation.

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Every rejection is an indication that your path is different. Rejection makes me think of parched lands where life is difficult. The first rains in these arid areas have to find their way across the dry land, overcome obstacles in their way but eventually become the life force of so many other entities. Adaptability & resilience are so important in everything that we do.

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So I think what I have to share is that this year I’ve lost contact with a lot of people I knew really well before. Initially, I was sad about it and maybe trying to keep hold of them despite the effort and even though we were just on different wavelengths. I think I was trying to forcefully keep them in my life because they had been in my life for so long.

But at some point it just became unsustainable and it was quite liberating when I let go. People change and friendships change and it’s okay. People come in and out of your life and that’s okay too. And rather than hanging on it’s better to let go, to let things happen naturally, because this way you make space for new people in your life. People that align closer to your way of thinking and way of life.

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I know that this was about letting go of relationships - but bear with me, as a I have a point about letting go in regard to relationships.

I recently met someone - yes, met met - and in a weird way, it has made me confront and let go my previous relationships - as well as let go of expectations of what a relationship should and should not be.

Up until I met this person, I didn't know that was what I needed. Apparently it is!

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Distance. It's a funny thing, isn't it? You think that distance will have a huge impact on friendships, those that you're physically closer to will strengthen, those you're far away from will fade to a certain extent.

Was I wrong, or what?

I recently moved halfway across the globe for no reason (well - a few reasons - but that's a story for another day), far away from most of my best friends, but quite close to one of my close high school friends.

I thought that our relationship would strengthen and go back to how it used to be when we were together - but it didn't. And I finally realised that I had to let go, and the space I was holding for them to one day come back was only serving to deplete my happiness and energy. We had some good - nay, great - times together, but it was time to put that relationship behind me.

It's funny, isn't it? Shared experiences keep us together, but not all shared experiences have to be physically shared. My best friends whom I moved away from? We're closer than ever.

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Stupid distance. A friend whom I grew up with, whom I shared good and bad times with, whose wedding I planned to be in, who was going to be my bridesmaid moved away.

And that was that. Over time, I was forced to let go.

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As we venture out in our twenties exploring new opportunities, new locales and new people; inevitably, what we move away from will grow distant. Some influences will grow tiresome and some commonalities will turn into differences. With friendships, I’ve noticed a loose consensus out there: it’s part of growing up, some friendships fade with time. Changing lifestyles and priorities create natural rifts that grow into chasms. However, when it comes to romantic relationships, the same consensus does not exist.

In this arena, I have received advice that states, “You need a clean break” and conflictingly, “You can’t simply cut someone out of your life”. Most of this advice came at the end of a two-year relationship, one that began in my formative university years and ended as I broke out into the real world. I was choosing whether to let go or not. Breakups happen for a reason of course, but those reasons may not warrant complete silence. In my case they didn’t, and I chose not to cut away this positive influence in my life. I decided to stay friends.

A relationship is a living, dynamic experience. Metamorphosis between romantic intimacy and platonic support is a journey with bumps and bruises, it is the road less travelled. Memories and metaphorical scars can divert you off course, at times, taking you backward. And in these trying times, I found solace in my self-awareness.

Building a strong relationship with myself strengthened my presence in all other relationships in my life. Including this evolving friendship-with-an-ex. My ability to set boundaries, confidently share my emotions and shape the change in our relationship were results of this newfound peace with myself.

In hindsight, there were some hiccups along the way but I believe I made the right decision. There are merits to both sides of the clean break argument, but in these murky waters, I believe a strong sense of self will help you wade through.

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1 comment:

BramptonArtJournal said...

Interesting write up - I can identify with " letting go" - You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family. Letting go of family leads at times to family feuds, anger, accusations of betrayal " - Friends, rather then letting go do drift apart. I find that many of old School reunions - one has mental image of childhood friends - meeting after 30 years odd - there is nothing in common and soon conversation dies. I went to meet my relations in India who I had never seen - blood was not thicker than water. We had nothing in common. Conversation was a pain - For them too! Every now and then they would say
" Hoor SanU" ( say more).
We also now have phenomena of Social Media friends whose existence was never known but they come into our lives via " Friend Requests". Some people collect FB friends as adornments to show their popularity. I had a friend who had 5000 FB friends. Psychological need to feel wanted by so many people.
I limit mine - firstly its time consuming reading notifications. I don't keep dead wood - those who do not interact - Click of button - " Unfriend" they are gone for ever - If they persist to remain friend " Block" and they are out of ones life for ever. In USA, being unfriended - some people seek counselling!
I could write a lot about this social media friendships and forming relationships quite a lot from experience.
As regards - " Letting go" of material possessions - I confess to hoard. All have a memory of purchase, use and associated with sentimental value. When we left Kenya, we got rid of old Grandfather clocks hand made by my fathers uncle in Nairobi. These have now antique value. I have a collection of over 300 cameras - all that I have used and are now appreciating in value as they have become collectors items. Old photographs too - acquire antique value but their sentimental value is very meaningful.

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