The Art of Letting Go
A bit removed from the typical content of deadlifts, muscle pumps, and healthy meals; this post is one that is a bit more personal in nature.
Today's post is dedicated to my late grandmother, Caroline Mullins. She taught me at a young age that it was ok to be smart. She empowered me to be confident in my words, my speech, and my writing. She praised me for things when all I wanted to do was act embarassed. She loved me and saw my potential.
And for that...I'm thankful. I love you Meems.
These are my thoughts, ones that I'm comfortable sharing with the world around me. Maybe someone will relate and understand that their life is much the same. Maybe someone will find the confidence to live for the moments in their lives.
Our lives at the most basal level are simply a linear series of moments, which once they pass become memories, and serve as uncertainty and anticipation when they have not yet arrived. These moments shape us, mold us, and serve as foundations for our thoughts, words, and actions. These moments have an ever-changing cast of characters and set pieces within them too.
That game of catch in your backyard with your Dad as he prepares for another trip overseas to serve our Nation. That one where every ball you threw was filled with anger and misunderstanding about why he couldn't stay home and come to your baseball games. It was just a moment.
As you stand, shaky handed, tear soaked eyes, and unable to breathe properly as you deliver your final thoughts for a grandmother who was instrumental in making you the man you are today. As you try to tell the crowd how amazing she was, and how her spirit can live with everyone she touched if they let it; another moment.
Or that moment, just a few minutes ago when you left the home you grew up in for the last time. As your eyes glance over the space that was once your bedroom – that memory during the movie “Titanic” comes to mind. How about the countless nights where the TV would superheat the room and make the room smell exactly what you’d think two teenage boys full of testosterone and mountain dew would smell like if they couldn’t stop playing Playstation?
All just moments.
So, here is the situation as it stands now. I’m currently on an Amtrak train headed southbound back towards Washington D.C. The city is my home. Among the grand monuments, the marble structures, and low skyline of the District I’ve grown into my manhood. I moved there in the summer of 2012 after spending far too much time in College Park – the location of the University of Maryland, my alma mater.
I arrived a red bull-vodka in the midst of a nightclub and have become a single barrel bourbon, neat in the corner of a bar amongst good conversation.
What is Letting Go?
For the last time in my foreseeable life I left my parent’s home in Port Deposit. With my folks moving to Tampa, Florida in the coming month as my dad pursues an advancement in his career in the aviation field, a logical pursuit post-Air Force I might add, I don’t see any reason I’d be back in the home that welcomed me when I was nine years old and saw me off at nineteen.
My parents asked me a few times this week while I was home for the Christmas holiday, one which had no decorations or fanfare due to their need to keep the house in “selling” shape, if I was going to really miss the house that made me? Would I miss home?
Like any tough, weight-lifting twenty-seven year old man would do…I acted tough and said simple things like “Home is wherever you guys are”, or “this is just the shell of our family”. I acknowledged that it would be crazy to know that the “box” that held my memories would soon be owned by someone other than my mother and father.
It really didn’t bother me to be honest.
Until I sat down on this train that is…
The grass that I mowed a thousand times, or the front door with a dent from my angst-filled teenage fist would be a memory I couldn’t touch again. The hardwood floors and well decorated home would be stored in the same place as I keep the house I lived (partied) in during college; a memory to never be felt again.
And it is that density that strikes me the most.
In the same light, but in a much more heartbreaking way, is the loss of my amazing grandmother Caroline on December 18th. Although we had given her a tremendous service, and sent her off with every ounce of love, tears, and passion we could muster – it still didn’t feel real until she was reunited with my grandfather in the cemetery grounds.
As the rain poured down and my dress shoes started to sink into the green grass around me I couldn’t help but finally realize that it was time. That moment had arrived that I would let go of her. Protected from the rain in the soft pink shell of her coffin, and guided by the broken, but loving hands of the men who regarded her as our matriarch - this was our last moment together.
366 days ago we stood together in my parents home. 1 year and both are now memories
As we pulled away that afternoon I felt it. The same density that I feel now.
The “oh-my-God” life is happening and I’m in it feeling.
It is a painful realization one has to make when they must let go. It starts when we are young and innocent and must let go of the tattered little blanket that warmed us in all of our nights on this Earth. It progresses to the stuffed animals you lost on vacation, or the friends in our old neighborhood when we move away.
One day we lose a pet, and another we lost a baseball game. Our grandparents begin to go, and so too do our childhoods. Once driven by the need to play with toy soldiers in the yard we now awake with the most overwhelming desire to drive.
With cars come accidents, and with sixteen comes love. Or, so that’s what we call it. There was this girl and that girl, broken hearts and the same song on repeat. We survive high school and watch our friends go different directions, and soon no one sees each other anymore.
Arriving at college wide-eyed and bushy tailed we have all the best intentions. Best friends and parties. Tailgates and final exams will be treated with the same level of commitment. Year after year, beer after beer, and “oh-my-God” life is happening so fast – I’m about to graduate.
A degree in hand you march into adulthood. A job and a car, bills to pay, and lazy recipes put food on a busted end-table that is your dinner table for the time being. Foot by foot and day by day you grow up. The beard grows thicker, your friends "list" expands, but your friendships diminish.
Girls in bars become girlfriends who then become wives. Soon they become mothers and your best friends become dads. Your parents get older, and other relatives begin to leave this place at an increasing rate. The long nights you used to spend partying with friends are spent trying to calculate your next move.
At least that is my life. Sure, the narrative can fit anyone else too. Guys and girls alike experience growing up and gaining independence.
Yet, the most valuable lesson – Is Letting Go.
With every loss comes a chance to wallow and mourn. Some deserve the emotion, while most require a simple tip of the cap, and a farewell, wish you well.
Possessions, people, places, and purpose.
Those are the components of your life. Nothing more, and nothing less. They all exist within time, the most unrelenting, unforgiving matter in all of the universe. Time goes, and so will you.
That time you and your mother played with the cats laying on the kitchen floor for no reason other than to laugh together….Just people in a place with possessions and a purpose.
What does it all mean?
There is a necessity in your life to acknowledge that what is will not always be. No matter how invincible and perfect a moment is, or painful and heartbreaking – time will pass, and with it your moment will become a memory.
Hence the absolutely imperative need to master the art of letting go.
Letting go isn’t disregarding the value of something for the sake of disregarding it. It isn’t acting like it didn’t exist either. It is simply accepting that the moment which once felt so real and amazing is now a memory.
Those places, people, possessions lock into your memory as though they never left it. Your purpose may escape the confines of your intellect as time continues to pursue forward, but you’ll never lose sight of the other P’s.
As if frozen in time – they will remain.
Will I miss home? Of course.
I’ll miss watching movies on the couches downstairs, and walking out of my bedroom to my mom sitting on the couch drinking coffee in the morning hours. I’ll miss the garage which houses the weights that made me fall in love with fitness in the first place. There were plenty of half-squats and failed benches there for certain.
Of course I'm going to miss my Grandmother.
The board games and life lessons will be right there in my heart and my mind as I drive forward in this world. Her laugh and lessons from the Bible will always ring in my head. Just how I want it too. I always love you Meems.
I miss college, and the friends I had in high school. I miss the smiles and moments I had in previous relationships when everything was great. I miss playing baseball and football with my classmates in games that meant the world to us.
Yet, now is a moment and I am going to make sure I take stock in it. Otherwise, it will never be a clear memory once it has passed. I may never remember writing this post, but I’ll remember coming to the realization that the most important thing in life is letting go.
It is critical to plan for the future, and enjoy the here and now. Only then, can they become a bittersweet memory.
It's all about moments.
It's all it has ever been.