The Art of Letting Go

…and of how to apply it to your life

Image from Wiki Commons.

You can’t change your past — it’s gone. You can’t change your future — it hasn’t happened yet. All you can really do is take care of things that are in front of you right now, and hope for the best.

A while ago, I watched this Nature documentary аbout mother cheetah and her cubs. It was probably this one, I cannot be sure. She had three beautiful cubs. Taking care of them was her utmost priority. However, so it happened that one of her cubs, while she was taking care of the other two, got killed by hyenas.

The scene where she found her dead cub’s body was heart-wrenching. You could feel her pain while she was standing, motionless, watching her dead cub. After a while, as if coming back to her senses, she summoned her remaining cubs and moved on. There was nothing else that she could do.

While change is life’s only constant, we tend to have several illusions about life that are ultimately false.

You can’t do it all

The current public discourse preaches that we can do anything and everything that tickles our fancy. Ultimately, it’s a false statement, designed to create hype and take advantage of those who start believing in such. Yes, all of us have a diverse set of talents and aspirations, but, fulfilling them all is impossible. Everything takes time and consistent effort, to be done properly. Without it, it would be just amateurish doodling (like my writing here 😃). While being positive is good, being realistic is better.

For those who are just starting in life and career: pick your profession wisely, since it’s going to be part of your life for many decades to come. For the rest of us, who already have a profession: stick to it, go deeper, instead of meandering into something else that may or may not happen. All other interests that you may have are “nice to have”, if they relax you, by all means, engage in them, but don’t forget that they’re just that — hobbies.

Illusion of control

We, humans, are under impression that we’re in control of what happens to us. Most of the time, starting from our birth, life is a collection of happy — or not so happy — accidents, nothing more. Whenever you think that you’re in charge of your life, you’re simply fooling yourself.

Life throws at us unexpected things, at most inopportune times. Learning how to deal with those and adjusting to life’s changes is called living. Nobody has it their way, all the way.

It pays to look at your life from somebody else’s perspective, if you could do that. You’ll see that the outcome of your actions is largely predetermined. Not to say that you shouldn’t put an effort. You can influence small things, but the general sense of your life cannot be changed, no matter what you do.

The illusion of unlimited time

Time is not standing still. We’re not everlasting. When we were young, we think that time on our hands is limitless, only to learn, as we grow older that it isn’t so.

It’s not the time that passes by, it’s us.

We change, circumstances change, our priorities change, throughout our lives. Accepting this basic truth about life can change one’s outlook on the future. Being stuck with the same old worldview for decades is a surefire sign that we’re not growing, not maturing.

Just let go

I had this beautiful leather jacket for decades, since my teenage years. I loved it. Whenever I see it, once a year when cleaning closets, it brings back many happy memories. Each time I try it on, just for the sake of it, only to find out that it doesn’t fit anymore. It’s also old, and worn-out. It’s out of style. And it occupies space in my closet. After taking a couple of pictures of it, I threw it out. It no longer served any purpose in my life. My memories are in my head.

Let go of things, to make room for new ones.

Move on when the moment is right

Recognizing the moment when it’s time to let go of things/people in one’s life is paramount. It would save us a lot of time, energy, and heartache. Life is about agility. Being able to react in a timely fashion is important. Dwelling over anything for too long isn’t healthy. Life doesn’t wait for anybody. You don’t have “all the time in the World”, but rather a limited amount of it, spend it wisely.

Life is a fast-flowing stream. There’s the right time for everything. When the right time passes — just let it go, it wasn’t meant to be. We all could’ve been many things, but we haven’t. Instead of focusing on what should’ve been, try to assess your life realistically, and find contentment in what it is, not in what it could’ve/should’ve been.

By pondering what else we should’ve done with our lives, we open ourselves to resenting our current life/profession/relationships. By saying that we could’ve done these things better, we are subconsciously admitting that we did it half-heartedly, without commitment. Is that the truth? If so, it’s too bad, then. There’s no time left to re-live it again.

As per Erik Erikson’s stages of life, when the time comes, we all want to achieve Integrity instead of Despair. That should be the lofty goal of our lives, and every action we take and decision we make ultimately contributes to on which side of that scale we are.

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“The only person you can’t learn from is yourself” — Anonymous