Letting Go

A treasured friend once gave me a beautiful image while trying to help me as I struggled with some things. It comes back to me. Often. The intricacy in its simplicity keeps it forever on my mind. “Let go” he said.

Have you ever been in a battle with someone? Or, even with yourself? Whether it is a physical, emotional or spiritual battle it is exhausting. The constant back and forth. Dragging everyone down. Always holding tight and pulling with all your might. It’s like a tug-of-war. You pull. They pull (or you pull back against yourself). If you lose ground, you dig your heels in deeper and pull harder. “I will win” resonates and keeps you pulling.

Have you ever been in a real tug-of-war? Not a friendly playground game, but a real grudge-match battle. Your feet are twisted in a contorted stance to get leverage. Your legs quiver while trying to bolster the strength of your core. Your back and shoulders tense, every muscle pulsing with power.  Your breath is held and expelled violently to help you heave against the rope. Your hands grip tightly. White knuckles. Veins popping. Palms bleeding.

What are you left with in the end? A tired, aching body and rope burns. What was the point of the tug-of-war? Was it worth the agony you’re feeling when it’s over? Really?

In well matched battles you reach that point of stale-mate, where the back and forth gains no real ground for either side. The feet dig harder, the thighs bend deeper, the hands grasp tighter, but there is no clear winner.

Here’s where the imagery grabs hold. What happens in a tug-of-war if one side doesn’t pull? The battle is over. The struggle is ended. The aching body can relax. The bleeding hands can be soothed. At some point in a tug-of-war stale-mate, somebody has to just let go.

The simplicity. Let go.

When you drop the rope, you drop the battle. You drop the anger, the resentment, the fear, the hurt, the doubt. It’s over. One person must let go first. It only takes one.

When you’re the only one who knows you’re even in a battle, you have to be the one to let go. If it’s a battle within yourself, there is nobody else to make a move. If you’re battling someone else, why not be the one to set you both free?

I’ve been in that battle (several, actually).  My heels dig in.  My legs quiver.  My hands are blanketed in the scars of rope burn.  In a particularly exhausting moment of one such battle this dear friend, whom I hold in high regard, gave me this imagery. “If you don’t want it to eat at you, at some point you’ve got to drop the rope,” he said.  In that moment it was as if I had just learned the meaning of life.

Much time has passed since then.  Years, in fact.  I’m still holding that rope.  Yes, that one and many others that I’ve picked up along the way.  Many times I’ve set my mind to letting go.  Deep breaths, relaxed palms.  I can take control of this.  I can stop feeling this way.  I can choose to let go.  Almost like magic I feel my metaphorical grip loosening.  My breath comes easier, less labored. My whole body is renewed.  I can do this!  I can let go!

Then it happens.  A word.  A look.  A gesture.  Suddenly the grip tightens again.  I am right back in the height of that battle.

I haven’t learned to let go.  I may loosen my grip once in a while.  But I keep that rope in my hand.  It’s right there for me to pull against when it’s necessary.  I need to learn to drop the rope.  I don’t want to be left with calloused hands marred by years of rope burns.  I hold my own chains of bondage.  I also hold the key to release.

It’s all about letting go.

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