Remember that feeling of floating; that first time you actually managed to float on your back in the river/lake/ocean/pool/wherever you learned to float? I remember it quite clearly. My dad had hold of me and kept telling me not to struggle. To just lay back and let the water hold me. I didn’t believe him that the water would hold me. I fought and fought time and time again, until finally, I was exhausted and just laid back. I thought his hands were still under my back, but they weren’t. I was floating.
Floating requires no effort and yet some effort – like so many other things in life that are a paradox. When I float I have to make sure my head is back, I’m lifting up my middle, I’m laying back and then I have to let go. I have to trust the water is going to hold me and I’m not going to sink like a stone to the bottom. If I don’t get the balance right, I do start to sink. But if I can keep the balance just right, with little effort, I can float fully supported and held.
It takes letting go of the fear that I’m going to sink. It takes letting go and trusting in an elemental force.
Letting go and trusting. It feels like it’s one of the most difficult lessons we human beings must learn.
We arrive in this lifetime with nothing. We leave with nothing. Why do so many of us spend considerable time, money, energy, effort in acquiring stuff that we eventually need to let go? Why do we have this innate habit to collect stuff, to protect ourselves with objects, to build bigger houses, to own more stuff that we can ever need or use? And then we hold onto those things, way past the time they bring joy or are useful in our lives.
We hold onto them because letting them go is hard work.
Maybe they remind us of someone, or of our younger selves. Maybe we bought something that was tied up in aspiration, only to find it really wasn’t the item that we wanted. Often the things we buy and hold onto are surrogates for something else that we can’t have. For years, I bought shoes. I bought shoes to make me feel better about the fact that my marriage was failing. I couldn’t face that fact, so I hid in shoe stores.
No number of shoes were ever going to love me the way I wanted to be loved. But I kept buying them anyway.
I stopped buying shoes a few years ago. I stopped looking for a surrogate and realised I love who I am. If someone else doesn’t love me, I don’t really care. I don’t have time or space in my life for those who don’t love me. And now my money buys experiences rather than stuff. In fact, I’ve had a huge clear out of my house and have downsized considerably over the past year. I now own very little and it makes life fairly easy to start packing up to move at the end of the year.
Today I sold my beloved sports car I had bought earlier this year for my 50th birthday. The car was just a car. And yet it represented a lot more to me. It meant something to me because of my dad and the sports cars we always had in the garage as a kid. It meant something to me because of the friend who sold it to me. He let it go because his wife (who was also my friend) had died. The car meant something to me because it had been hers. I didn’t want to let it go. But I did. I let it go to a lovely young man who will love driving it as much as I did. And by letting it go, I’ve made room in my life for other things to come in.
And right now, I think that’s the balance of life. Letting what comes, come. Letting what goes, go. Trusting that what I need to come into my life will always come when I need it. Trusting that what I no longer have need of, will go. My needs are always met in amazing ways. Just like that water that holds me and helps me float, I am supported when I trust in the Universe.
I look around me and everywhere I look, people are hanging onto items in their life, clinging to the familiar, rather than examining whether those items actually serve the life they want to live.
Even love. We cling to love, to those who love us and who we love. Scared to lose love once we’ve found it. But no one is bound to another. We all can make choices: to stay or to leave. And sometimes staying isn’t predicated on love and leaving is. Isn’t that a strange kettle of fish???
We humans make life harder for ourselves that we need to. I’ve let go of so much lately. My beliefs about many things, my car, my beloved dog. But I have a feeling more is to come.
With letting go comes a feeling of freedom. It’s that same feeling that I had as a kid, just starting to float on my own.