The Art Of Letting Go

Letting go

Letting go of the past can be one of life’s biggest challenges. (Quote by life coach Jordan Bach)

Sometimes we get stuck in life when we lose something or someone we once had. A friend, a spouse, a job, a house, a child. The list is endless. If we didn’t choose to get rid of whatever or whoever it was, if circumstances robbed us of that prized possession or loved one without our permission, we can stagnate in life if we’re not careful. So what can we do to get out of that well of self pity and doubt when all seems lost?

Life coach and YouTube sensation Jordan Bach boils it down to something we can all relate to when he says, “Life is like monkey bars. You have to let go in order to move forward.” I absolutely love this. The moment he told me this via Twitter, it was like a light bulb exploded overhead. I mean, this is something I’ve always known, but I love the simplicity of this statement because it is visual and timeless. If we don’t let go, we simply hang tenaciously in midair. And I don’t know about you, but my arms get tired after a while!

Over the past year, I’ve come to realize that people in my life have been hanging in space for a while now, caught in limbo of sorts because they can’t let go. One of my friends in Cincinnati, Barry Karcher, used to say, “Don’t just talk about it, be about it,” or in essence, be the change you want to see in the world, or in your own life for that matter. In one instance I’ve tried to encourage a friend to do just that for some time now, but no matter what I say or do, this person remains as unmovable as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Bach suggests this friend might still be in the grieving process though, and I know from past experience that not everyone can compartmentalize and shelve the past as easily as the next. When Heather’s father died, she was so sad and I was at a total loss as to what to say to console her. Since my own experiences with my father-in-law had never been positive, it was difficult to say “chin up” with conviction.

The same is true when a couple’s relationship ends. I’ve had several friends who broke up because one person believed in monogamy and the other didn’t. So what can we do when we’re watching a loved one sink into depression and get stuck, unable to move forward on the proverbial monkey bars of life? Bach says that we can’t make someone let go. What we can do is help them grieve the past they wanted but never got.

I’ve done this before, many times. When a colleague lost his job after decades of service, I listened as he talked out the unfairness of the situation. After my father-in-law died, I found myself listening to my wife and her family as they dished about what it was like to grow up with someone who could be so challenging to live with. And when one of my best friends lost everything he loved in one fell swoop, I  listened as he processed what had happened.

Yes, sometimes there isn’t much that we can do as a bystander but watch and listen, offer consolation and solace, and wait for our friends and loved ones to find their way. But like a loving father does with a child at the monkey bars when his feet can’t touch the ground, we can give the support our friends need until they learn to swing their bodies and grab the next rod… then the next… and the next. Eventually we will be able to let go and watch them fly from one end of the monkey bars to the next without any help at all. And hopefully, if we are kind and patient with others, they’ll be there to help us find our own strength when we face loss, until we learn to let go of the past ourselves.

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About Jathan Fink
Jathan is a journalist, philanthropist, and entrepreneur. He is also a travel junkie, foodie and jazz aficionado. A California native, he resides in Texas.

2 Responses to The Art Of Letting Go

  1. Deb Gilmore says:

    Jathan,

    How I needed this! Steve and I are struggling right now too. With our daughters’ situation, we sometimes are at a loss or making mistakes. Thank you.

    Deb

    • Jathan Fink says:

      Deb,

      I’m so glad you enjoyed my post and that it was helpful to you. Letting go is a process, and sometimes it just downright stinks! Sometimes it is easier than others, but when it involves the heart and people we love, that is always tough and complicated. But I’ve found that if I throw myself into doing something that focuses on others, it shifts my focus off myself and makes it easier to get out of my hole of despair. Oftentimes when I learn what others are dealing with, suddenly my own situation doesn’t seem as bleak. It also helps when I surround myself with friends, particularly when they are ones who I can laugh with. That kind of positivity is always good for the soul. Speaking of which, you and Steve and Donna have always been the kind of people who lift us up when we need it. So I’m glad we can be of encouragement to you too. Hang in there!

      Hugs,
      Jathan & Heather

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