I've been thinking a great deal about letting go lately, and have written about it extensively in my private journal. But I find myself feeling called to put something about it here as well.
I'm not a person who lets go easily. Or accepts personal changes readily. I wish I did. I wish I could. But I don't and at this point in time I can't. It is for that reason that it may seem to others that I take an infinitely long time to make big personal decisions (not the case with other decisions that I need to make, like work decisions).
The upsides, or good sides, of this are several. First, I generally have a pretty stable life in terms of place, friends, work, etc. I suppose that can seem boring to some, but it isn't to me. For me, each day is full of adventure and newness without having to move around a great deal. And I find the longer I am in a place, the better I know it and the people in it, and the more I learn about relationships and places, the more I see the gifts they are and value them.
Second, I love forever. Once I have loved you, that just doesn't end, whether it be friend, family, parishioner, colleague, partner, place or whatever. The caring may change - friends become family, or relationships change and my thinking about them has to change, associations with a place change how I see it, but my caring, my love, doesn't end. It can't. I'm simply not built that way. Also, I don't believe relationships with people or places ever actually "end". They change. Even if we don't see each other anymore, or interact anymore, if my thoughts ever go to you, either of their own accord or because your name has been mentioned, the relationship has continued in that way. And since our time together has impacted who I am, what I see, what I think and feel about life, the relationship continues in that way too. All other feelings connected to a relationship eventually seem to pass, but love doesn't for me. And I'm grateful for that. I found myself thinking today about a friendship that ended when I was about eleven years old. And while it ended with hard feelings on both sides (young girls are not always kind to one another), on the rare occasions that I think of her, I still have fond feelings and care for that old friend. My memories of her focus not on the ending but on the grace-filled time we shared together. I hope and pray that she is well. I feel this way about every one I've truly connected with. I don't know if this is typical or not. But it is the way I am. It's not that I never get angry or upset with people, I do. But those feelings pass and as I experience life, they seems to pass more and more quickly, in part because I recognize that all of us have failings, all of us have limits and all of us fall short, including myself.
Another upside to this for me is that I keep most of my close friendships, and I stay long enough in places to get to know them deeply. I still have friends from childhood. My two best friends from college remain my two best friends. But I've also made other close friends throughout my life, who are now all over the world and country. I am deeply grateful for each one of them, they each continue to hold strong and valued places in my heart, and our relationships continue, despite distance and time. It is amazing to have been on this journey with someone for over 25 or even 35 years. And again, I find that time passing while relationships continue teaches me things not only about others, but about myself as well. Also, some of these friendships are so solid and deep that we can be truly open and honest with each other in ways that may not always be comfortable, but again, help each of us to grow, to see things in new ways, to expand our understanding of people, ourselves and even God. These people are gems I would never trade. They have helped me to become a better version of me, have called me on my stuff and offered solid shoulders to cry on. They've seen the mistakes I've made, the ugly marks I wear, the character flaws that are part of my being and they love me still. I've also been given the great gift of walking with them through their life transitions, hearing their struggles and their joys, watching them grow and change as well. It has truly been an honor to travel with these amazing people. I am grateful to walk this life with many of them still. And I am grateful for the ones with whom I am no longer connected for the time we did have together.
The downside, as I said at the beginning of this post, is that it is hard for me to let go. Even when others reject me, I don't stop caring. And while I think God calls us to love and care for everyone, sometimes that caring hurts. When it is not reciprocated, when it is dismissed or rejected, when it is not valued, when trust is broken, it hurts. And for me, it sometimes hurts longer than it should because of the way in which (the depth to which) I love.
That being said, I've come to understand "letting go" a little differently, finally. Because, as I said, I don't really "let go" ever. Instead, I simply have to work to accept that a change has happened. And I continue to think, feel, live with my heart connected to many, some of whom no longer reciprocate that connection. That's okay. My thoughts and feelings remain my own. For my own wholeness, I choose to dwell on the good. I think about someone and find myself smiling at the thought of her face, or his quirky behavior. I remember the goofy things as well as the deep conversations and find myself grateful for whatever time we had. I choose to forgive and to love and to care. I let my thoughts stray to whomever they go, and I pray for whomever those thoughts encounter. Eventually, those prayers heal me, even though that isn't their intention. And finally those prayers move me more deeply into a sense of grace, compassion, empathy, forgiveness and love, even when there is no possibility of reconciliation or reciprocation of that caring. Sometimes that process is slow. Sometimes it is quick. Either way, by God's grace, today I am at peace with the world. By God's grace, for today, there remains no one with whom I am angry, hurt or upset. For today, with God's help, I think of all I have encountered with love. And that, THAT, is by the grace of God, indeed.