Let Go of Letting Go.
I kept trying to let go because that’s what they say to do. Let it go. Let it go. Let it go. It took me years to realize all the letting go wasn’t going anywhere. It was staying.
It was staying, but it was also changing. It was becoming something else. And then something else. And then something else. I realized, instead of working so hard to let go, my work was to create a way to hold it. To let it evolve.
What if the real work is not to let go, but to carefully cradle what is left, to make a space within yourself for the expansion of your aching heart? To forever reckon with the unrequited love and the misplaced feelings? To find ways to channel the energy of everything that once was?
What if it is your duty to find a way to live the rest of your days embracing and honoring all the undone, to be a walking artwork of all the shattered pieces rearranged?
In a culture of just-move-the-fuck-on, this probably isn’t the most popular idea floating around the internet, but it’s the only thing that has worked for me. I am a paradox, a living breathing collage of all my loves and losses. I have enough space for every feeling I’ve ever felt and room for more, always more. I am everything that has ever happened to me, and I thrive due to and in spite of this.
I read somewhere once that break-ups prepare us for death. If this is the case, we have to go through the motions, feel the grief and mourn before we can do anything else. Get rid of the stuff, read the helpful books, write the never-going-to-be-read letters, cry and rage and ache and Twitter-stalk until you don’t anymore. Have the funeral. Scatter the ashes.
Lay a flower down on the grave of your loss, the tombstone of your old self. Do the forgiving but not forgetting, and then find a way to make peace with what is left. There is always something left for us, from those who are gone, and this is the greatest gift, when we figure out how to receive it.
We have to acknowledge this isn’t a linear process, so when you find yourself on your knees mourning again, when nothing at all feels like a gift, stay there and feel it, for as long as it takes. Hold on to that he-loves-me-not flower plucked bare. Keep following the hurt. This is the beginning.
Your job is to create from the ground up, the internal space, the compassion for all of it. The great work is turning that line he said to you in the car once into your best poem. It’s writing the love song, line by torturous line, of everything that worked and then hearing it back with awe. It’s the novel that has been inside of you all this time and now you have the plot.
It’s the black-and-white photograph of his cat in the window that you print yourself and stretch onto canvas. It’s cultivating the gratitude for what you learnt, and creating something with it that didn’t exist before you and won’t exist without you. It’s tattooing these lessons on your soul and then speaking their truth.
It’s throwing down a ton of paint on a canvas when you haven’t painted since you were a kid, seeing the great big colorful mess and hanging it on your wall, saying This is who I am now.
This is the art of holding on. You hold on to all the details of all of it, give the pain an ever-evolving purpose that you and only you can live with and through. For all that you hold, you become a more creative, empathetic and kind human.
When you use everything you have, you become someone who feels the fragility of all things, an expanded version of yourself, both broken and healed, loved and lost, constantly creating and always becoming.
Jennifer Chardon is fascinated with creating answers to unanswerable questions. She is currently at work on a novel, If I Ever Write A Book, It Will Be About You. The title will probably change. Jennifer has spent much of the last decade backpacking, journaling, and staying up late. She lives in Hawaii, and spends a lot of time staring directly at the sun. Find her in the void here.