If you know me personally or you read my previous post “Flowing with Uncertainty”, you will know that I am a warrior. I will borrow the words of Paulo Coelho and say a “Warrior of Light”.
One important characteristic that comes with being a warrior is persistence. Once I identify a clear goal that I am passionate about, I am determined to reach it. I was never scared of hard work, pressure, ambiguity, risks or any obstacles that come my way. There is always a way to maneuver and to keep going. “If there is a will, there is a way”.
Persistence is one of the great qualities that helped me to be where I am today.
But as I always said and believed, our utmost points of strength are also our points of weakness. I have observed that in my life consistently and I learned to look at the two flips of the coin. Whenever, I have a weakness, I look at its light shadow which is the strength it gave me and whenever I have a strength, I look at is a dark shadow which is usually a serious weakness.
For me, persistence had a pricy shadow: simply not knowing when to let go.
If it is true that we choose to come to every life incarnation to learn specific lessons, then definitely one of my lessons for this life is learning to let go; and my God, I have been such a slow learner.
People struggle to have the mental resilience to persist, for me, I just don’t know when to stop persisting or when to fail.
Of course, I am fully aware of the importance of failure and how failures are just lessons and there is no growth without setbacks. However, when that Alpha part within me kicks in, failure is not an option.
This doesn’t mean that I don’t fail, but the aftermath of failure has been super tough. It takes time for the spiritual being to kick aside the warrior and to bring in the wisdom of making peace with failure. I know, I am a complicated work in progress!
When we don’t accept to let go, a serious issue arises which is being stuck. We end up being stuck in miserable unhealthy situations: Work, relationships, causes, illusions, you name it. I have done them all! And every time I was stuck, I had a heroic story of why I should fight like a Samurai till the end. Smart people don’t get deceived by others, we fool ourselves with stories that we fabric and tell ourselves, though deep inside we always know the truth.
The confusing part is that I grew up reading that people usually give up during the last mile when they are very close to winning. Even when it comes to sports, coaches tell us to make sure to keep pushing through when we think we reached our limit and we can’t go anymore, this is when the real training starts. This is really when we are in the zone.
I tell young entrepreneurs whom I mentor the story of Colonel Sanders and how he was rejected 1009 times before his recipe got accepted and thus he built the KFC empire.
So, when do we draw the line?
I can’t remember when did I start realizing that I have issues letting go. You know when we are not aware of the reason a pattern keeps repeating in our lives, no matter how many times the pattern repeats, we stay blind to the lesson. It’s only when we understand the “why” and bring light to it that we can break that pattern. That’s what psychology tells us.
I think the death of my dad was the loudest wake-up call for me.
My dad passed away a few years back after a long-suffering with MSA. It was a very difficult journey for him and for us. The doctors told us that there is nothing that can be done and his situation will deteriorate drastically within 5-7 years and he will die. I was so angry cause I couldn’t heal him, so I set myself on a mission to keep him alive as long as possible. I decided he was not ready and he deserves to live longer and I will not fail him in achieving that.
Obviously he wasn’t the only one who wasn’t ready.
I always joke that when my dad decided to leave this world, he made sure to do it quickly, peacefully, and when I was not around.
I can’t blame the poor man! During the last year or so of his life, I took him to the hospital twice in a very critical condition, no one thought he will survive, not even his doctors. But it didn’t matter to me, I was next to him in the ambulance every time and I told him confidently though he was not conscious: “dad, we are going to that hospital together and we are going back home together”, I always delivered on that promise.
I wish I was less hard on him and on myself and that I accepted the reality that his time was coming close and that I should be focused more on enjoying the time left with him rather than trying to stop life cycle.
After a year of his death and while reflecting, I realized that maybe part of why he stayed longer in this life suffering, was that I wasn’t ready to let go. You can imagine the guilt that came with that thought. It was a long trip with guilt till a very wise Irish woman told me with a smile: “Darling, you are not God and not his soul, so find yourself something else to feel guilty about. But yes, you do need to let go”. What a relief, and what a message.
Few months after this encounter and while having dinner with a very kind Sufi guy that did healing massage for me, he suddenly says to me out of nowhere “you need to learn to let go, or letting go of your last breath will be very painful”. He was shocked by what he said and he apologized quickly.
I just smiled silently and I accepted the message and didn’t try to kill the messenger.
Later that night when I was alone, I did my drama and I cried for long. I was pissed off with the universe. Why am I being sent such messengers! Who said I wanted to die anyway! I love my life and I don’t want to let go!
It took me a couple of hours of drama to go back to the rational me and to decide that if the universe sent me such clear messages, then its time to shape up and to change.
To me there are two types of letting go, one is knowing when to let go when I have control over the situation, and the other is accepting that I need to let go when I have no control.
For battles that I choose to fight consciously and that I have control over, I needed a practical approach, a rational model that helps me decide when to persist or to let go.
I think I found a ritual to help me do that.
When I start feeling stuck, when the pressure increases and I feel I am losing my joy while I am on a mission, when I am not sure if I should let go or keep fighting.
I do a long deep breathing session till I calm my mind and then I bring the challenging situation to my awareness. I focus on the original mission that started me on that journey, I try to be mindful to separate the pressure and the stress that comes from the challenges of the journey from the original mission or dream.
When my mind is calm enough, I start asking myself the following questions and every time I feel anxiety coming, I question if the anxiety is coming from the core mission or from the challenges that come with it. If it’s coming from the challenges, then I go back to breathing and focus my attention on the core mission and I ask myself:
- Does the final destination still thrill me?
- Does it still make my life more meaningful?
- Is it still aligned with my core values that I choose to live by? Recently joy and personal growth have been among the values that take priority in deciding
- Can the focus on the final destination still give me enough joy for the journey in spite of all the challenges?
If the answer is yes to these questions, then I know it’s still worth fighting for. I pick up myself, put a smile on my face and I continue the fight without complaining.
When it comes to things that I don’t have control over, it’s a different story. I am learning to surrender and to trust the cycle of life. My mind knows that resenting what I can’t change is insanity and wasted energy that I can conserve to use in situations where that energy will make a difference. My soul is learning to rest in the moment and to accept what it brings gracefully.
Every day there is a lot that we need to learn to let go of and we need to do it mindfully so that we can do it with joy. We need to let go of people, places, dreams, pets, our bodies as they age, our beauty that fades away, money that comes and goes, moments that will never come back and most importantly life itself.
Though this might sound like a depressing reality, it’s really the opposite. It creates an appreciation of the now and what we have and gives us enormous power and persistence to live life fully accepting whatever comes our way and trying to make the best out of it.
It’s not easy but it’s very much doable, maybe not all the time, but at least most of the time.
Letting go is a life-long learning path that I am committed to. My first steps were with letting go of simple daily stuff, however, my final goal is crystal clear. I am training myself for the final letting go when its time to let go of this life and to start a new journey. Hopefully by then, I will do it consciously and with joy.