I laid on the bathroom floor, my body limp and spent. Dried tears streaked down my face and animalistic whimpers would escape every so often between hiccuped breathing as I tried to soothe myself on the cold hard linoleum of the bathroom floor. No matter how hard I had kicked the door and screamed, no one came to rescue me or comfort me. What seemed like hours, the door finally opened, but the weight of my loss hung heavily on my shoulders for a very long time.
This moment in my life happened 37 years ago, and still, as I write this, I have a catch in my chest and tears in my eyes for that heartbroken little girl in the bathroom. I was two or three years old and visiting my grandparents. My great-great aunt was there and for a reason unbeknownst to me, she got very angry seeing how attached I was to my blankie. She yanked it out of my hands and threw it away. Unsurprisingly, I threw a massive fit so she locked me in the bathroom.
When my mom found out what happened, she got extremely angry and took me home immediately, but it was too late. My beloved blanket was gone forever. I don’t know how long I mourned that blanket, but clearly, that moment had a profound impact on my life. It’s the earliest childhood memory I can recall, and I can picture (and feel it) like it happened yesterday.
What We Cling To As Adults
For some reason, that memory popped vividly into my head recently. It got me thinking about security and the things we hold onto that make us feel safe. As adults, many times, we find our security in attachments that don’t really serve us, such as:
- Resentment, anger, and bitterness
- A relationship that no longer serves us
- A job we hate but provides a steady paycheck
- Our beliefs about religion, politics, life, and love
- Guilt and shame
We cling tightly to our negative “blankies” because they’re comfortable, they’re familiar, and without that security, whatever it may be, we’d have to figure out how to face the issue and work through it, which is scary and difficult. Let’s take anger as an example. Anger is easy and it feels safe to hold onto our anger toward a person who has wronged us. We nurture that anger, it burns brightly in our souls when we think about the injustice that has befallen us and when it is presented to us that we should let go of that anger, the inner child in us refuses. We think that by letting go of that anger, the person who did us wrong would no longer suffer and justice would not be served. The irony is that the only person that anger is affecting, is the person holding onto that anger – YOU.
Learning to Let Go
The irony of it all is that holding onto these bits of security is making us miserable and stealing our peace. And as we allow our security blankets to weigh us down, year after year, it begins to affect every aspect of our lives – our relationships, our attitudes, and even our physical health. We all know that prolonged stress puts you at risk for all kinds of health problems and disease. Plus, who really wants to be around someone who is bitter and resentful all the time? I was that person once (or twice) and trust me, I didn’t even want to be around myself!
[RELATED POST: When YOU’RE The Toxic Person In Your Life…(And How To Change It)]
I wish letting go was as easy as clicking your heels three times, and singing “Let it goooooo, let it goooo, can’t hold it back anymore,” while twirling around a castle you just created out of ice with your frozen heart, but unless you’re a Disney character, you’re pretty much out of luck. If you want to let go, you first need to DECIDE TO LET GO. The battle many times goes uphill from there, I’m afraid. Sorry to be the bearer of news you probably already know, but letting go (especially if it’s letting go of anger, resentment or bitterness) is a battle between you and your ego and your ego is a strong motherf*er.
If what you need to let go is a physical relationship, a lame job that makes you miserable or some other situation that is requiring you to put your foot down and walk out that door, your first step is also to DECIDE TO LET GO. You’ll need to figure out some of the details while you make an exit strategy, but I have found that sometimes the most effective way to let go of a relationship not serving you (that includes the relationship with your soul-sucking job), is to rip the band-aid off quickly and build a net on the way down (wait, did I just mix two idioms? Oh well, you know what I mean). Can’t rip off the band-aid quite so quickly? I get it. Sometimes, circumstances prevent you from an “eff it” exit (like putting food on the table), then there is one thing you ALWAYS have control of and that is YOUR ATTITUDE. Decide to change your attitude while you are planning your next steps and you’d be surprised at what happens. Just don’t use that as an excuse to not do anything to move toward your glorious exit.
In either case, letting go involves ACTION. And trust me, it’s much better for you to have the control and to take action instead of someone or something forcing your hand. When you have the control, you get to set your own terms and boundaries. For example, say you decide to stay in a bad relationship where he continues to cheat on you, but for you, the security of being with him is better than the fear of being alone until one day he decides to leave you for the other woman. How much time did you waste being with him? That time could’ve been spent building a better life and better self. Would you rather cling to your guilt and shame and live in brokenness and pain or would you prefer to face the guilt, forgive yourself, and happily and positively impact the world?
Letting go means you get to become the happy and unencumbered person that attracts amazing people and opportunities into your life. Doesn’t that sound better than holding onto that heavy burden you’ve been lugging around with you all these years?
Today, think about what is holding you back, the things you might be clutching that are weighing you down, and make the choice to take control of your life. Decide to let go of the negative things that you’re clinging onto so tightly before your mean great-aunt comes and rip that security blanket out of your hands (so to speak). I no longer remember that blanket what it looks or feels like, but I mourn for the little girl who didn’t understand why her beloved blankie was taken from her. But clearly, I survived and thrived without it. And you can, too.
Books I’m Reading
- Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
- The Art of Memoir by Mary Karr
- Reading Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert for the second time
*These books are affiliate linked, which means if you click on them, and at no additional cost to you, I will earn a commission if you decide to make a purchase after clicking through the link