It’s January 2020 and I want to tell you about how I recently let go of control in a way both familiar and entirely new to me. It has to do with my compassionate, independent, loving & sometimes cocky, 18 year old son.
After 2 days of college orientation and a day to help him get what he needed to move into his dorm, I said goodbye (for now) to my sweet boy. Nothing new or entirely interesting about this for most folks, as it is the natural course of life’s unfolding, a new milestone to celebrate and be proud of but wow, did my reaction take me by surprise. Saying goodbye last Fall when he set off on his South American gap year adventures, felt really different than this.
Perhaps my sadness at the juncture of this next stage of his life bore the weight of a deep down latent cry that I still hadn’t let out, surrounding the intense stress we all felt in getting him home from Ecuador after being struck by a car while running from a pack of stray dogs. Wha?! Yes, this is true and it’s also true that I hadn’t yet had the space to grieve this event or his gap year being abruptly cut short, as I was busy helping him get all the care he needed to heal and move forward.
But alas, here we are. He’s healed his leg and championed his way into the next phase-college life. And the cry? Well, it came on in slow trickles at the airport, then more like a heavy rain on the flight home, where I feverishly wrote all the advice I could think to give, some of which I’d already given many times before but felt the need to re-iterate so that I could let go and know that I’d done everything I could to get him to this point in his beautiful life. Then, the tears like a tidal wave in the car coming home from the airport. Sobs like pull-over-the-car-and-let-it-out-kinda-cry, cuz you shouldn’t be driving!
The release came and it was my letting go, my yoga, my Aparigraha, meaning non-attatchment, non-clinging, just for now. Doesn’t mean I won’t revisit it again and again but for now, the letting go of worry and all that’s now beyond my control ,is a freedom that invites more space within my heart for holding him. I can choose to trust he will make the kind of choices that lead him to an abundant, fulfilling, enriching college experience.
Krishna Das wisely observed that our minds are well practiced in the “holding-on” muscle and less versed in the “letting-go” muscle. Why not bring to your 2020, the intention of letting-go more often: stop sweating the small stuff and allow the big and small stuff to move through us so we aren’t carrying it around like a sack of struggle we don’t know where to put down. It’s a practice, like most things that are worth it, and practice makes progress…..
Here’s what I wrote to him on the airplane home.
Feel free to share with anyone you know who may find it useful:
My sweet boy, I’m so proud of you for taking this leap! It’s a momentous milestone that affects all of us: You, Me, Dad, Sister, our family, your Seattle community of friends, mentors, teachers & peers and even your present and future teachers.
I want to remind you of a few things cuz I’m your mom and I love and support you and am celebrating right along with you, as you begin laying the groundwork for a thriving life!
- Stay connected to your school support systems & community: academic advisors, success coaches, the health clinic (free condoms and mental health counselors too!), your professors, dean of students, the rec room, fitness center, library, study groups, students in your college of study. We thrive when we stay engaged with the familiar faces in and around us. Learn the names of the dining hall servers, the janitors as well as your new neighbors. This is your new, blossoming community-how exciting!
- Practice rigorous self-honesty and stay out of denial. Life is full of uncomfortable realities we all have to navigate, and denying their existence makes the problem grow bigger and more intractable the longer you leave it. (Don’t be the ostrich!)
- Be aware of how you numb out. We all do it, just be mindful about your go-to numb out and try to create new healthier habits to avoid doing it all the time. Notice if your numb-out is a procrastination for work you’re avoiding, or a celebration of a task completed.
- Make smart choices that keep you safe. Take the kind of risks you can come back from, not the kind that alter the entire course of your life.
- Nothing’s permanent. Whatever’s hard will pass. Life is an evolution, and when you feel stuck, pay attention. It usually has something valuable to teach you.
- Remember that everything is fix-able and everything is figure-out-able. You are never all alone. Ask for help, it’s how we learn.
- Triumphs and mistakes both have valuable lessons in them. Curiosity and observation have always served you well. Let it continue to serve you as you navigate your new life. You got this!
- I believe in you and am always rooting for you. I love you no matter who or what you become and all I want is for you to be happy and fulfilled along your journey. I will always support you with unconditional love. And finally….
- Always wear a condom and please don’t fall out of your bunk.