You know when a child has captured a toad, a worm, a grasshopper—and they are so excited and want to keep it, and perhaps have loved it a little too much? And what’s the lesson we teach them? Mainly one of letting go, and also of respecting living creatures; but, little ones just want to keep everything, don’t they? It seems to be a natural instinct that we spend our lives trying to overcome.
As we grow older, we start to realize that nothing can really be kept. And we often read lessons on letting go, and how to let go, and how you can lighten your burden by letting go. The toad can’t live unless you let her go.
Perhaps that pain of letting go is fueled by the knowledge that nothing stays.
There’s so much emphasis on letting go, and our need to do so, and the resistance we feel to the idea. What about looking at it slightly differently? What if we look at holding on? More to the point—the cost of holding on?
What does it cost us to hold on too tightly? Well, the toad dies. Our suffering is too acute. And we fail to live in the moment. We fail to live in the way that creates the memories we will cherish. We cost ourselves the chance to flourish and thrive when we hold on too tightly and refuse to let go. We cost ourselves the heavy burden of mental anguish.
“When you hold resentment toward another, you are bound to that person or condition by an emotional link that is stronger than steel. Forgiveness is the only way to dissolve that link and get free.” (Catherine Ponder)
And here is the pulse-point—the space in between the crack: we don’t want to let go because, then, we don’t get to see the toad anymore, we might not remember that sweet friendship documented in notes living in boxes taking up space in the basement if we get rid of those boxes, we don’t want the leaves to fall and the tomatoes to go and the winter to come—all shriveled and frosted over. We don’t want the uncomfortable feelings. We don’t want what is our perception of lack (partly remedied by focusing on the abundance).
But there is also beauty in the break down of feelings, emotions, the process of letting go.
We can love the winter because it gives us the time to move inward, revel in our spirit, get more sleep. We can let go of the boxes of cluttered memories in the basement, and rest in knowing that those moments shaped who we actually are, in our very cells, so there is no way to forget. We can set that toad free so that we can know she is out there, living the life a toad is meant to live.
The cost of not letting go is weight. The cost is heartache, because the world will turn and move on anyhow, and drag you, knees scraping, behind it. The cost is not becoming. Not becoming who you might be. By clinging to who you were.
I’m not trying to sound macabre, but, there is beauty and growth in our darker parts, too. Life is a balance of all things, yin and yang—not avoidance of that which makes us uncomfortable. Balance is achieved when we are as willing to face the darkness as we are to embrace the light.
I meet this resistance a lot, as a health coach. People can want to lose weight, for example, and at the same time fear who they will be without the weight. Fear how the people in their lives will receive the “new” them. Sometimes they even fear looking at and letting go of the emotions that hold them in place. In this case, the cost of not letting go of their idea of who they are (or perceive themselves to be) is self-sabotage, and sacrificing their own health (physical and mental).
We sabotage our own growth when we can’t let go of things.
So, please, keep what you need. Keep what you love and brings you joy. Your growth is your souvenir. Your smile, your laugh, that song you always sing—those are your relics, built by the moments in your life. But let go of the rest.
Free the toad.
April Dawn Reigart is an Integrative Nutrition Certified Holistic Health Coach with over 20 years of holistic and macrobiotic cooking experience. She has also published articles on topics such as Fair Trade and GMOs. April is passionate about changing the way we eat and empowering people to take charge of their health.