“The bad news is, you’re falling through the air, nothing to hold onto, no parachute. The good news is, there’s no ground.”
I have less than a week left in New York. After 8 years of growing, changing, and learning here, I feel like my parachute strings are being cut, one by one. Memories pop out at me unexpectedly, and I feel ridiculous, weeping at the slightest provocation and the most random moments. (Last week, I burst into tears while playing Wii Just Dance with the children I babysit for – mortifyingly to the Katy Perry song “Hot and Cold”).
I am having trouble letting go.
In yoga, this idea of “letting go”- of expectations, of past experiences, of thoughts in general – has always been difficult for me to come to terms with. A large part of how I define myself is through my past experiences – the mental and physical memories which I feel embedded in my sense of self. Recollections of those I love are stored in more than just words and thoughts; they are imprinted into my muscles, organs, and nervous system. Letting go of any of that feels like a loss of self, a negation of the experiences and the people that have made me who I am. Some days, I feel the notion is not only frustrating but physiologically impossible.
So, it is a good thing that we don’t have to completely let go.
When we speak of “letting go,” we cannot mean fully erasing a memory, or invalidating what we feel. To do so would set ourselves up for failure. As Pema Chödrön says, “If there’s some sense of wanting to change yourself, then it comes from a place of feeling that you’re not good enough. It comes from aggression toward yourself.” Trusting in the validity of our experiences and emotions is necessary. We have a right to cherish things we are leaving until the last possible moment, or mourn things we have lost long enough to give them due respect. The timing needed to let go is different for each person and each experience, and the challenge is to make friends with that process and trust in your own timing. By doing so, we allow our minds to recognize the imprint (positive or negative) that we are left with, and to organize it within a larger picture. Letting go of something is really just filing it away into a place where it can inform us, without controlling us.
These past few weeks, I have been frustrated with myself; I felt I was spending every waking moment sad about something I was losing, rather than “moving on.” Then, right when I felt the most low, I taught a yoga class and felt a little clearer. I talked to a friend, and a few words she shared really resonated. There was a shift, and all that aggression and expectation I was feeling began to slip away. It was as if I had been tugging at a piece of fruit each day, and then suddenly, it ripened and fell into the palm of my hand with the slightest touch. I was left with the sweetness of the memory, and avoided pulling the whole tree branch down onto my head.
My time left in New York feels bittersweet. Each bucket list item I complete is a brief pause as I plummet towards the end of my time here. But I am comforted by the knowledge that I will never “let go” of the amazing, sad, poignant, meaningful, silly, or seemingly irrelevant moments I have had here. Living in the present is not forgetting our past or ignoring our future; it is realizing that our past selves and future potential are within us in each moment. When I travel to Baltimore, I won't "let go" of my New York memories. I will allow them to carry me forward into a new set of experiences, discoveries, and the memories to come.
Congratulations and good luck to Alice in her future studies at Johns Hopkins University!