“Accept what is, let go of what was, and have faith in what will be.” ~Sonia Ricotti
I was brought up in a family and culture that was riddled with fear.
My elders were terrified of the world and always on the defensive for something bad to happen. They believed that love meant closely protecting others from the dangers of the world and the pain of life.
This smothering behavior kept me small, and left me totally ill-equipped and ill-educated for living in the real world.
With this as the root of my upbringing, breaking free and learning to let go has been one of the hardest, but most important lessons of my life.
In my early teens I was sent to boarding school, and in the freedom of it I discovered I was naturally far more open, trusting, and relaxed. I liked it!
However, after a very difficult period of my life—my mum was ill with cancer and then I went through a series of painful losses, including the sudden death of some of my closest loved ones—I got very afraid.
Bad things had happened and I felt blindsided. Lacking the appropriate resources to cope with it, I began to live as I had been shown: I began to hold on to everything, especially my grief.
I would cling to relationships, jobs, and situations, even if they were outdated, no longer useful or right for me. I couldn’t let myself grow, or outgrow things.
Somewhere along the way I began to believe that I was bad for wanting to be free, and that bad things happen to bad people.
Turning Into Golem
Desperately, I held onto the love, light, and energy that I had inside of me, unwilling to share it with anyone, in case I lost that too.
I changed from a bouncy, smiley, fun-loving young woman to someone who hid in the corners seething.
It was as though I was curling up in a ball so that I could protect myself from the world and anything bad happening.
Although I saved myself from getting hurt by other people, ironically I was still hurting and afraid, but now nothing happened at all—not even the good stuff!
Eventually I had enough. I wasn’t living…
Time To Set Myself Free
For years I reflected, analyzed, and most of all grieved for the losses I had been holding onto, until finally the crying began to subside and I felt lighter, softer, and more relaxed.
I’d changed, but every time I began to try to live as the open me, I felt like I was running into a brick wall. The people in my life weren’t willing to see, hear, and accept the new, stronger, trusting me.
It was a huge revelation to realize it wasn’t about me anymore; it was about them.
But I was back in my childhood situation, smothered by other people’s fear of being free and strong.
For a while I fell into the old game of fighting against other people, trying to change them, and waiting for them to let go, stop being so scared, and be happy so I could have permission to be free.
I soon began to feel the familiar feeling of exhaustion from this futile exercise.
Finally Growing Up
At age 37 I realized that I could do something different. Just as I’d let go of my bottled grief and fear, I gave myself permission to let me go and take what I needed the most—the space to be free.
I turned my internal growth into external action—an act of love for myself.
It was time to give myself room to grow and discover strength, confidence, resilience, and trust—so I packed my bags, rented out my house, and set off on a road trip, with just my dog for company, and headed off toward Italy.
I gave myself six months, but it turned out I only needed three. I didn’t know what would happen to me, but I desperately hoped something would!
Like reaching the next level on computer game, new growth gives way to new challenges. We just have to be willing to accept these opportunities.
Letting go is not a one-stop shop, with a final destination, but a constant state of being.
As I began my 7000-mile quest into the big wide world to find freedom and return home again, I felt full of fear. But my anticipation and desire outweighed it, so I simply surrendered with one prayer in mind: Please give me what I need.
Am I Good Enough?
I had to let go of my deep-rooted fear that I wasn’t capable of coping with life and taking care of myself, even when the worst happened.
That meant facing situations that would make me quake in my boots, like getting completely lost on foot, with no phone, no map, and no water in the middle of rural central France.
I simultaneously faced my ingrained fear of leaving, and trusted that that everyone and everything would be okay without me. Nothing bad would happen, and if it did, it wasn’t my fault. Everyone would be all right and so would I.
Both fears were interlinked, and by releasing one, I could also release the other.
Only then did I begin to accept that other people have the capability to take care of themselves too, and that loving them means trusting that they can work it out.
If you truly love someone, you want them to be the strongest, bravest, most happy, confident version of themselves so they don’t need you to protect them, because they are then free to live.
Sometimes we need to teach others the skills to be able to cope with situations, people, and life, but demonstrating it by the way we live is a far more effective method.
Ultimately, though, we must let go, trust, and believe in them and ourselves in order to become stronger, more resilient, and more capable.
The Greatest Act Of Love Is Letting Go
For me, that had to start with letting go of controlling myself, my feelings, and my past pain, and then allowing myself to let go of how other people’s fear controlled me.
Throughout my journey I began to relax more and more into life and simply be me. This opened me up to connecting with amazing people from all over the world.
I began to hear their words of love and see myself through their eyes as a bubbly, passionate, fun, loving, open, brave woman.
By the time I returned home three months later, I was living lovingly toward me, so confident in who I had become that I was no longer afraid of losing those closest to me.
I didn’t need to control or be controlled anymore, under the disguise of loving protection. I was now strong enough to trust myself no matter what.
That’s why letting go is the greatest act of love. It’s letting others be free.
Photo by Katia Romanova