An Invitation to Let Go
Updated: Aug 4, 2020
As many of us settle into understanding that our “new normal” isn’t going to change any time soon, our reactions have run the gamut. I’ve seen myself, my family, friends, neighbors, communities, and the whole world pitch along with and weather the waves brought by COVID-19. I’ve seen different expressions of the traditional stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. We slip and slide between these states, occupying different ones at different times, cycling back through them and jumping between them.
We cling fiercely to what was, we at times try to carry on as though little has changed, we try to retain some semblance of normalcy and social connection, we move tentatively and nervously as we learn more about the virus, we don masks or we don’t, we oscillate between paralysis and activity, we bury ourselves in our work, we exercise more – or perhaps less - we dream in technicolor, we may meet our shadows.
Adding to our experience of Coronavirus in the U.S., we’ve been confronted with egregious displays of violence enacted on Black citizens, leading to an amplified outcry in response to the pervasive systemic racism and racial injustice that has led to the deaths of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and multitudes of others since our nation’s fraught beginnings. We can not ignore the disparity of how communities of color have been profoundly impacted by COVID-19. White people are awakening to the ways in which our privilege contributes to the countless micro-aggressions that people of color withstand each day. We are beginning to see how these incidents are as insidious as more overt forms of racism, a death by a thousand cuts.
We may also be feeling the chronic strain and tension that our political system has wrought. Regardless of where we fall in terms of personal and political ideology or beliefs, we are at war with ourselves during a time in which there is such a great need for compassion, understanding, and connection.
Regardless of where we arrive at today with regards to our individual experience and process, this is not passive work. It is active and activating. It is tiring and trying. And the truth of the matter is today is forever different. I find sometimes that I refer to certain memories or experiences as being “BC” (Before COVID). Because I feel in every fiber of my being that we will not, and cannot, go back.
When I first began my work as a doula, I remember reading about how the little and large goodbyes we experience throughout our lives are priming us for what someday will be our ultimate goodbye. And as many of us either know or are able to intuit in our quiet moments, while this time is sadly bringing literal death to so many – it brings with it a metaphorical death for us all. Many of us are keenly aware that this event will come to define not just today, but what comes after, as well. Life “BC” is gone.
When our dying time approaches, having to say goodbye to things that defined our lives is one of its most noticeable hallmarks. It can happen both progressively over time and in the wink of an eye. Physical limitations set in, cognitive complications arise. Simple tasks becomes arduous. Common states of being that we had taken for granted become elusive, such as “comfortable” or “relaxed”. Activities we once took pleasure in fall to the wayside, one by one. The way our bodies felt so good when they were in motion, the long and meandering conversations that used to last for hours with friends, the delight of tasting favorite foods, the pleasure of the gentle touches of our loved ones. These and other meaningful moments slip away. Our world narrows. We withdraw, pulling inward. And in time, we let go.
If we hold in our minds the possibility that this time is bringing metaphorical death, too, what might this mean? If we accept this possibility, could we allow ourselves to grieve properly? And then, would we turn to the important work of meeting this grief by bringing our awareness to the things which we’ve had to let go? Perhaps it is a sense of security in feeling that tomorrow would come. Or a realization that aspects of our lives aren’t in alignment in some way. Or perhaps we’ve learned that we’ve been too apathetic or passive in our lives, not answering an invitation to stand up and use our voice and time to make a positive impact while we were here. Could we then begin to acknowledge the aspects of ourselves that we need to shed…to recognize what inside us is outmoded, and needing to die? Could we inquire into the things that are preventing us from connecting with something larger than our limitations, larger than our stories, larger than ourselves? Could we proactively let go?
Yes, letting go is frightening. No doubt about this. Yet perhaps the gift that accompanies this tenuous period is to ask ourselves what we could do differently today. What can we do to enhance meaning and deepen gratitude each day for the lives we are given? And to support this impulse, had you heard the news that there is now a sixth stage of grief, called "finding meaning"? Now seems to be an appropriate time to do just this.
And when the day comes to say our ultimate goodbye (because we know that day will come, sooner or later) … will we know that we had lived our best possible lives? Will we feel content in reflecting on how we used the time we were given? Will we carry regret for the choices that we made, or the opportunities we let slide by? Or will we have met these regrets with forgiveness, and let them go, too?
Perhaps these are questions we can hold space for, as we navigate the pain of this time. Maybe they can even help us know how to greet our day just a bit differently, today. Let us open more fully to what is, and what has yet to come. Perhaps now is when we need to ready the soil to take tiny steps that collectively can help us live our lives as if it’s not a practice run – because it isn’t. And if we’ve taken nothing else away than this truth during our fragile and tender unfolding, let’s let that be enough.