The Fucked-Up, Messy Art of Letting Go

So, here’s a fun LKF (little known fact) about Erika to start your day in honor of Pearl Harbor Day.

On Pearl Harbor Day in 1999, I married my second husband and then moved to Japan.

Tell me why that marriage didn’t last.

Speaking of shit from the past — I think today’s a fine time to talk about the fucked-up, messy art of letting shit go.

Things, people, feelings, situations.

I mean, if you think about it, getting something out of your life is as superficially simple as asking a simple question:

DO I STILL WANT THIS?

In case of yes, break glass and proceed to dance with joy because you are a GOOD THING HAVING MOTHERFUCKER.

In case of no, let it go.

But if we did everything we wanted, and all prompted by asking ourselves a five-word question, I’d be living in a 3-bedroom co-op in New York City on the Upper West Side and be entirely too busy with my philanthropic endeavors and pet mink to ponder silliness such as this with you. I’d also apparently be super posh and speak with an affected accent from an indeterminate region.

Because letting go of shit isn’t a switch you flip. Okay, maybe it’s a switch you flip but it’s not one I flip.

Because even when you flip the switch, it lingers.

Like drinking and smoking. I let both of those things go — just stopped one day. Yet I won’t lie and say I don’t miss the moments of solitude on my back stoop, thinking while I take an exceptionally long drag and enjoying silence, save for the sounds of the city. I won’t lie and say I don’t miss the taste of a solid glass of chilled sauvignon blanc as it greets my palate on a warm summer’s day and how the fruity notes hang back for a few moments once the sip is swallowed.

If I was exceptional at anything in this lifetime, I was exceptional at getting both smoking and drinking done. I gave a lot of my 43 years to both, on and off and in varying capacities and with varying levels of success.

But when you leave something…or even someone behind, it all lingers. And the lingering stuff is what’s so fucked up.

And that’s what makes leaving shit behind just the worst and an entirely fucked up, messy art.

Because when we finally make the decision to let that thing/person/situation go, there’s the fallout — the linger — from that decision.

As soon as we make the decision — or, in many of life’s more adorable (and by adorable I mean complete shit) moments when that decision is made for us — to leave something behind, there are a whole host of thoughts, feelings, and questions that are ready to fuck with us between each sip of coffee, every pee break from the cubicle, and during every almost-silent moment when our brains think, “Hey! This sounds like a great time to remind you about that thing you left behind!”

So how do we let go if all that shit is going to do is linger?

Well, it’s a process. Like grieving. Whether we let go of (or get let go by) something good or bad, we’ve got some serious Kubler-Ross-flavored bullshit that’s about to be heaped upon us.

Denial

Anger

Bargaining

Depression

Acceptance

Bet let’s talk about the act of letting go — the bullshit you feel in your life right now that needs some serious cord-cutting. Because it will help us get specific about the actual texture of the shit that lies ahead.

Denial

Har har, insert joke about it not being a river in Egypt. The best thing about denial is, in the case of letting go, we’re already in it. We’ve already identified the thing/person/situation that needs to be let go and then we actively place ourselves in a place of denial.

Oh, he just did this really sweet thing. I guess I’ll forget about the 287 shitty things that makes this relationship the romantic equivalent of a dumpster fire. 

Oh, I just got a kudos at the meeting just now. I guess I’ll forget about the way I’ve been treated at this job every day for the past year and cancel that interview I had with a super cool company.

Oh, my asshole roommate who’s never in a good mood hasn’t been home for the past week. I guess I’ll forget about wanting to find a new apartment and roommate situation so I can live with people who I’m actually excited to see every day.

In the case of needing to let shit go, we willingly opt into denial and we won’t do anything about it until anger comes along.

Anger

There comes a point where you will have had enough of your own bullshit, not to mention the bullshit of your current predicament. This is when the anger sets in. As a consultant, this is usually when people reach out to me for help — because they simply can’t stand being where they are anymore. It (whatever IT is) has become no longer acceptable.

Anger in the case of needing to let shit go isn’t about raging and finding how many felony indictments you can rack-up. Rather, anger’s about having a welling-up of fed-up and finally being willing to do something about it.

This is the trigger-puling moment. Decision Day. Ground zero from which you will rise.

Even though it doesn’t quite seem like it today. Because you’ve got some bargaining to do.

Bargaining

This is how we get through the linger — every thought, feeling, and question we have about the decision we’ve made.

If I can just stay busy…

If I can just get these X things done…

If I can just go X minutes without thinking about…

If I can wake up ONE day without thinking of…

We bargain. And it works. Sometimes. And sometimes we reset the sign back to 0 days.

But bargaining gets us through the lingering bullshit of letting go. Because with every ounce of letting go, there’s a pang in your soul.

Depression

When it comes to letting shit go, I think depression is a recurring theme.

Before we let shit go, that shit is weighing us down. Heavy, heavy shit. It slows down the brain, the heart, the body. Time stops moving and we’re just stuck in the shit.

When we actually hit anger and feel something well-up strong enough to inspire a press of the Eject button, there’s a moment of relief. A breath. A SIGH. We find space where there was no space.

And then bargaining comes along. Bargaining is supposed to save us from the depression.

Depression is the petrificus totalus charm. Anyone with depression or who’s been depressed knows this to be inarguably true. There’s no light and we shun the light that’s given because life in depression is simply less confusing when everything is the same shade of gray.

Depression is when:

  • We think about how good he/she was to us when flowers turned up unexpectedly (after the latest violet fight the night prior).
  • We remember that one project that everyone loved — and you were the one who thought of it (even though they never hired two more developers like you were promised and you worked 70+ hours a week to get that shit done, nearly costing you your marriage).
  • We wonder if we’ll ever find love and what makes us so unlovable — even though it was probably the person we just let go who’s not capable of love.
  • We willingly lie to ourselves, having rewritten the end to our shitty stories to be every meet-cute in every rom-com ever made, knowing full well that we can’t go back, have a do-over, or unfuck what’s already dead and gone.

And that is how we let things go.

For better or worst, it’s a process. It’s messy and inexact. You can’t check boxes as you move from needing to let it go to having let it go. The lingering will linger.

But as with love lost or ripped away — it hurts less over time and we find a way to let love in again, scary though it may be.

As with jobs left, a new one comes long and in it, we just might find we’re valued and compensated for our love of what we do.

As with habits or addictions shunned, we find ourselves better without them and true friendship in the people who will support us as we continue to choose to live sans.

It’s messy, my love. Messy as fuck.

And the art of letting go is managing the linger, when each day, something comes along to remind us of what once was. Because if we try hard enough, something will come along that hints at what could be…now that you’ve let that shit go.

To close, here’s a completely non-mathematical formula for letting shit go:

shit-you-dont-need

OR

Love it? Get more (digital) Erika.

or subscribe the
old fashioned way

1 comments
JoeRayCr8iv
JoeRayCr8iv

Thanks for the reminders, Erika. It's good to see/read you again. I've enjoyed your return. This post reminds me of scar tissue. It's that nasty scar that took forever to heal, because we kept picking at it. And as soon as it would scab and begin to heal, we'd pick and rip at it till it bled again. Now that it's scar tissue, we pick at it again and make it itch. Or hurt. And that's from a wound that's years old, or a decade plus. 


Sometimes there is shit that's hard to let go and we need those reminders. Thanks for that, and glad to see you back on my feed.