The Paradox of Letting Go: 5 Things We Continuously Hold On To

I read once in a yoga magazine, which sat in my own waiting room, that in order to let go we must set up the circumstances in our lives that allow us to let go. In other words, as I always tell my clients, letting go is more of an art than a science. And, if I had the power to make it a science, or better yet an easily followed recipe, I'd quit my day job as a therapist and pursue my backup career (makeup artist in case you were wondering).

The Art of Letting Go

Letting go is an art we must grapple with, I think, throughout our entire lives if we are going to have any sense of peace, contentment and happiness.

A practice really.

A practice, that I will admit, I must continually put effort into, sometimes daily.

I can stamp my feet and scream at the top of my lungs that it's not fair! That it's just too hard to let go, let alone accept. But, it doesn't really change the fact that many of the things I need to let go of and accept are things that were never really in my control to begin with.

What can be even more frustrating is that I really do feel like I have been able to let go and accept one of the toughest circumstances of my life in surviving through IVF and accepting a childfree life. Although, only through practice, as there are definitely still days of major struggle on this front

Yet in my own recovery and in my work with clients, letting go will always be a battle of life that we must rumble with, and if not continually challenged and worked on can have major consequences on our happiness and well-being.

The big ones I struggle with myself and continually see in my office with clients tend to be the soul crushing and spirit stealing ones that have the staying power of tattooed eyebrows (which I'm not sure I'd ever recommend, even if I did become that makeup artist). They're the ones that can leave us empty, defeated shells of our authentic self.

The Five Hardest Things to Let Go

So here they are, the five things we tend to continuously hold on to and how we can attempt to set up the circumstances in our lives in order to allow ourselves to let them go...

1. The past.

We can't change it.

What's done is done.

It is what it is.

If it isn't okay, it probably isn't finished.

Instead of dwelling or wallowing, we need to begin asking ourselves things like: "Where do I go from here?" or "What's my next best step?".

And we must remember to have self-compassion around it, "Well, that sucked or I messed that one up. What now?".

For the most part, we all do the best we know how in any given moment. If we had known better, we would have chosen better or differently. Even when we are really messing up or hurting others or when someone in our life is really messing up or hurting us, it is the best they had in that piece of time; learn from it and move forward.

2. The what ifs.

We are not mind readers.

We are not fortune tellers or clairvoyant.

We tell ourselves, playing out the what ifs is a way to protect ourselves from being hurt and a way to prepare us for the worst case scenario. But really, it is just a waste of our time, energy and spirit. If we must play the what ifs, play it fairly and play both sides of it. And put a time limit on this type of worry.

Asking ourselves things like, "How possible is it? How probable is it?" or "What is the concrete evidence? What actually is?".

Life is uncertain; we loathe uncertainty and yet we must embrace it, because if we don't we simply just miss it completely.

3. The need to be understood by everyone and the need to understand everyone.

Sometimes we just won't get it or we just won't get someone.

Sometimes they just won't get us.

That doesn't mean we judge or pity. Within our differences we must find respect and compassion for one another, and we only find this through authentic connection and practicing empathy. Focus on what we do have in common and set clear healthy boundaries if needed.

Love and belonging are inherent needs for us all, we thrive through and within connection. But we must also give ourselves permission that this connection can look and feel differently for everyone. And, at the end of the day, we will not find belonging through fitting in, peace will only be found within our own self-validation.

4. Things not in our control.

The harsh reality that we all must face is that there isn't much in our control; only how we think, feel and behave.

My reactions to life, or better yet my response to life is completely within my power. When I embrace this limited power, of just myself, I actually gain full control of my life.

5. What isn’t.

Not thin enough.

Not rich enough.

Not happy enough.

We must stop living in the never ______________ enough.

Because we are enough.

Not accepting what is and what isn't, especially when it isn't what we wanted or hoped for is one of the biggest thieves of happiness and well-being.

We must trust and have faith that everything is exactly as it is supposed to be.

There are no mistakes, no failures, just lessons and moments.

Very few things actually last forever, and even if they do we're still changeable.

And in reality, this brings us right back to the beginning of our need to learn to let go. I suppose, putting us right back where we started; kind of a paradox of ourselves.

And yet, the only way through is to continually work on letting go, as this can be our guiding light out back to our true self.

Shamed Silence Broken

Out at happy hour with several couples she’s never met. They are together because they are couples without children. She has taken the step forward in her childfree life to try to meet other couples like her, childfree, and yet she is quickly finding she does not fit in here either. There seems to be a lot of talk of how their houses are not childproof and how frustrating it can be that their other friends, the ones with kids, always expect that their kids are invited for gatherings. Or how much canceled plans can suck. Or how much they don’t want to talk about soccer games or potty training or sleep schedules.

She sits back and listens. Because this is, of course, what she does best. And this is, of course, what shame has silenced her to do.

~~~~

Childfree couples, partners without human children, maybe even without furry kids.

Perhaps historically, and unfairly, referred to as selfish people; ones who chose not to procreate. Who chose to not do what is expected of them by society and their families.

But what if they are simply couples who are willing to own their truths?

Couples who know they really don’t want kids of their own, even though they love kids.

Couples who know they really don’t want kids of their own, because they just don’t like them.

Couples who tried desperately to have kids but can’t.

Does it matter how the childfree status is come to?

Parts of her say, yes absolutely! Parts of her say no, why would it?

~~~~

 
 

But to own her truth, she breaks her silence…

“We actually have a toy room in our house,” she blurts out and then hesitates, but just for one second.

“We love kids and sometimes it gets old always having to go to our friends’ houses. So, with a toy room and a pool at our house, all the kids in our lives can grow up with us.”

For the most part, she is met with bewilderment and the subject is quickly changed.

But she breathes a sigh of freedom and truth. She gets it may not be easy to understand but she has done the work to accept her life, let go of what isn't  and redefine.

This is her truth, her story, no longer silenced shame.

She wanted to a be a mother, it did not work out and now she owning her story, living her truth out loud and lighting her ever upward.

This post inspired by the WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence

Make Friends with Social Media

Alarm goes off. Check Facebook.     Feel alone.

Sitting at stoplight. Check Facebook.

    Feel pissed off.

Break between clients. Check Facebook.

    Feel sad.

Pee break. Check Facebook.

    Feel left out.

Commercial break. Check Facebook.

    Feel not good enough.

Finish getting ready for bed. Check Facebook.

    Feel empty.

~~~~

There are so many articles and opinions flying around lately about the monster that social media can be, all relevant and important. But like everything else in our lives, we each need to find our own balance, and this includes balance with social media and technology. I think we must learn to disconnect some from our technology, every day and engage with our loved ones, in person! And, even sit with ourselves doing something quietly. However, I also think that in some ways the negative light being shined on social media is unfair, and is a light that we actually need to shine on ourselves.

I think my addiction to Facebook portrayed above is pretty classic and what many of our days can look like. This was over a year ago. I never walked away from Facebook feeling good, connected, positive or happier.

However, I was also in a pretty shitty place myself. Angry, sad, bitter and feeling very alone about our failed IVF journey and just starting my journey of accepting a childfree life. So, of course, my Facebook wall left me feeling all of the above; alone, pissed off, sad, left out, not good enough and empty.

But if I am honest with myself, this was also a lot of my own doing.

I was addicted. Instant gratification of checking my wall left me satisfied for a split second, and the completion of the behavior left me feeling awful but still wanting more.

I was sad and mad; just at the beginning of my journey to choose to get better. So of course, I was never going to leave Facebook feeling any better.

First things first, I detoxed. I started by only allowing myself to check 4 times a day, in the morning, at lunch, evening and before bed. No more stoplight checks or in between sessions. Then the next week down to 3 times a day. Then finally down to 2 times a day, lunch and evening. No more first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Those moments need to be spent being grateful and centered.

Then, I cleaned it up. I made sure to like pages that post the things that were going to improve my life; laughter, thought provoking articles, inspiration, beauty and positivity. And if you didn’t use it in these ways, then you didn’t make the cut. If I wasn’t quite ready to defriend someone (even if just for voyeuristic curious reasons), I hid them. Finally, I changed how I engage with social media myself, always being cognizant of what I was putting on my wall and posting on others.

These changes meant it wasn’t long before social media changed for me, no longer the enemy but something that actually enhances my life for the better. Which I think was probably what it was meant to do in the first place. I would like to believe that social media was conceived to make people think, laugh, grow, engage and connect! I have connected and reconnected with so many people, from both past and present, through social media. And these are not superficial connections, but ones where we actually write each other regularly or even meet up for lunch. We are engaged in each other lives, building friendship, connection and love.

When I am taking care of myself and practicing happy, I use social media to enhance and not compare. I like to hear about the changes your in lives. I love to see your children and pets grow up and do funny things. I enjoy reading the diverse articles everyone posts. I relish the beautiful pictures and quotes.

With all this sparkle and rainbows, I will admit my addiction has strengthened some, checking Facebook more often than my detoxed 2 times a day… but I also make sure to disconnect every day.

So bottom line, you won’t find your happy on your social media walls. You will only find your happiness from practicing it every day, and of course, within yourself.

~~~~

Eat breakfast. Check Facebook.

    I think.

Between sessions. Check Facebook.

    I laugh.

Between commercials. Check Facebook.

    I grow.

Before night time routine. Check Facebook.

    I engage and connect.

How do you use social media to enhance rather than hurt? How do you make sure to find the balance?

Can Our Incapables in the Stands Become Our Warriors in the Arena?

 
 

As I sit in my writing chair; writing candle lit, warm blanket on my lap and the light of the laptop and my salt lamp casting a glow around me, I am overcome by how much this blog, Ever Upward, has changed me, even in just a few short months. The people I have ‘met’ through the blogging world.

The people I have reconnected with through my writings.

The strangers, who are no longer strangers because of this sad but full of understanding connection.

The ‘I get it’s’.

The ‘thank you’s’.

The authentically braves.

The warriors in my arena.

The connections.

Telling my story to heal myself, and to also practice and build credibility for my book, has really led me to more wholeness through connection.

The biggest lesson of my IVF and finding my childfree journey?

Connection is what it is all about it, as my relationships have been a huge part of my survival and continued thriving.

Relationships are the continued focus in positive psychology and research continues to demonstrate how much relationships heal us all; making us better and happier people.

My continued lesson is that this healing is through all of my relationships; the fellow warriors, true friends, limited supporters, and even, the incapables. Because, relationships change and grow, because we change and grow.

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The relationships I have with my limited supporters, and even the incapables, may not be the most poignant, meaningful or deep right now. But that doesn’t mean they will remain that way forever. However, it may mean I need to limit how vulnerable I am with you, how much I let you into my life, and how much effort I put in, as you choose to simply not get it. You choose to not see me or know me, and therefore not love me unconditionally. As Brené Brown, writes and speaks, if you aren’t “daring greatly” in my arena, I’m not interested in your feedback.

And though, the limited supporters and incapables can make it feel as if they are in the stands of our arenas; denying, shaming and not getting us, they are still there. Sure, maybe we need to ask some of them to leave our arena altogether, but maybe, just maybe, one day the spectators can become our fellow warriors.

Because things change, and people change.

I've changed...

This limited love and understanding may not be forever. And the only thing I can do is to continue to live my authentic truth, asking for what I want and need from my loved ones, and accepting their limitations.

Because one day, the incapable just might finally see my bravery in battle and decide to join me in the arena. But, only if I never stop believing in my own “daring greatly” and ever upward.

Because our light, our path, our ever upward is in owning our story no matter the understanding we receive back.

Our Fellow Warriors, True Friends, Limited Supporters, and Incapables

We all have the basic needs for love and belonging, and we often times believe that feeling understood goes hand in hand with this need. However, it is impossible to be understood by everyone in our lives. This does not mean we aren’t loved, but rather at times our loved ones just don’t have it in them to really get it.

Or to really get us.

Surviving IVF and living a childfree life sometimes feels like I will never be fully understood.

For the most part, I have been lucky and blessed to have amazing people in my life. Even if they don’t completely get the IVF thing, they work very hard on loving me through it. But, I have noticed a few categories emerge:

 
 

My fellow warriors

Those who have been through some version of infertility or pregnancy loss themselves, even if their journey has looked completely different (especially their outcome).

They genuinely get it.

With them I am truly known.

My true friends (really family).

Those who may have never had to think about infertility, never really been exposed to it and therefore struggle to empathize with the journey but they still try. They ask the questions, sometimes not in the best way, but they still ask.

They truly walk along beside.

With them I am truly seen.

~

My limited supporters

Those who will never ask about it and become extremely uncomfortable whenever it’s brought up.

They do the best with what they have.

With them I am truly loved.

 ~

My incapables.

Those who openly criticize, question and deny what we have been through. Maybe they used to talk and ask about it, but have never had the capacity to quite understand any of it. Not only do they deny the journey, but often times somehow shut down that part of who we are.

They will probably never get it.

With them I am incomplete.

~

This has nothing to do with my IVF journey at all, but rather is just what happens for all of us as we grow, evolve and love.

Relationships change, relationships end, relationships reemerge, relationships evolve.

As I hugged a dear friend good bye today, I am flooded with gratitude for change. The change of life, the change of relationships and how much we all change and grow. A friend who has been in and out of my life for years, some of our falling outs worse than others, but a friend who I know will always have some piece in my life and in my heart.

We've had to recateogrize each other several times in our 15 year friendship.

I use the term recategorize with my clients a lot, referring to the ever changing relationships in our lives as we age. I believe people are meant to come in and out of our lives as we all change. Sometimes these changes warrant a recategorization. Who you thought would always be there may leave your life for a few years and then reemerge. Or they may be gone forever, never meant to be the lifelong friend you had hoped.

Hand in hand with recategorization, we all must accept the limitations of our loved ones. Sometimes, they just don’t have what we need. Accepting their limitations improves our well-being, as we only have control over ourselves. We cannot make someone understand us. Accepting our loved ones' limitations means we realize they just don’t have it to give. We must stop going to the empty well.

Being completely understood by others needs to have nothing to do with who we are or our stories. We must honor ourselves, no matter what our loved ones' capabilities of understanding us are.

We all must do the work to validate ourselves; seeing, knowing and loving ourselves.

Life is difficult and people are complicated, which means relationships take work and are forever changing.

For me, I must accept that there are some who will never understand my journey of infertility or the lifelong losses of a childfree life. And even though this can feel like a complete denial of who I am and may change our relationship, I must continue to speak my truth and live my story authentically for the world to see, because this is simply who I am.

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I must be my truth, not to fulfill the need to feel understood or to make someone get it, but rather to live my authentic truth and light.

To be true to myself.

For that light will reveal my fellow warriors and true friends.

And maybe, one day, that light will grow those limited supporters and incapables into my ever upwards.

Where Do I Belong?

When we experience social rejection, or feel like we don’t belong we can hurt as bad as we do when we feel actual physical pain.  The parts of our brain that light up when we stub our toe (and shout several profanities, at least in my version of the story) also light up when we feel the pain of being rejected or when we walk away feeling like we don’t fit in. This has always been a theme in my private practice.  We are wired for connection and we all have the inherent need for love and belonging.  When we don’t feel like we have belonging in our lives we feel sadness, depression, anxiety, and loneliness.

It is now, as a 34 year old woman without children, where I’m struggling, for the first time in my life, with the sense of not belonging.

I have learned there are 2 major things no one tells you when you begin the journey of IVF:

1.  You will always have the dates in your head and heart.

  • The day of the transfer (or conception).
  • The day you received the negative pregnancy test results.
  • The due dates of each baby, and therefore, the date of the would have been first birthdays.
  • Which then can become when you would have had a kindergartener, a track star in middle school, a high school graduate, a psychology major in college, etc., etc., etc.

And therefore...

2. The journey never really ends.

IVF didn’t work.  We don’t get to have kids.  And no, adoption isn’t for us.  Which means I am constantly reminded that I don’t quite fit in… in the congregation full of families or in the group of moms discussing feeding schedules or soccer schedules or even in the childfree by choice group who doesn’t even necessarily like kids.  As time passes, I’m sure this list will continue to grow.

My solace has been referring back to the work of Brené Brown, author of The Gifts of Imperfection and Daring Greatly.  When we change ourselves to fit in, our self-worth is at stake.  However, when we live our authentic truth and are brave enough to just show up and be seen, our self-worth is not on the line.  Only when we live our lives this way, will we find that we will always belong.

By the most classic and widely accepted definition of a woman my age, I will never fit in, I am not a mother.  And I can choose to allow this to fill my soul with sadness and bitterness or I can truly own my story.  Owning it allows the hurt to heal.  Owning it allows me to talk about it openly without shame.  Owning it allows others to see my heart.  And only then, will I always belong.