When I was a young girl I was always afraid of jumping off of the swings. For years, I would assume my position on the rubber seat, wrap my fingers one by one around the metal chains, adjusting my grip around the clamminess left behind from the previous rider. Gently, I would push myself backwards on the runway built from the hundreds of feet that stood there before. I would stand at the edge for a moment, looking out to my surroundings: children running in circles, kids dangling freely from the monkey bars, euphoric yelps of laughter filling the air. After a moment, I would lift my legs and allow gravity to move me forward. Slowly, I would labor myself higher and higher. My legs fought against resistance with each pump while I relished in the wind blowing through my hair. I closed my eyes, leaned my head back and allowed myself to wander to the sky.
“This must be what it feels like to fly.”
But, I never jumped off. The anticipation of what could happen if I simply let go overwhelmed me. I could scrape up my knee, bruise myself, twist an ankle or break a finger. What if I came home hurt and my parents were upset with me for being so reckless? The consequences of letting go reeled in my mind as I gripped tightly to the chains, my knuckles white while my inner hands transformed to a radiant red from rubbing against the hard metal chain. While I loved feeling the air in my hair, eventually, the height would become too much for me and I would begin my descent. I used my feet to slow myself down until I came to a full stop. After another deep breath, I would loosen my hands from the chains, rise from the rubber seat, and resume my day. Never once daring to take a risk; never once able to let go.
It wasn’t until recently that I realized I let go of people the same way. I hold onto people just like I held onto the chains of the swing; a little too tightly, and with no intention of letting go. My hands will blister, the pain will begin to register, but I always fear the pain of letting go so much more. I fight against the process just like I fought against the wind with my legs. To me, the fight is worth avoiding the pain that accompanies no longer talking with someone.
Rejection, hurt, confusion, heartbreak, often overwhelm me. Like a tapestry with a rogue strand of fabric, I pull it, even though I know the tapestry will unravel. Moments replay in my head and I find it harder and harder to let go of the strand. If I just cut it, the destruction will stop. The tapestry can continue, even if it no longer incorporates that strand. If I keep pulling, I’ll leave nothing left to the salvage. It will be nothing more than a pile of loose thread. I’ll have to start over once more. An internal battle ensues, I can feel my heart breaking, and yet, I still hold on.
Recently, I found myself on a playground alone. I walked along the perimeter of the fence, reminiscing on my moments spent here when I was younger. My eyes scanned the playground until they fell on the swings. Once more, I sat in the rubber seat, gripped each chain with my hands, pushed myself backwards until gravity took over. My legs, longer and more muscular, allowed me to fly higher. I leaned my head back and listened to the wind whistle by. Only this time, I let go. I jumped at the highest peak and tumbled forward. Sure, it hurt a little, but it was the most freeing moment I ever had.
As I sat in the sand, a little sore, a little dirty, I realized this was the worst that could happen. In that moment, a realization swept over me. It’s okay to let go. In fact, you’ll end up growing from it. Tightening the vice around a friendship will only cause irreparable damage.
Letting go can save you from further cracks in the foundation.