I believe in the transformative power of letting go. I believe that relinquishing expectations about how life is “supposed” to unfold has opened my heart to a more authentic me and a world of infinite possibilities.
My oldest daughter has been a particularly effective teacher of this fundamental truth, although at times her methods have been particularly harsh. The joy of parenting a bright, creative, and energetic child devolved into a nightmare. During her adolescence, I struggled to deal with her combative behavior, substance abuse, run-ins with the law, dropping out of school, and two heartbreaking suicide attempts. Although I brought to bear every imaginable resource in an effort to support, guide, and protect her, I came to realize that the journey she had chosen was hers and hers alone.
Of course I wanted, as all parents do, for my child to be healthy and happy. But I also admit that I wanted her to conform to certain norms simply because it would be more comfortable for me. I would have preferred not to experience the awkward change of subject when I entered a room where parents were discussing their child’s college plans, or to endure the curiosity of neighbors wondering why police cars were once again in front of our home. Eventually, however, I came to see my challenge as embracing the uncertainty of what my daughter’s process to wholeness was going to look like. To help her grow, I had to let go of where I thought she should be and how I thought she should get there. Choosing to focus on who I knew her to be underneath all that debris helped me let go of the notion that I should (or could) dictate how her life would unfold.
After a number of turbulent years, my daughter has reconnected with her soulful nature and has rediscovered her playful spirit. She thanks me for never giving up on her. She says there is no one else who she would want to be her mom. I now experience the unequaled joy of having a daughter whom I genuinely admire and whose friendship I treasure.
Letting go of trying to govern my daughter’s journey has become the catalyst for me to reexamine my own life’s path. I realized that my self-imposed expectations about what I should be doing to maintain the lifestyle I ought to have stood between me and a more authentic life. I recently moved to a less expensive house and left my job as an attorney at a big corporate law firm. It had become too painful to go to work every day and feel so disconnected from my true self. I find myself in unfamiliar, uncomfortable territory, having let go of safety and certainty for the promise of the unknown. Right now, the anxiety of abandoning a career that has defined me for over twenty years threatens to overwhelm me. But I have come to believe that pursuing an enriching life requires a willingness to abandon solid ground, trusting that the wisdom of the heart, if given the chance, will show the way. This is the gift I gave my daughter. This is the gift I am learning to give myself.
Mary Lacy Porter is currently writing a memoir exploring her experiences as a mother and her spiritual path to joy and wholeness. She lives in Baltimore with her husband, and is continually inspired and awed by her two daughters, now in college.
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