This I Believe

Lisa - Encinitas, California
Entered on August 22, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: parenthood
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I believe in letting go. I have a 91-year old father and a 24-year old daughter. I’m learning how to let go with each of them. I believe letting go is helping me find the emotional energy to be present in my own life. My father is in amazingly good health at 91. But he will die and it will likely be within the next 5-10 years. I have been carrying a lot of anger toward him and I worry about how I can let go of it and enjoy what time we still have left together. A few weeks ago, though, as his birthday approached, I decided to try to let go of the anger by focusing on the positive. I wrote a list of all the gifts he’s given me through my life – not a new bicycle or a doll, but gifts like an appreciation of music, a sense of social obligation and a college education. I sent him the list in a letter telling him that for his 91st birthday, I was giving him thanks for all he’s given me. It felt really good. I’ll be going to see him next week, and it’s the first time in a long time that I haven’t dreaded the visit.

My daughter has had some ups and downs, but is now pursuing her BA and working at Starbucks. She was affected more than I realized by my divorce and subsequent relocation across country, and I carry a lot of guilt about my choices, even though they were the best options available. I have been trying to make up for my guilt by over-mothering now and realized I needed to back off for my own mental health as well as her success. In my mind, I saw the image of a mother holding her child’s hand, and realized that if the child trips or hits a bump, she can’t catch herself safely if Mom is holding on too tight – in fact she’s likely to hurt herself falling all twisted up. If Mom walks at her side but doesn’t hold on tight, the child can catch herself with both hands if needed, and learn how to fall safely. This image reassured me that I wasn’t being a bad or irresponsible mom if I loosened my grip or even let go. Last week my daughter had a medical procedure and I didn’t drop everything to fly across country to be by her side. She’s moving to a new apartment next week and I haven’t seen it, and I’m not using my vacation to sort and pack her stuff. And she’s doing just fine and still calls to say hello.

Letting go is scary. But it means that my arms are free to embrace myself and all that I have to offer. It means I can be a better source of support and stability for my entire family and friends. I believe I’m doing the right thing by letting go.