Letting Go
tom walsh

  

I witnessed an interesting lesson in letting go the other day, brought to me by the unlikely source of a pair of flies.  My wife and I were going for a drive that day, and when we left our home there were two flies clinging to our windshield.  They were only about a foot apart, and right there in our field of vision.

Putting the car in motion didn't cause these flies to take off and find somewhere else to spend their time.  Instead, it just caused them to hold on more tightly--an instinctive response, I believe, to what they would have perceived as strengthening wind.  As I accelerated, the flies didn't do so well, being pushed right and left as they struggled to keep their footing and to steady themselves.  It didn't take very long at all--about three or four minutes--for one of the flies to be blown off the windshield.

The other fly, though, hung on resolutely--amazingly enough, for over an hour!  Even when I would hit speeds of 60 mph, that fly stayed on the windshield.  At times it looked like the fly would be ripped apart by the wind, or that its legs would be broken by the way it was whipped about by the wind, but it hung on for the entire hour it took us to reach our destination.  It was amazing to watch, because it was pretty clear that the fly wasn't holding on because it had the desire to travel or to move to a new home or to see beautiful sights.

No, the fly hung on as an instinctive reaction to its situation.  It was simply afraid to let go because its instinct told it that it needed to stay where it was.

I know many people who seem to function in the same mode.  They might take a job that they believe they have to have, only to find six months later that it doesn't suit them at all.  But because they are where they are, they end up holding on to the status quo because they think that's where the safety is.  I know people who lose spouses who hang on to the hurt and the blame for years--decades even--because they feel a sense of security in the way that they feel they've been wronged, even if they were the ones who caused the break-up in the first place.  I have a friend who spent years pursuing a degree in medicine even though he was shown time after time that he didn't have an aptitude for medicine, and even though he did have great aptitude for other things.

These people almost invariably end up hurting themselves and the people who love them by the way that they cling like flies to things that really make no sense to cling to.  Their fear of letting go makes them frustrated and miserable--and usually miserable to be around, too, when all they know how to talk about is how bad things are for them.  And their conversations are usually littered with the phrase "You don't understand. . .," even though most of us have experienced just as much frustration and pain as they have.

But we have an advantage over the flies--thought and reason.  Even though we're able to think and make choices, though, we often seem to fall into the trap of acting instinctively, even when reason tells us that our instinct is wrong.

I've been like that fly myself sometimes, holding on to something simply because I didn't know what would happen if I let go.  Even though my current situation was negative, I wasn't willing to let go because I was afraid that if I did so, things would get worse.

But holding on doesn't challenge us at all, especially if we're latched on tightly to something.  How many people do you know have held on to unfulfilling or even damaging relationships because they've been afraid that if they let it go, they won't find anyone new?  Being hooked into this relationship doesn't take much effort, while ending it and finding something new would challenge us to step outside of our comfort zones and grow as people.

I've worked at places where most of the people were not at all content with their situations, but their paychecks gave them a security that they weren't willing to risk.  The people who left almost always found work that was more fulfilling and rewarding, but that didn't sway the people who were holding on because it seemed the safe thing to do.

The fly that let go early probably had a rough moment or two after releasing its hold.  It would have been bounced around by the stream of air that went up and over the car, and it would have definitely become disoriented and possibly even hurt a bit.  But it would have ended up in a far better place than the fly that held on--it would have been free to fly and eat and do whatever it wanted within a couple of minutes, while the other fly stayed stuck to the windshield for an hour, for no real reason other than it refused to let go.

What are you stuck to in your life that isn't serving you?  What is causing you grief and anguish and pain that you could let go right now without making yourself miserable--and perhaps that will even make you happier?  Holding on sometimes has its rewards, but it's also important to realize just how important it can be to let go of something that isn't serving us--or anyone else--any longer.

  
   


 
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