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Letting Go and Living Now
I believe the hardest lesson we have to learn as humans is the art of letting go. We are beings born into the reality of change and loss. There is no escaping it and no amount of money, position, or fame can change the inevitability that we are powerless when it comes to our mortality. So, in effect, what I have to say concerns every reader, whether you agree with me or not.
What fascinates me about the truism, “Change is the only constant,” is how we handle this in our personal lives. And, I’ve recently happened upon my own epiphany with respect to change. The school year before I retired in June of 2014 was especially hard. I couldn’t imagine not walking into that classroom every summer and transforming it for a whole new group of eager minds; a new group of amazing little people with whom I had the honor of teaching for thirty-six consecutive years. I simply didn’t know who I would be after my teaching life ended. What astonished me during that school year was how automatically my heart and mind kicked into action to prepare me for letting go.
We just bought a house. As I write, I am in the middle of purging the detritus of twenty years that has collected in this house, the place where my marriage began and the place where so many memories reside. Again, something automatic has clicked in and I’m dealing with the fact that we will no longer be in this house within the month.
My mother is 84. With each passing moment, I know that our time together has a definite shelf life. It is always in the back of my mind that one day my best friend in life will no longer be on the other end of my phone dispensing loving, motherly advice. I am nowhere near ready to let my mother go, yet I sadly acknowledge this reality.
So what have I learned with respect to letting go thus far? I have learned another way to successfully integrate this truth. Yes, we must learn to accept and move on; however, growing older has opened my eyes to something even more profound. I have discovered a way to tap into a deeper, more fulfilling happiness- a joyfulness that costs nothing and can be accessed whenever I want it. In short, I have learned how to replace my constant state of worry with a peaceful state of mind.
I access this state of mind by focusing on only my senses at any particular moment in time. For example, when I get home from Mexico in a few days, my life will be turned upside down with moving into a new home and selling a current home. In the past, I would miss the moments of my present by worrying over ‘what ifs.’ I still acknowledge the truth of this in my mind, but can now immediately shift my focus onto the now. It seems so basic and simple, but I could never achieve this level of actualization as a younger woman.
Before I sat down to write this piece, I found my thoughts and feelings going back home, where I am not in this moment. I then told myself, “No, you are only here. What can you do to shift your focus on the now?” I grabbed my laptop and began writing. I wrote until I felt energized to get back out in the streets of Oaxaca and let the happenings of this colorful city envelope me. Even when I feel homesick, I can alter sadness into gratitude for things that are presented directly in front of me.
I spent my entire working life in a constant state of ‘what if’; however, the gift of retirement has given me such a deeper appreciation of daily life. Having to let go of accounted for time was terrifying at first, but during the freefall of this first year of retirement, I have found much more peace by being totally present in any given moment. My advice to anyone at any age: Don’t wait until you are retired to give yourself permission to bask in the moment. It’s easy to do and costs nothing, but it is a perspective that pays great dividends for your mental and physical health. As we say in Mexico when celebrating something or someone, “Salud!” It simply means, “To your health.”