“So come on let it go
Just let it be…
Everything’s that’s broke
Leave it to the breeze…” ~James Bay
The other day I was having a conversation that eventually led to this question:
“How can I stop my past hurts from affecting my present?”
The conversation was about—you guessed it—relationships. In this case my friend was struggling with how to give a new romantic prospect a fair chance—one that wasn’t tainted by the exes of her past.
She’s done the work and healed from it. And yes, she’s living life to the fullest, but still. It’s hard to stop the negative swirl of memories that left their scars, even if rationally she knows she shouldn’t.
As we talked, I asked if she would be open to a ritual of some kind. I explained how a ritual of release may help the things she wants to keep in the past, stay there.
Since she is a writer, I suggested it involve writing.
Writing has a way of crystalizing the truth, making it stand out and cut through whatever white lies we’ve been telling ourselves. In writing privately, we can be honest and open. Sometimes writing the truth is easier than saying it out loud.
As we chatted, I was reminded of a time about five years ago when I felt a ritual might help me.
It was December and I was getting ready to leave for a month-long trip to London. I would be traveling alone and was looking forward to a change of scenery after going through an especially difficult time, one that created a cosmic effect on the trajectory of my life.
I was at the point where I couldn’t yet see how I was actually being blasted into a brighter future. It’s the moment right before takeoff, when you are stuck idle, waiting for something to ignite.
As I packed, I had the realization that when I returned home it would be January—a New Year.
I thought of how I wanted to feel different, more refreshed or ready for a brand new start when I got back.
And without even thinking, I grabbed a journal and wrote at the top: “Things I Want to Let Go Of And Not Carry Into The New Year” (or some ridiculously long title along those lines).
It took no more than a couple of minutes to make a list of the things I wanted to ditch. I was ready. I had been working hard to let go of the bad relationship, the bad job, the bad time. I felt ready—really ready—for a fresh start in the New Year.
I folded the list and put it in my carry on. I knew just what I would do with it.
A few nights later I boarded my overnight, direct flight from Boston to London.
In the middle of the night, as most of the plane slept soundly, I got up and went to the bathroom. Once I was in, I opened the folded note. I read it over one more time and felt myself nodding along, knowing that yes, I was ready to release it all.
Next, I tore up my list into tiny, little shreds and with a deep exhale of breath, watched as they fluttered into the toilet.
I looked down at the broken pieces floating in the water and I thought of how desperately I wanted these things to be gone from my life. I thought of how I wanted to leave them behind and not carry them with me to London or to come home with them in the New Year.
And just like that, standing somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean, I flushed the memories, and the hurt. With that one swift motion, I felt the release of so much pain, heartache, suffering and worry. I felt something that took me a moment to recognize.
It was hope. It had been shoved under the darkness for so long that I had begun to feel we would never be acquainted again, but I could feel it rising, beckoning and calling my name.
I greeted it with relief and gratitude. Things were going to change.
I was so glad I had thought to give myself this little, secret ritual. I returned to my seat, looking the same on the outside, but feeling like a whole new me on the inside.
I stared out of the window into the dark abyss of emptiness and felt, finally, the freedom that lay in the vast unknown.
It’s not to say that flushing the list means those things don’t pop up now and then—revisiting my subconscious or making their presence known in my reality—reminding me of a time long ago. Now and then they do.
But the difference is in that moment in the airplane bathroom, I was giving myself permission to let go and permission to move forward. And when we give ourselves permission to move forward, and then we keep putting one foot in front of the other, eventually we find ourselves miles from where we began.
So when the past does resurface (and it will), it’s easier to acknowledge it, but not be paralyzed by it. After all, you have a momentum going and you don’t want anything to hold you back.
As I told my friend this story, I saw tears well up. She nodded the type of nod that told me she got it.
Sometimes when you do the work to heal, you just need one more thing to do. It’s the thing that feels like you are wrapping the perfect gift with the prettiest of bows and can’t wait to give it to someone.
Give yourself the gift. Tie up the loose ends that are weaving their way into your thoughts and threatening to pull you back into the past you’ve left behind.
Open that present and feel the hope, opportunity and possibility that is waiting for you, if you just release all that is no longer serving you.
Watch how you move forward with more ease than you ever imagined possible. Watch how with each passing step you become stronger and more certain.
Give yourself the gift.
Your future depends on it.