The work of letting you go is the work I never finished years ago. It is the piece of myself I left behind in a home, a happiness that I did not want to leave.
This is the work of soul retrieval.
Of hunting down the lost piece that will find any reason not to move on. Any reason to cast herself back to a place which, out of her control, has already disappeared.
This is the work of a child who didn’t know how to make home in a foreign place. Who dreamed herself back, who beamed herself back, just for a taste of what she’d known, who she knew herself to be.
This is the work of reattaching a heart in a chest, and staying aware, night and day, to make sure it takes. To make sure those long veins stretch back from the past into place in the present. Until it is so used to being there, that it can relax and resume, without beating itself away again.
This is the work of vigilance.
Against decades of habits, of casting back to find happiness when the new world felt bleak. Against an addiction to fantasy, to a nostalgia, to a relentless hope that the past could be different.
This is laying lucid even in my dreams, to catch thoughts of you, which will carry me away, and turn them around, shut them down.
It is holding my breathe just a second more. Standing straight when I want to slouch. It is being sure, even if not convinced, that being here, with me, will be better for me than stuck in a past that’s not coming back.
This I must practice, moment by moment, thought by thought, if I ever want to let go.
I might not be as happy, I might not be as high. I might be pissed that happiness is hard for me. I might be pissed that I learned loss early. Pissed that life feels unfair, and that to let go, to move on, is so much work.
But pissed or not, past is past.
This is the work of compassionate patience.
She will resist, that little girl. That world was all she knew, all she wanted.
But it is not there for her. That sucks. Tell her that it sucks, that it is OK to feel sad. It is not fair.
No tough love here. No, ‘this is reality, just deal with it.’
Validate her, let her feel what she feels.
You feel left behind? You feel like everyone else moves on? That is real, that is valid. But I am back for you now. I cannot leave you because we are the same. But neither can we stay here, because this is not living. This is a dream land where we lose ourselves. You must trust me, and agree.
I know it’s sad. I know it’s scary, and it’s so much work. And you are so mad, it doesn’t seem like anyone should have to do so much work. And you’re right, no soul should be dampened.
But then pick up her little chin and point it forward and say sweetly. You can’t have that, but you can have whatever else you want.
And she might look up, and stop frowning for a second. Wipe a tear with her clumsy little hand and say, Really?
And you’ll say, Why yeah. I’m an adult now. We’re in control. I can’t give you back that happiness, but we can choose any other happiness we want. We can do anything.
And while there is nothing that will ensure happiness, there is something that will ensure unhappiness, and that is focusing on these old pictures, that is staying behind.
I know you don’t need to hear again that you chose this. You chose what felt the best. You chose love, openness. There is no fault in that. No mistake.
And I know you don’t need to hear again that whether you like it or not it is up to you. So let’s let it be up to us. You dream, I’ll work. You be the child, I’ll be the adult. OK?
So go ahead. Put down that picture.
Still so sharp and bright and dangerously entrancing. That ghost of the past who wraps you in his cloak and whispers in your ear, this is all there ever was, and ever will be. Who tells you that you are broken and there is no fixing.
Let’s bundle it up with all those other summers of love and happiness, the ones you thought you’d never forget but that you barely look at anymore. And let’s put it here in this drawer, where it can stay forever for you, but where it will fade a little, blur at the edges.
Not that you’ll ever stop loving it, not that you won’t pull it out sometimes and stare, and wonder. But let’s go ahead and lock it even, maybe put the key somewhere far away, just so there’s some space, every time you want to reach for it.
And then let’s go ahead and take some new pictures, and prove to ourselves that we are capable of ecstasy outside of that drawer. Remember that dance party, remember that soccer game, that surf session? Remember all the other people you have loved?
It might look a little different, our new happiness. It might feel a little like betrayal, to those things you loved so fiercely, so stubbornly. But we will build our own, and it will consume us, I promise. We just have to focus, we have to keep returning to ourselves. That is the work of letting go.