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“In the end, only three things matter: how much you loved, how gently you lived, and how gracefully you let go of things not meant for you.”

I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately, and specifically the last part. I looked it up to get the words right, and apparently it’s wrongly attributed to the Buddha. To be honest, I don’t think it matters where the quote’s origins lie. The sentiments are just as beautiful, and for me that last part remains the most difficult to achieve. Anyone who knows me will know that letting go is not one of my strong suits. That other, less-charming quote, “Everything I let go of has claw marks” suits me far better.

What is it that makes letting go so damned difficult? I suppose it depends on the subject in question. Relationships are one obvious pick. Before I married the man of my dreams, I had several long-term relationships. The trouble was, none of them really should have been long-term, each for its own complicated set of reasons. One thing was the same in each case: At the core, the reason I had for not letting go was fear. Yep, fear, that thing that bites me in the ass over and over. I was a late bloomer, to say the least. I had a few casual dates in my late teens, and one almost-boyfriend. I called him my boyfriend at the time, but looking back, it was never truly that serious. We were just two newly-sober kids trying (and failing, as far as the relationship went) to figure it all out. The other reason I can say with certainty that he was never my boyfriend is that I had no problem letting go of the relationship. If I can actually let go gracefully (a word I would hestitate to use to describe myself in any context, least of all this one), you can be pretty certain the person or thing in question didn’t mean that much to me to begin with.

My first serious relationship didn’t happen until I was 23. My boyfriend was much younger than I was. How much younger, you might wonder. Let’s just say it wasn’t illegal for me to be with him, but I went online to check to be sure. Yeah, that young. There were extenuating circumstances. I met him online, and he was a friend of a guy I had briefly dated, who was in fact my age. I had no initial reason to suspect how young he was. Also, he was a genius (literally), so there was nothing intellectually to give his age away, either. He had his own apartment… I could go on and on. In the end, they’d all be excuses. The truth is, I was the youngest 23 year-old you can imagine. I was immature, emotionally speaking. I wouldn’t have been ready for anything more, and for a long time we actually had a healthy relationship. We dated for three and a half years, and it was only toward the end that things started to deteriorate. I knew he wasn’t “the one,” but fear clamped down and held on tight. I was 26 and he was the only boyfriend I’d ever had… what if I never found anyone else? At the time, that seemed both entirely possible and incredibly terrifying. I hung on, he retreated. He came back, I hung on even tighter. There was no grace involved, just a lot of pain. I neither had the faith nor the confidence to believe that the right person was still out there. It was a tough break-up. I’d like to say we remained friends, but we didn’t. It was just too hard.

I’m actually not going to go on and on about any other relationship. There were problems with each, and they ended. I was never the one to initiate the original breakup. I say “original” because there was one guy who broke up with me and then came back more than once. In the very end, I did end it. But not the first time. I can remember one of the scenes excruciatingly well… me pleading with him not to go, actually on my knees. Jesus. I threw up in my mouth a little just remembering that. And the thing was, I was never upset because I believed the relationship itself was right, or that the guy in question was “the one.” It was always all about the fear. I’m not sure why, in spite of the fact that I eventually had several relationships, I always had this fear that no one else would ever want me, that I’d always be alone. Who said fear is rational, right?

Of course, all’s well that ends well. I finally met Chris, at a point where I was emotionally ready to meet “the one.” And there he was, and here we are. I would love to tell you that based on all of this that I no longer have trouble letting go, that I’ve learned my lesson. No. Afraid not. I still struggle. There are ideas I find it hard to let go of, beliefs about myself, my life… those are tough, too. Once I believe something it’s next to impossible to change my mind. Oh, and relationships, too. I found Chris, but I have similar troubles sometimes with friendships. That thing I have about wanting things to go my way means nothing ever goes as smoothly as I’d like it to. I have wonderful friends who mean the world to me, but I’d like things to fit neatly into their boxes, and life often isn’t like that. When something or someone doesn’t fit into a designated box, it’s tough for me. I want to cram it in there, make it fit. You can imagine how well that works, can’t you?

So I am working on it, this letting go stuff. I make no promises about grace being involved in the process, not yet, anyway. I am trying not to want to control everything, or force something to be something it’s not. It’s definitely a work in progress. Trying is good though, yes? Trying and acceptance. And maybe a smidgen of faith.