“Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to?” ~Henri Nouwen
I came across this quote today on Twitter and had to chuckle. I have done this so often lately. I have even found myself clinging with tightly clenched fists to things that are making me miserable because of the fear of letting go and having nothing to hold on to. As Henri Nouwen asks, who then will I be?
The events of the last couple of years have conspired to force me to unclench my fists and release things time and time again. I’ve let go of a marriage, which included not only the relationship but everything that went with that too—the joint friendships, the home, the financial security, the ease of being half of a team and not having to do it all alone, the greater acceptability in this culture of being part of a couple. I’ve let go of a job and all that went with that—a career definition, the benefits, the friendships, the community, the security, the acceptability of having a full-time job. I’ve let go of a degree partly-finished when the school went out of business and all of the career hopes that went with that. I’ve let go of living as a straight woman with all of the many privileges that go with that.
I’ve let go of relationships, hopes, and dreams that went with all of these things or that could not bear the stresses of the changes that these changes wrought.
On a deeper level, these changes have fundamentally altered the way I look at myself and my life. The shifts there have been even larger than those that appear on the surface—even though those changes have been large enough themselves.
Ironically, I’ve found that each time my clenched fists have been torn open to force me release whatever I’ve been clinging to, it’s opened my hands to accept something bigger and more beautiful than whatever it was that I was clinging to with such desperation. I’m slowly learning to let go with less of a struggle because the reward of letting go has always been worth it. The pain in the process comes only from my clinging.
I’m still incredibly uncomfortable in this space of not being able to define who I am, but I am softening even into that. The need to be able to define who I am is perhaps the thing I cling to the most and is the root of everything else to which I cling. And yet this repeated process of letting go has shown me that none of these things that I’ve released truly had anything to do with who I truly am. Each one had a great deal to do with my definition of who I am, but I’m realizing that it is all ego’s illusion anyway.
I’ve grown and I’ve changed, but I’m only growing into being more authentically me, even when I can’t define who that is. Nothing that I’ve surrendered has made me any less me. I’m slowly learning to live in the unknowing and find peace there.
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.” ~Dr. Seuss
I am me, even without definition. And I’m the only me there is, so there’s no one to compete with. I can let go and just be me. It’s all there ever was anyway.
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