Learning to Let Go
It’s the last day of 2017.
Though we are free to make fresh starts at any point in the year, January 1st certainly nice ring to it. I recently moved into a new home that my husband and I have been tirelessly working on over the last year – built from the ground up. This whole process involved shoving our stuff in storage for 2 years and cohabitating with my mother for the last 8 months (bless her heart for putting up with my three messy boys and me)… The whole process of packing & unpacking our belongings led me to purge A LOT of stuff. Items that had been in storage for years that I hadn’t even thought about, clothes that hung in my closet that I never wore, trinkets and gadgets collected at various events that never got used. This was the easy part. It felt good to let it all go – cleansing – allowing only the possessions that continued to serve me to find a place in my new home.
I also uncovered photos from my past, cards received after my father passed away, a wallet full of receipts from the last 2 weeks of my father’s life: spin class, hospital food, funeral dresses. These things were more difficult to say goodbye to. It seemed there was a part of me still clinging to an alternate destiny, denying the outcome of his illness. But amidst those things, I found a Christmas card that I wrote to my father 3 years ago – his last Christmas. Though at the time of writing it, I had no idea it would be. In the card, I encouraged him to do something that he always encouraged me to do: LET IT GO.
Let go of your expectations, let go of your ego, let go of what was, let go of what could be… LET IT ALL GO.
Anytime I’d have a result that wasn’t favorable, a challenge with a sponsor, jealousy of another athlete’s “opportunities” this would be his advice. I used to not understand it. I couldn’t recognize that within “letting go” you could still yearn for greatness, seek improvement in your life, and achieve excellence in your field. I thought “let it go” somehow meant “giving up.” But, it does not.
Letting go is learning to live with an open heart. It’s learning to strive without attachment to the exact outcome that you want. It’s about being immersed in the moment you’re currently in, accepting all the gifts and lessons that are being offered. When I wrote that card to my father in December 2015, I had just gotten back into a halfpipe for the first time after tearing my ACL going into the 2014 Winter Olympics. At the time of tearing my ACL, I thought my career was done, that I would never compete again, that I’d never ski to “my standard” again and therefor didn’t want to waste any time doing it.
Fortunately, as the snow fell and the competition season started, my desire to be in a halfpipe and to compete again took over. That contest in Copper was liberating. I finally understood what my father was telling me all these years. By letting go of all the bull, I was able to just enjoy skiing. I didn’t pressure myself to perform at any level, just invited myself, my soul, and my body to ski a halfpipe and express what felt true.
For my father, the treatments for Leukemia were taking a toll. A toll that we thought he would persevere through, a toll that we assumed had an end that didn’t involve the end of his life. He had so much edema in his body that wearing shoes (let alone ski boots) would cause immense pain and rupturing of surface tissue. For those of you who don’t know, my father is the one who taught me how to ski. He LOVED skiing. As far as sports go, this was his favorite. And in the winter of 2015, he didn’t think he’d be able to go.
So, we bought him the gift of a sit-ski lesson through the National Ability Center at PCMR. We encouraged him to let go of how he used to ski, of what his body used to be able to do, and we got him on snow. Without letting go in that moment, this experience wouldn’t have happened. My sister and I wouldn’t have that memorable, final run with my father. Lucky for us, he was willing.
In 2017, I’ve been reminded of this lesson more than once, though I didn’t realize it until I found that card. The hidden gifts that the universe has in store for us began to appear this year. A perfect example of this was the opportunity to compete on The Amazing Race. This was a full-circle gift returned from not getting my “desired” outcome in other situations.
In 2014, I applied to be on the show Survivor. I made it quite far in the casting process, but ultimately, they decided I wasn’t a fit for the show and I wasn’t invited out to finals casting in LA. The casting director told me that maybe I’d be a fit for another season or another show, but I was certain she was just letting me down softly. I was bummed, but I let it go. Instead, I planned a solo mountain bike road trip on which I met my now husband.
Fast forward three years. My husband and I built our relationship around adventure and in our wedding vows agreed to be one another’s adventure partners for life. When I got an unexpected invite to go on a mountain bike sailing trip in Iceland, it was met with great resistance by Chris. It was a financial burden and a trip that would use up precious vacation time that I couldn’t later use for an adventure with Chris. This was a major point of contention for us. I felt like I was missing out on a great opportunity by saying no, Chris was convinced that there would always be opportunities coming my way. So, I let it go.
Instead of Iceland, we planned an epic trip for some bikepacking in Alaska – a trip that both of us could experience. Another couple months later, on a random Friday evening in July, merely 6 days before we were supposed to leave for AK, I got a text message asking about my interest in competing on The Amazing Race. *($(*^%(@$&*@&$*#&(*$%&*?!?!?!?!? Seriously? Seriously.
To make matters even more interesting, the day I received that text was the day that I would have been on a plane to Iceland had I said yes to the biking/sailing trip. Had I held on to my belief that Iceland was going to be the last and best and biggest and greatest adventure that I’d ever have the opportunity to experience, had I continued to dig my heels in with my husband, had I not let go, I wouldn’t have even seen that text until it was too late.
What are you cheating yourself of because you just couldn’t let something go?
By focusing on what “should have been” we’re denying ourselves the beauty of this moment. By staring at a closed door, we’re feeling to see the three others that just opened in front of us.
I’m sure, like me, at lot has happened for you in this past year. There are always lessons to learn and carry forward, but there is also a lot to let go. I invite you to let go of what didn’t go your way in 2017, hold onto everything that went well, and carry that into the new year. Be present and patient with your journey – there are often gifts hiding that you cannot yet see.
2018 mantra: come what may.
Happy New Year, everyone! As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts. All the best in 2018!