Letting go

Because I really love words, I often come across a quote that speaks to me. I usually scribble it on a receipt or piece of scrap paper at the bottom of my purse, or I hastily type it into the notes app on my phone, with every intention of revisiting the quote and why it caught my attention. Sometimes the revisiting results in a blog post, but more often than not the note languishes until I clean out my purse or go to make another note on my phone. Then I wonder, where did I find this quote, and what did I intend to do with it? I blame cancer and infection and their long-reaching tentacles for compromising my previously functional brain.

The latest scribble in the bottom of my purse is a good one:

“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.” — Tao Te Ching

Ah, yes, the letting go. I’ve never quite understood the idea of “just let it go” when bugged by something. While I don’t endorse fretting and harumphing, I wonder what manner of insensitivities would be committed if people just turned the other cheek and acted as if nothing wrongful had occurred.

Needless to say, I’ve never been particularly adroit at just letting things go.

When someone cuts in front of me in line, I point out that I was there first. When a doctor keeps me waiting for hours in the waiting room, I mention that while I understand that things come up and emergencies do arise, my time is valuable, too. When my son’s All Star team was wrongly accused of misdeeds this season, I let the accusers know that their underhanded tactics did not go unnoticed. When a member of my inner circle acts unkindly, I don’t hesitate to bring the errant behavior to her attention.

Sometimes speaking out changes things: the line-jumper realizes he/she isn’t the only person on the planet. Sometimes it doesn’t change things: doctors overbook themselves, 12-year-old baseball players are punished because of so-called grown-ups’ selfishness, and friendships run their course.

I’ve been told that people admire my willingness to speak up in the face of blatant wrongdoing. “I wish I was ballsy like you” or “I’m too chicken to say what I really think” are among the comments I’ve heard on this topic. I’d love to take credit for being brave and outspoken, as if it were planned and orchestrated for the greater good. The truth is, however, it’s not something I plan; it comes out because I don’t have a very reliable filter. I’m not so good at letting it go.

Change does come from having cancer and facing all of its myriad unpleasantries and challenges. I have learned during the course of my cancer “journey” to let some things go. While I won’t insult you with the platitudinal idea that cancer has made me a better person (I was just fine before, thank you very much), it does have a way of forcing things into perspective. I will never go quietly into the night with the idea that any of this is fair, but I won’t fight it, either. Sometimes bad things do indeed happen to good people. Sometimes life intervenes to rearrange the order of things, to shake things up a little, or a lot. I’ve learned a lot on this cancer “journey,” from the technical to the philosophical, from the underside of fear to the crushing tyranny of bad breaks and complications straight through to the unmitigated joy of coming out the other side, battle-weary and scared shitless yet proud in the knowledge that no matter what this beast flings at me, I can take it.

I will likely continue speaking out against what I perceive as the injustices in my life; a tiger doesn’t change its stripes, after all. I will nag the line-jumpers of the world until they see the error of their ways. I will savor Tao’s words and reflect on the idea that in letting go of things or friendships that may not be working, I open myself up to receiving something even better.

13 Comments on “Letting go”

  1. hjelmstd says:

    Well put. I like your comment about being “forced into perspective.” I have never been grateful for cancer, but I am grateful for the perspective that cancer and other challenges have given me. I know a few people (very few) whose lives have gone quite swimmingly so far and in some ways I feel sorry for them. If their first bump is a big one, it will be difficult to navigate.

  2. Liz says:

    Great post!

  3. David Benbow says:

    I’m writing this from the shore of Lake Superior, where I’m on my first vacation in over 2 years. I also have a hard time letting go. I’m trying to use this week to let go of everything back home. I’m trying to listen to the crashing waves instead of checking emails. I’m trying to enjoy the time with my children instead of arguing with them. I guess you could say this has been a very trying time.

    Thanks for reminding me to keep perspective.

  4. Change can be wonderfully therapeutic. I’ve given up friendships because they weren’t working. At first I felt guilty, but now I sense a freedom, a willingness to exert boundaries and speak up for myself. Thanks for this validating post. xx

    • David Benbow says:

      You go, Jan! I need to check out your books. I wish I were a published author, although I wouldn’t go through 2 bouts of cancer for it.


  5. Spoken like a true “let-it-goer” at heart!

  6. Wendy Langley says:

    A wise person once told me that the best way to “let go” of a wrongdoing is to forgive the doer. Not wait until they ask for forgiveness. Not decide if they deserve it. Truly forgive a person and the letting go part happens without trying. It works. (And to answer your next question, no I am not ready to forgive that irresponsible dog breeder yet. It requires a “little talk” first! ;))

    • David Benbow says:

      You are so right. Someone once broke my heart and forgiving her is the best thing I’ve ever done. It helped me let go and changed my life.

  7. You’re right – there’s these two sides in ‘letting things go’ between righting a wrong, or not allowing it to take up head space. Maybe we can fix the error and THEN let it go? Or would that be cheating? I suspect, however, it would instead be ideal.

    Really I think Tao’s great quote is more about the self. Forgiving ourselves – letting our own issues go and just being open.


  8. Mandi says:

    My favorite part: “I was just fine before, thank you very much.” ❤ it!

  9. This is great….. every part of it…. Now, may I make a chemobrain suggestion…. No more rifling for pens or tapping out on that smart phone…. Use The Microphone feature (I’m pretty sure all of them must have it).. That’s saved me from more than a few fender benders, I’m sure. Here’s the problem…. I forget to listen to the damn “voice memos”

    As for speaking up….. I think that’s great too….. Speak up, speak out…. If something ain’t right, and no one points it out.. it ain’t ever gonna get fixed…

    I’m clearly in my best grammar mode this evening…

    Love this post…

  10. I like the way you speak! So speak up, speak out, speak loud, speak however you want to. Just keep on speaking. Keep on telling it like it is. No reason to “change your stripes” my dear, none at all.

  11. […] Conventional Medicine Fails to Control DiabetesRev. Jesse Jackson disputes that Mayo Clinic is 'too white' for Junior …Letting go […]

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