Two years ago, I wrote a little piece about how lovely it is to let dead things go.
It was late October and the weather at the foot of the Rockies had turned cold, wet, and windy. I’d been married to and living with a man who had, at first, seemed to be everything good and honorable but whose dark side showed me he was someone else entirely. He was Mr. Hyde and nothing I could do would hide me from his evil at home or hide his evil from outside the home from me.
I wrote that piece six days after he made it clear that if I stayed, I wouldn’t survive.
I thought then how felicitous the words I found comfort in were in what they spoke to my soul:
The trees are about to show us how lovely it is to let dead things go.
I thought I understood how dead my life had become, how destroyed, how overgrown with everything that kept me from feeling any warmth or joy, from being able to see or reach the sun. But I was wrong. I hadn’t even remotely begun to dig deeply into myself and to develop the self awareness necessary to come to terms with what was dead and dying, let alone understanding why it was there in the first place.
At my first opportunity, I began to dig deeply into myself and I found myself feeling utterly out of control as my world seemed to crumble around me. Memories I had suppressed came out and buried me in unfelt and unprocessed emotional turmoil. At some point I felt for certain that my physical heart was breaking along with the heart in my soul because of the pain I felt and was admitted to the hospital as they tried to locate the cause of the horrible ache in my chest.
I was utterly destroyed and yet I had no idea that I was.
So I carried on working on myself, trying to find the bottom of the despair and brokenness, trying to find peace. After more than a year of purposeful and mindful work on myself, again I thought that surely I understood the words:
When you’ve learned
To endure pain
As silently as the earth,
A soft act of rebellion.
I knew I had grown and changed. I knew I was more than I ever had been before. I knew that I was becoming who I was always meant to be… and I wrote about the process of removing the dead from the garden of my soul so that I could blossom and come to life once more. But even now, I find that I have still held on tightly to parts that have been dead for a very long time.
One of the happiest moments in life
is when you find the courage
to let go of what you cannot change.
Be like a tree and let the dead leaves drop.
I think now that truly the hardest lesson is not recognizing the dead and dying relationships and situations in one’s life, it’s not contemplating the dreams and hopes that will never be achieved in the present situation whether due to a toxic foundation, a lack of freedom to pursue them, or a fear of letting go of a sure thing in case of a failure on what feels like a longshot.
A C- decision made now is better than an A+ decision made too late.
~Patton (I’m roughly paraphrasing)
Letting the things you know are dead go is truly the most challenging lesson of all to master because we are so afraid that if we let go of this thing we are holding onto we will never have another and in a sense we are right.
We can’t replace the dead, the dying, or the dysfunctional if we never let go of it enough to open our hands to something new.
We can’t find something positive to fill our hearts and replace the broken and negative if we never banish the brokenness and negativity from ourselves.
We can’t hold onto something new, fulfilling, hopeful, or healthy if we are too busy clinging to the old, failing, discouraging, and toxic.
Truly, in order to grow and find peace, we will all have to accept at times the death of a season, a relationship, a dream. We can hold onto those things with all our might but we cannot breathe life back into what has died. We can only let the dead go, find beauty in that season of death because that will give us a time to rest so that when a new season approaches, we are ready for new growth, new life, and new joys.