Sunday, December 21, 2014

Giving Up for Christmas

I had to let go. The feeling I held onto for years was getting me nowhere. It kept me mired in a place that wanted me stagnant. It held my feet to the spot where no real peace could grow. I held onto the feeling so tightly for so long that I no longer knew when I first felt it. I held onto it so long that I no longer knew why it is important to me. 

Yesterday, I sat in a movie theater watching Wild, starring Reese Witherspoon and based on a book of the same name by Cheryl Strayed. If you have not yet heard of it, the story is that of a woman (Strayed) who embarked on an 1100-mile trek along the Pacific Coast Trail from California to Oregon whilst trying to work through some tough emotional issues regarding love, loss, and identity. I read the book a few weeks ago, in preparation to see the movie when it released, but nothing could have prepared me for the feeling that overwhelmed me in the darkness of the theater as I watched Strayed's story unfold on the screen.

For years I have held animosity toward a person for things I once could have sworn she did intentionally to me. I could have sworn that once, but there in the glow of a movie screen, I wasn't so sure anymore. On nearly every meeting between the two of us, I analyzed yet another reason I felt slighted and noted one more infraction she had committed in my eyes. While
she and I have not always been on the best of terms, as I reviewed all the bits of information I stored away to explain my feelings, I could no longer see why I held onto these fragmented memories so tightly.

I was holding onto evidence for a trial that would never happen. -- Mark Nepo

During the mental review of allegations I held against her, I could not determine how any of this served me. No trial would happen. No jury would ever declare I was right; no judge would ever sentence her to punishment. And yet, for years, I held onto these shreds of evidence as if they made me somehow better. But they didn't. The feeling only became a burden for me to carry.

In the movie Wild, Strayed encounters a little boy (played by Evan O'Toole) on the hike who sings a song to her. Though the song is an old cowboy tune and not one prone to trigger emotion on its own merits, their momentary exchange brought tears to my eyes as the sweet resilience of this child cut directly through my mental case file full of evidence and sliced it in half. It simply held no more value. 

The movie, as the book, is a story of self-discovery, a genre I enjoy, and any glance at my bookshelf or DVD cabinet would attest to that. Each story from those shelves taught me a lesson, and in most cases, the lesson learned was unexpected, just as this lesson from Wild. 

While Cheryl Strayed wrote in the pages of her book that it was journey back to herself, in an attempt to regain a piece of herself that had been lost, the lesson it gave me was to let go. While Strayed walked 1100 miles through strenuous conditions, I learned to give up. As Strayed quoted her mother, "If there's one thing I can teach you, it's how to find your best self. And when you do, how to hold onto it for dear life," I knew I had to let go.

In this final week before Christmas and only a few remaining days before the dawn of a New Year, the focus of this season has increasingly been about what we are getting. But I ask: What will you give up? What no longer serves you? What feeling weighs you down? Forget about what you are giving to others, or what others are giving to you. What will you give up for Christmas? 

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  1. Again, you touched my soul. You truly have a gift! I read this to my husband. He was blown away. He said you are a rare find for sure. It takes a lot to impress him, ya know! LOL

    1. Aw, Stephanie, thank you. Merry Christmas to you and James!! Xoxo

  2. Wow, I really need to watch "Wild". I didn't know about it until this and now I've just watched the trailer and together with your words, I have a big lump in my throat and an ache in my chest.

    You are courageous, brave and inspiring. Letting go and moving on from what no longer serves us can be terrifying, but the freedom gained is just the beginning. The heaviness disappears, "the feeling only became a burden for me to carry." And just like that you saw beyond the emotional attachment. Good for you, Rita. When we let go or give up something old and stale we tell the Universe that we are ready for the great things that are waiting for us. I have let go of many things and still have more inner work to do, but watch what doors will open as you free yourself and what a beautiful gift to welcome in the New Year.


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