“Some birds are not meant to be caged, that’s all. Their feathers are too bright, their songs too sweet and wild. So you let them go, or when you open the cage to feed them they somehow fly out past you. And the part of you that knows it was wrong to imprison them in the first place rejoices, but still, the place where you live is that much more drab and empty for their departure.”
– Stephen King
I find New Year’s to be a shallow holiday, an empty, even cold holiday.
If it has any meaning for me, it prompts me to look back on the year, not for the sappy emotions of nostalgia and melancholy, or for scheduled rituals of joy and celebration, but to try to grasp some meaning for me. To learn what I need to learn and grow where I need to grow. It was a very good year in so many important ways, it was a painful and challenging year in others, and I suppose I could say that very thing about every single year of my life, and every year of yours.
We look so hard for meaning and revelation, what we often find is just the very old and familiar stories of plain old life.
We live in an age of shallow punditry of paper-thin banality masking as great revelation – it pretends to make us think, but doesn’t really make us think at all. The great thinkers we quote are all far in the past, they weren’t screened by cable new producers.
I can always tell when someone is making me think, I don’t ever like it, even though I appreciate it.
Thinking is difficult and often uncomfortable. The truly wise men and women do not often break through the screen of our corporate media, the rantings would plummet. The haters and bubble-heads and screamers get all of the air time and twitter hits.
For me, this has been a time of letting go. Of dreams, expectations, of saying goodbye to people who were my friends, of people who were not my friends, of people very close to me, even of family. And of meeting new friends of the greatest value to me.
I realize I’ve spent far too much of my life trying to reason with people who do not care to reason with me, trying to solve problems with people who don’t really want to solve problems, but who cling to anger and grievance like heroin or crack cocaine. Outrage then, is an addiction.
I am learning to let go, and I am understanding what the great spiritualists – Merton, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama – meant when they talked and wrote of the importance of letting go. I have spent so much time and energy trying to communicate with people who can’t communicate with me and don’t wish to communicate with me or even try to learn how.
Anger is a warm bath, some people love to soak in it. I am letting go.
What am I learning about letting go? I’m learning this.
I make many mistakes, I admit it freely. if people refuse to look at me in a new light, if they can only see me for what I was, or for what I did wrong, if they can only see me through the prism of the mistakes I’ve made, if they don’t realize that they are not all my mistakes, then they must go, I must let them go, walk away, run away, get away.
A friend I thought of as a good friend was angry and hurtful to me a few months ago, I don’t know if I deserved it or not, or what that even means. I often have provoked anger in people.
But I knew a real friend would have talked with me, tried to understand, seen me for who I am and am trying to be, not only through that narrow prism of my mistakes. I messaged my friend and told her we should talk, but then I woke up the next morning and asked: why? What am I trying to accomplish? What do I really want?
And the answer came to me in a moment, and altered the way I think of the world, hit me like a tornado. I need to let go.
I wanted to let go. I messaged her back and said thanks for answering me, but what I realize is that what I am needing to do is to let go of this idea of friendship, of argument and vindication and right and wrong. You do not know me, I thought, or see the person I am or am working so hard to be. My friends and the people who love me do see that, for all of my flaws and missteps and problems.
Seeing someone clearly does not always mean approval, or heart emoticons, or gushing love. My best friends see me all too well.
I didn’t want to ever have another disconnected conversation, another he-said she-said that leaves everyone sputtering and angry and wondering what happened. It is not about who is right or who is wrong, who is good or who is evil. We are all all of those things, all of the time. We are human.
Friends connect, we make them feel good, they make us feel good. We talk in trust and openness, there is warmth and understanding, even healing. This was my hear of new friends and good friends, I made more than I had in my lifetime.
I made a new friend a couple of weeks ago, and I marvel at how clearly she sees me, good and bad, how much we get and know one another. You never know where friendship is going to go, I am no psychic. But I hope it lasts. I hope I never let go of our connection or take it for granted.
And then, there is this: letting go doesn’t mean you hate someone, or are angry with them. It doesn’t mean you don’t care about them or have any feeling for them. It is about letting go of the conceit that you can change them, argue with them, explain yourself to them, be perfect for them.
I can only control what I say, what I do, I can only truly grasp what I feel or want to feel. That is the boundary.
Arrogance and hubris may be the hardest thing of all to let go of, and perhaps the most important.