It's been on my mind a lot lately ... those three little words that pack so much power, that often change the course of a life. Three simple words that might be thought of a lot but are sometimes hard to say.
And those words are: Let it go.
Often the context in which those words are spoken involves letting go of a past practice or an old idea or method of doing something. I’ve heard it at work from time to time. I sometimes have a certain way of doing things that is less relevant than it was in the past and I’m encouraged to ‘let it go’, to not worry about it or to spend less time doing that particular thing because it is not as important as it used to be.
As we get older, we are sometimes forced to let certain ideas and attitudes go. Sometimes that is a good thing and sometimes it is not. We might grieve over the loss of certain beliefs or other aspects of life we have held or lived with for many years.
I am about to let go a wife. Again. I am on the verge of letting go the whole idea of marriage. I can spend hours telling you why marriage is a great idea and many hours explaining why it isn’t. Humans are social by nature but from a societal point of view we don’t really ever have to get married to be happy. We can find love, companionship, sex and sharing of life moments without ever getting married. Yet some of us still like the idea of marriage. For me, however, it’s time to let it go. There is no problem letting this one go, but it is more of a challenge for me to let the whole idea go.
Good health is another aspect of life that is on my mind as I write this. I expect to be in good health. My mother was a health fanatic in many ways. She was very specific about diet, she exercised as long as she was able and had no life-shortening vices. I am the same in many ways. I eat three meals a day, mostly healthy food, I don’t smoke or do drugs and my only health vice is red wine, but one or two glasses a night is not a health issue. Yet I am starting to have those little annoying health issues that just come with age. Basil cell carcinoma … geez, who knew that being out in the sun without sunscreen in the 1970s would lead to skin cancer in the 2000s? That is the ‘good’ skin cancer and I survived it quite nicely last year. Now I have another spot on my face that is most likely another episode. This on top of the still unexplained medical issue I had from January through April.
Good health from now through my 90s? Let it go.
OK, so I will be single again soon. Hmmm, that conjures up all sorts of delicious images in my head. I can see myself with all those beautiful women I’ve known through my life. Except I’m over 50 and most of them are too. I’ll slap you (verbally) if you tell me 50 is old. It isn’t. But this fantasy in my head of having a 30-year-old girlfriend sometime next year … let it go. Not going to happen. In truth, I don’t really have that fantasy but I do have the self-image of a man who is at least ten years younger than I really am and I am beginning to question that image. Time to let it go? I hope not but I do have to accept the possibility.
Most guys my age are thinking about retirement. Some of them have already retired, in most cases from those kinds of government jobs you can retire from at a fairly young age. I am in a part of the media business that is dominated by people much younger than I am, but instead of planning for retirement, I have just taken on even more responsibility and I am doing work designed to extend the life of my career. Twelve years ago I had a specific plan for retirement and a specific idea for how to make a part-time living starting ten years from that point. I identified three places other than my current hometown where I might be able to execute my plan in the event I decided to leave the relative insanity of where I currently live. I visited and ruled out one of them (Flagstaff AZ) and made business and real estate contacts in another where I already had personal contacts (Outer Banks NC). Six years ago I did additional research on possible future places to live and added one more to the list (Asheville NC) and I now have both personal and business ties to that town.
The idea that I’ll ever live in those places? Let it go.
The idea that I’ll ever retire willingly? Let it go.
Aging is all about life experience, gaining wisdom, building a circle of personal supportive friendships, hitting personal goals. It can be about living out dreams. At a certain point in your life you can find out what you really want and design your life in support of getting it. A good thing you can let go is whatever in your past holds you back.
Some times during my current transitional period I have become frustrated with the possibility of having to let go certain things I used to take for granted, parts of my life I assumed would always be there. But as I move forward (and as I re-read this post), I think maybe there is positive power, impact and energy to those three magic words I cited at the beginning. It is time for me to shout to those things in my life that present obstacles: let it go!