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Letting Go

Photo by Desi AnwarOne of the hardest things in life that we must do is to say goodbye and to let go, whether to people, situation or even things.  When we’re happy, the happiness is often tinged with sadness because we know that the moment will not last, and already we’re thinking of how much we will regret losing that feeling.

When I was a child I had a particularly sensitive nature when it came to the idea of loss, something that may be older folk would be more familiar with as they are a lot more prone to pangs of nostalgia than younger people.  For instance, I remember vividly when I was around seven or eight years old, my mother reprinted some old photos that I had not seen before to stick in a photo album.  Some had photos of me as a toddler.

Instead of being amused by the baby pictures, I was filled with an enormous sense of sadness so much so I actually shed tears copiously.  The reason was, I could not recollect any of the moments captured in the photos and I was filled with regret there was a part of my life that I lost forever, even as I did not have any memory of it.  Once upon a time, I was a little child, and now that child was gone.  I was already a big girl.

I went to bed crying and my mother or my sister never figured out why I was so tearful, thinking it was just typical of me who was the family’s cry baby.  But there it was.  I was seven and my emotions were already full of nostalgia and regret like some old woman mourning her lost youth.

Another time that I could remember succumbing to a similar bout of sentimentality was when I returned home after a long weekend spent in Pangandaran beach, one of the most beautiful and memorable experiences that I had ever felt in my then almost ten years of existence.  It was my first taste of real loss that would traumatize my tender emotions for years to come and when I was acquainted with the notion that nothing lasts forever and all good things must come to an end.

I had never been to the seaside before and the feeling of the sand between my toes, the salty smell that permeated everything from my skin, hair and the air that I breathed, the sound of the waves breaking on the shore in the evening, keeping me awake at night, they were new and poignantly beautiful experiences that I treasured during the three short days I spent there.

And then the moment was over.

Instead of savouring the moments and turning them into memories that would provide me with happy reminiscences, every night for over a week after that holiday I would lie in bed crying myself to sleep, upset that I had lost those happy days, sad that I was no longer experiencing them.  I wanted time to stop, so I could frolic in the water, hunt for seashells, run barefooted on the soft golden sand, drink coconut from its shell and smell the grilled fish cooked over charcoals in the sunset, forever.

I had fallen in love.  And then it was over.  My lover was taken away from me and I felt the sadness of separation, the despair of a life incomplete and a happiness wrenched away from me.  I had glimpsed paradise and I had to go back to earth.  I even wished that I had not gone on that little holiday.

Over time however, the trauma of this childish experience taught me two things.  First, is to appreciate the beauty of the moment, to enjoy things as they are without the fear of losing them, and second, to be able to say goodbye and to let go of things without fear and knowing that it’s not the end of the world.

Because at the end of the day, life is but a fleeting moment, a series of events that come and go, emotions that arise and disappear, feelings that develop and wane, moments that spark and fade.  It is not a never-ending situation, a game without match point or the blowing of a whistle nor a perpetual film without the credit titles.

As such, life could only be about letting go, for in doing so we create the space for new things, new experiences, new people and new emotions to enter into our lives.  Thus we are enriched.  For when we hold on to old things, to stale emotions, to habitual thoughts and ageing beliefs, we allow ourselves to be in a constant state of death, of arrested development and of not living a fulfilled life.

As I grew up, I would enjoy the feeling of going away, leaving home to distant shores and delight in being under different skies and bask in unfamiliar surroundings.  I would take these new experiences and store them as sweet memories, grateful for the opportunity to appreciate them.  And I had long learned not to be sad on the way home, nor feel a sense of loss or regret that the moment has ended.

Instead, I cherish the feeling of wonder and excitement that allow me to develop a sense of anticipation for future journeys and more adventures.  This way, life is not about endings, but about new beginnings.  Death is not to be mourned or feared, but to be embraced as a necessary part of our constant rebirth.