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Knowing when to Let Go

Updated: May 12

It’s such a tricky thing, right!? Knowing when to stay and when to let go. I’ve wrestled with this my entire life. And hands up, my pattern is I usually staying too long. But I AM getting better!

We all know the dilemma. When you’ve loved, enjoyed and invested so much of your time, energy and SELF into something or someone - whether it’s a relationship or a job, a place or some situation – something that’s made your soul sing, that lit you up on the inside like a firework, that helped you to grow into the version of you that lives and breathes in this very moment. To think about letting go and moving on, to leave that ‘thing’ - seems like madness! And for me, somehow a deep, deep betrayal to those around me.

And yet! Staying doesn’t feel right anymore either. Staying when your heart, your truth, your aspirations have already left the building – feels dishonest, feels like it no longer truly serves anyone, feels out of alignment with what’s true on the inside. And when my insides don’t match my outsides, it brings a whole new slither of pain: self-betrayal.

I know I’ve stayed too long, waaaaaaaay too many times. Why? It seems to be a heady blend of relentless optimism (it WILL get better) an astonishing dollop of denial (it’s FINE, no really it is!) and people-pleasing - because god forbid, someone may not like my decision.

When change is happening on the inside – who we are, how we feel, what we want and what we hold in high value – it starts with a quiet whisper. A whisper so quiet, it’s quite easy to ignore or push aside.

And honestly I think it’s useful to ignore for a short while, because truth be told – it may simply be phase I’m going through that will settle in time, or because I’m tired and stressed and have lost perspective (again!) – nothing a good sleep, yoga class or holiday wouldn’t fix.

But the whisper rarely goes away. Instead, it progressively gets louder and louder, until it feels like we’re living a double-life that Superman (or Wonder Woman) would applaud us for!

We can feel when something new is emerging inside us. And that thing will never ‘sprout’ if we don’t make space and room for it. Instead, there’s a stagnation that hurts both us and the people around us who, paradoxically, we’re trying to protect.

I know this. You know this. But optimism, denial and the disease-to-please are very more-ish drugs that help alleviate the pain of truth in the short term: sort of.

And here’s the rub. When we leave too early, there’s a cost – forever in doubt and questioning if we bailed too soon. Wondering if perhaps more could have been to repair, to fix, to work through a bumpy phase and we maybe missed the chance to grow.

And when we leave too late, there’s a risk of resentment brewing – criticising and blaming the person, the job or the situation – instead of dealing with the truth, it’s actually US who is changing! I've been on both sides of that fence - the blamer and the blamed - neither are fun and neither lead to freedom. Instead we sadly tarnish the memories of all that was good and destroy the very thing we once loved.

I’ve done the latter more times than I care to admit – ignoring the whispers until they become sirens and then battle-cries, trying to make things work and pushing myself to the point of burn out – before finding myself incapable of gathering the resources, emotional capacity and energy I need to deal with the disappointment of others and leave well: with kindness, acceptance and love. Maybe you’ve done this too?

But thankfully we learn and grow, and I believe there is great power in regret. It points us right to our values so we can make better choices in the future.

I’m learning there’s a tipping point – a sweet spot - between these two places of leaving too soon or too late. A window of opportunity when we can still really relish and appreciate all that was good AND know it’s time to go and make room for something new, for everyone!

Having the willingness and courage to look for, accept and live into this truth AS IT’s HAPPENING is where it’s at. (Sounds so simple, but I can still hear Jack Nicholson's menacing reminder “you can’t handle the truth!” Touché.)

I’m in the business of growth. I’ve been teaching this one way or another my entire career, and I’m a living, breathing example of my work in progress.

Thankfully, I’m getting better at sensing this tipping point – and I’m able to let go with love and leave well. The fear of disappointing others is still alive and kicking in me, but I’m getting braver - expanding my capacity to sit with their disappoint in exchange for living from a place of truth and peace of mind. I believe THIS is actually love, and part of the maturing and individuating process.

When I stepped down as CEO of my business a few years ago, it was a bit of a shit-fest when it came to the comms quite honestly. It was early pandemic when we were in and out of lockdown, and I was exhausted - burned out, with nothing left in the tank. Similar to climbing a hill, by the time I reached the top, I was out of breath and couldn’t speak. All I could do is lie down and tap out.

And as a result, I did a clunky job at managing that transition. Yep pretty terrible, AND absolutely the best I could do in that moment.

Now a few years down the road, I recently stepped down as the Director of a Yoga Teacher Training Programme. This time still wasn't perfect, but it was much better and I’ll take that progress as a win. Relationships are still intact, and so is my integrity. And I’m able to hold that season of my life with so much fondness, appreciation and gratitude.

So maybe you're like me, and you too get tangled in this part of life - navigating transitions and changes that are hard. Maybe you’re there right now? If so, hold tight my love - you’re not alone. The fact that you got this far in today's musings tells me you're ready and willing to learn and grow, becoming braver and more skillful at these junctures. Yes it’s scary and yes there’s a cost to pay, but there’s always a cost my love. We simply have to choose which cost brings more freedom, and which brings more pain. Staying when you don't want to IS NOT LOVE, is not kind, is not generous. It's dishonest and it serves no one - not in a real or bigger sense.

Toni Morrison, the author and Nobel laureate said “The function of freedom is to free someone else.” I believe this in my bones - when we free ourselves, we free others.

You deserve all the freedom to live this one precious life to the fullest, we all do.

I hope you find your way through – I’ll be waiting on the other side, hand reached out to catch you.

See you along the road my freedom fighters!

Go lightly, and always, ALWAYS with love

Deborah 💛


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