The Storm and the Kite: Learning to Let Go

Let it go, or it may never let you go.

-Christine Cain

Let go or be dragged.

-Zen Proverb

Last week, we had a huge storm roll through. Huge. As in over an hour of heavy rains, hail, and winds that were bending trees like they were made of rubber. When it was all said and done, we had a bit of a mess on our hands.

The Storm and the Kite: A Tale of Letting Go

As our backyard is full of trees, we had quite few large branches come down in the storm, and plenty more smallish ones.

The Storm and the Kite: A Tale of Letting Go

The Storm and the Kite: A Tale of Letting Go

The next day, I was walking through our yard to assess the damage when I stopped suddenly at one tree in particular. Over two years ago, a kid was flying a kite in the park behind our house and get it stuck in this tree. It’s stayed put ever since.

The Storm and the Kite: A Tale of Letting Go

How is it, that a storm that produced tornado like winds, hail, and rain, a storm that brought trees and branches down all over town, didn’t manage to knock loose this flimsy little kite? How has the kite held on after all this time?

As I stood, dumbfounded, I suddenly realized the parallel to my own life.

The kite doesn’t belong, and yet, it is a genuine part of the tree at this point. The tree has continued to grow around and with the kite for over two years now. No matter how incongruous of a pair the live tree and the plastic kite might be, they are none the less, one.

I thought about the things that I’ve adopted into my own life that aren’t true to who I am, and yet I hold onto so dearly that no matter how untrue to myself they might be, I refuse to let them go.

You know what I’m talking about. Those things. The things that aren’t us, yet we cling to them with such desperation that even life’s trials and storms can’t loosen them from our grasp. Things that, if we were honest with ourselves, don’t represent us or who we want to be, or heck, even make us feel all that great about ourselves, and yet…there they are.

As I walked through my yard, through so much debris, I thought about the difference between the things we naturally shed throughout our lifetime, and the things that we should let go of, but don’t. I noticed that what the storm purged was all the natural pieces and parts of the trees: large limbs, small branches, and leaves and vines of all shapes and sizes. The storm got ahold of the the real parts of the trees and removed the things that the trees no longer needed. What the storm couldn’t touch, was the unreal.

I thought again about my own life, and how going through storms of my own has a way of refining the parts of me that are true and real. Tough situations tend to polish my rough edges and shine the areas of myself that haven always been there all along. But the things I cling to that aren’t true to who I am, tend to go unchanged. I think, perhaps, it’s impossible to refine what you are holding onto with a closed, white-knuckled grasp.

For me, I tend to cling to the same false things over and over. I’ll go through my life growing and maturing, shedding the old and growing the new, all the while holding onto the same, dumb stuff. The stuff that I really need to just let go of because, it’s not me! It doesn’t belong! The stuff that probably looks as obviously out of place in my life as that stupid blue kite looks in the tree.

Here is my list. Maybe it will help you determine the things that it’s time for you to let go of. Happy pruning.

People – I tend to lump everyone in my life into the “important” category when, in reality, that is simply untrue and a guaranteed way to bog myself down with a bunch of false relationships. I’ve learned that there are really three tiers of people in life: 1) Those you are actively investing in and are actively investing in you. 2) Those you know casually, whom you don’t expect much of and who in return expect little of you (and that is a good thing!). 3) Everyone else.

Why do I think this is a wise way of looking at relationships? Because we mentally and emotionally can’t invest in everyone, which means everyone doesn’t deserve the same mental and emotional weight. For example, I simply cannot care about the casual acquaintance’s opinion of me like I care about my spouse’s opinion of me. Similarly, I can’t expect people I only see in social settings to include me in their life as if I were their best friend. We aren’t best friends, and to expect more from them (or more of myself) would be expecting the relationship to be something it isn’t.

The pruning in this case can happen in one of two ways: You literally scale back on certain relationships, or, you scale back how you view certain relationships. Either way, prune the fake, keep the real.

Bad habits – Sometimes we hold on to habits so dearly because we think they are an integral part of who we are.

Fun exercise: say the word “integral” out loud or have Google do it for you. What does it sound like? Integrity, maybe? One of integrity’s definitions is “the state of being whole and undivided.” Bad habits divide us into two selves: the self that is real and built on something whole, and the extra false thing(s) that we add on top of that real self.

Maybe we don’t know who we’d be without these habits. Maybe we don’t know how we’d define ourselves without these habits. I don’t know about you, but I’ve always struggled with the practical side of dealing with bad habits. (ie I’m lazy.) Sometimes it’s just easier to cling to bad habits then it is to deal with them. I don’t know what your bad habits are, and I won’t go into details about mine, but I will say this – none of the reasons I just mentioned are good reasons for not dealing with our bad habits.

The danger in not dealing with these issues then becomes clinging so tightly to these false traits that suddenly, like the kite, they are so embedded in our personality that they do become who we are. I don’t want to build the basis of who I am on bad habits. I want to be defined by good things. True things. Real things! I want to have integrity. I want who I am as a person to be based on wholeness.

Regrets/Embarrassment – This is such a big one for me. I get embarrassed uber easily. I mean, I replay over and over things that I’ve said and done that I’ve felt embarrassed by for years. Years, people!

The truth is, we all get ourselves into situations that we do and say things that embarrass us. Well, most of us. I feel like my husband is never embarrassed, but I think he is more of an exception than the rule. But, when we give that embarrassing moment so much focus in our mind, we start to define ourselves by that one, silly little event.

Sure, you might have said a really stupid thing, but that doesn’t make you stupid. Or sure, you might have really hurt someone’s feelings, but that doesn’t make you a mean person. So here is what you do.

Think through the situation that is making you feel embarrassed. Are there any steps of restitution you need to make? Do you need to apologize? Make amends? Perhaps, change a bad habit that got you into that situation? Ok, then go do those things. When you are done, be done. Reframe the conversation you are having in you mind. Remind yourself that you are not defined by that experience, and Move. On.

Or, if there aren’t any steps of restitution you need to take, then you get to skip right to the final step: Move. On. I’ve found that half the things I’ve done to “embarrass” myself go 100% unnoticed by others. Sure, I misspoke, or stuttered, or laughed at an inappropriate time (I’m the worst at thinking I’m getting set up for a joke when in reality the other person is about to say something awful and serious. Awwwkward.) We are all human here. And if from time to time other people really do think what you did or said was dumb? Oh well. They do dumb stuff too. If they judge you too harshly for it and that bothers you, then maybe you should revisit which tier they belong in. Just saying…Not everyone’s opinion of you deserves top billing.

Unrealistic expectations that led to unnecessary disappointments –  Ok, this is the mother load for me. Here is my MO: set my expectations for myself super, duper high, like unattainably high, and then get reeeeeally mad at myself when (shocker) I can’t pull it off. I will obsess about these things. I will carry these unrealistic expectations around for years. I hold onto them so tightly that nothing – not sound logic, not confrontation by others, not one of life’s storms – nothing can knock it loose.

I’ve found myself feeling absolutely horrible about who I am, my abilities (or lack there of), and what I’ve been able to accomplish all because I’m viewing myself through the very false contact lenses of unrealistic expectations. But here’s the thing, no one can make me take those contacts out. I have to do it myself. I don’t know why it takes me so long to remove those soul-sucking things, but you know what is on the other side when I do? Freedom.

I think that is what struck me most about that tree and the kite. Like the first quote says, if you don’t let some things go in your life, then they might not ever let you go. Even if those things don’t belong. Even if they don’t make you feel great. Suddenly, if we aren’t careful, they really will be a part of who we are.

I want better for my life. I know it might require some difficult and even painful pruning, but I believe the result will be worth it. I want to go through the storms of life and come out purified, pruned, and refreshed. I don’t want to miss out on the opportunities to  continually become more like the person God has made me to be – free from all the falseness that tries to ensnare me and simply, wonderfully, me.

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