letting go

Saying Good-Bye and Letting Go


Over the years, I have become a master of letting go and saying good-bye. I’ve done it with a wide variety of loved ones, possessions, places, projects and events; even books, movies and ‘things’.

Here’s what I’ve found: Even after I’ve made the initial decision to let go – a process in and of itself – the final ‘good bye’ – especially when its necessity is a result of something sudden or shocking – can be quite challenging. I take the challenge because I need closure. Closure is vital for me… probably for you, too. And that final good bye… that’s one powerful way to get it.

Knowing that I’m going to get a whole lot more of whatever it is that I resist has me consciously working to accept the way it is – however it is. I don’t have to love it; I just have to get it. When we fight the changes, resist the way it is and ignore the need to let go… BAM! We’re stuck with it forever. Yes, it’s another one of those muscles to work out, but so worth the effort!

There have been times when I’ve had to release and rerelease (sometimes multiple times) before I’ve truly let go and am ready for my final good bye. I’ve found that rituals and ceremonies help – even if they are short and informal. Turns out it’s not weird at all, ceremonies and rituals are more human and far more ubiquitous than you can imagine.

In fact, recent research suggests that rituals may be more rational than they appear. I love ‘em! Even the simplest of rituals can be extremely effective tools in the letting go process. Rituals performed after experiencing losses – from loved ones to lotteries – actually alleviate grief, and rituals performed before taking on high-pressure tasks – like speaking in public – can actually reduce anxiety and increase confidence. What’s more, rituals appear to benefit even people who claim not to believe that rituals work. True story, check ‘em out…

When Morgan, my terrier, was about to be ‘put down’ I held her lovingly in my arms but I didn’t cry. It was only weeks later – when the carpet she’d destroyed was being replaced – that I broke down and cried like a baby. “Take the stupid carpet back”, I screamed, “I just want Morgan back!” My ‘good bye’ took the form of my screaming that she meant far more to me than carpeting ever could!

The Watts riots ended and we celebrated (a bit apprehensively) with prayers. It was over, that was good – but we lost so much. Praying together felt good.

The World Series was over and the Cubs finally won!!! After the shock came the joy and celebration – we toasted our good fortune.

I hadn’t smoked for over three years before my ‘just one – just this once’ became a habit renewed with a vengeance. Then, seven years from the day I first quit (easy to remember ‘cuz it was on my birthday), I decided to say good-bye to cigarettes for good. I took what was left of my last pack, tied it up with a pretty pink bow, and presented it to my two adult children as my gift to them. Together we created an impromptu farewell ceremony; breaking each remaining cigarette and throwing them into the trash. Bye bye…

When my father died, we all helped to bury him. It helped that I had had months before his death to ‘be’ with him and then hours in the hospital to hear that he loved me and to say my good byes. But it was throwing the shovels of dirt on his coffin that made it all so real so final and so complete.

Mark was killed in Viet Nam. His body was never found. I never got to say good-bye.

Whenever my ‘ex’ and I threw a party – which we frequently did – there was always the traditional ‘post party assessment and appraisal’. When the last guest left and lights were out, we reviewed the evening – who was there and how it went. It was our way of saying, “the party’s over it’s time to call it a day”.

As I packed up the last of my personal belongings and carried them to the car, I looked around at the parking space that was no longer really ‘mine’. The moving van had left almost 30 minutes before and, though I knew I could still beat them to my beautiful new home in the desert, I did want to get a move on!  I wasn’t prepared for the rush of emotion as I took one last look around the place I’d called ‘home’ for the past 5 years. Moving to the center of the empty room I ‘thanked the space’ and took a few moments to remember… I whispered, “good bye townhouse formerly known as mine” and Sandye left the building

The movie ended. I clapped, picked up my purse and sweater and headed for the door.

We have endings all the time. Happy endings, sad endings, sudden endings, inevitable endings, endings that offer us relief and some that send us into a tailspin of stress, shock and upset… and, in every instance, we have rituals for saying good bye.

My good-bye rituals always include an actual “good bye”.  I like to use my words…

And now, because this is the last of the Motivate and Activate blogs (at least for a while):

I close my eyes and remember some favorite ‘call moments’. And then I say aloud:

This blog’s for you. I love you. Good-bye for now…



Let Go And Let The Miracles Happen



This isn’t one of those gooey diatribes on “if you love something, set it free”. This is about what is possible when you let go of your attachment to an outcome… when you detach yourself from the picture you painted of the way it ‘should’ be and let the way it is – right now, in this moment – be exactly just right! This is about letting go of the if onlys and what ifs and embracing the IS… with all the joy and gratitude you can muster up!

Let me share a story with you…

The 92-year-old, petite, well-poised and proud lady, who is fully dressed each morning by eight o’clock, with her hair fashionably coifed and makeup perfectly applied, even though she is legally blind, moved to a nursing home today.

Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.

As she maneuvered her walker to the elevator, I provided a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been hung on her window.

“I love it,” she exclaimed, with the enthusiasm of an 8-year-old hugging her new puppy.

“Mrs. Jones, you haven’t seen the room – just wait.”

“That doesn’t have anything to do with it,” she replied. “Happiness is something you decide on ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn’t depend on how the furniture is arranged… it’s how I arrange my mind. I already decided to love it.

It’s a decision I make every morning when I wake up. I have a choice; I can spend the day in bed recounting the difficulty I have with the parts of my body that no longer work, or get out of bed and be thankful for the ones that do.

I’m practicing to be her when I grow up! Her level of non-attachment is inspiring. Her joy and satisfaction is not about the circumstances of her life, it is about what she makes those circumstances mean… and she makes it ‘all good’. When life gives her lemons, she celebrates ‘the shipment arriving at her lemonade stand’!

I have a client who has been pretty much estranged from his semi-adult son for years. On a coaching call with him – about a year ago – I could hear that something was ‘off’, so I asked him what was going on… His son, he told me, had called (a rare occurrence) and, using language that would embarrass a truck driver (apologies to all truck drivers) told him to fornicate himself to death and never never never even attempt to make contact again. “It’s my son. My only child and he hates me. What can I do?”

My advice was simple: Keep loving him. Expect nothing from him. Send him a short, simple and very clear text. Tell him that you love him… you always have and you always will – no matter what. Let him know that you will sadly honor his request. And let him know that you will always be his father and be there for him – if and when he’s ready.

It took a while, but my client relaxed into the role of ‘absentee father’. He continued to send simple cards at holidays and birthdays (just signed love, your father who will always love you) – no emails, no letters and no calls.

He chose to love his son no matter what the circumstances of that relationship looked like… and relaxed into the way it was. Letting go of the way he ‘wanted it to be’ and detaching from his ‘story’ about the way it was ‘supposed to be’, my client had literally opened up the space for a miracle. Then, last week – after almost14 months of silence, the prodigal son called.

There was no mention of the previous call. No arguing. No anger. The conversation ended with: “I’ll call you next week on your birthday, Dad.”

Here’s one of my favorite aphorisms from Werner Erhard: “Life is a rip off when you expect to get what you want.  Life works when you choose what you got.“