“Creativity can be described as letting go of certainties.”~Gail Sheehy.
In 2006, on a trip to the beautiful YS Falls in St. Elizabeth, Jamaica, I was invited to take a chance, to take a leap of faith, to branch out. Zip-lining. I was tempted but. Perhaps it was too much money (a friend offered to pay). Perhaps… and then another friend realized she was turning 50, and this was something she should do if I would do it too! And so, dressed in the ridiculous looking outfit (including ridiculous helmet, and I am most definitely not a hat person) we climbed the steps alongside the rushing waterfall, the foliage allowing sunlight to dapple through an abundance of bright colored flowers and leaves. What was I doing?
It has to be said that the hardest part was letting go. There I was looking into the eyes of the patient young man (he may be the last person I ever see!) who was assisting me into position. And then comes that moment when you have to trust the equipment and step off into nothingness, the unknowable, the unknown, the new territory of abandoning certainty. It defies logic, like flying in a plane. And then. The sheer exhilaration of flying through the air to the waiting arms of the next patient (need I say handsome?) young man.
In the scheme of things, zip-lining is not the most dangerous of sports. It is not bungee jumping or sky diving or hang gliding or extreme mountain climbing. Funnily enough YS Falls was already associated with danger in my family. My children had visited once, and my daughter was almost washed away by the unusually fast running falls when she had decided to dip her foot in a little deeper than advised. What was terrifying to the watching adults was tantalizing to her brothers! They thought it looked like fun!
We don’t have to go for daredevil sports to challenge ourselves to let go. Many of us are stuck in old routines, falling into unproductive patterns of behavior simply because we prefer the known to the unknown, the predictable to the unexpected. What may await us when we try something new? Whether it is a new job, a new home, or a new way of living, you will never know if you don’t try.
When we are faced with unexpected situations, we find ourselves trying to control outcomes, to manipulate circumstances to a conclusion we are comfortable with. It can be exhausting! Whether it is the people in our lives, or stars not aligning to our liking, we believe we are in control. Sometimes we have to remind ourselves (and others) that we are really in control of very few things in our life. Christians say: ‘Let go and let God’. That is a helpful mantra to repeat, especially to those of your friends who are people of faith yet forget the letting God part. Buddhists say that suffering comes from wanting things to be other than how they are. We often fall victim to thoughts of what could be, if only…
Letting go of attachment to outcomes frees you to the possibilities of what can be instead of what ought to be. Once you allow yourself to let whatever will be just be, you can sit back and enjoy the scenery. I often accuse my students of ‘over-thinking’ questions in exams. It is tempting when provided with a scenario to start imagining all manner of possibilities instead of focusing on the information provided. But we all do it anyway. When a big event is looming, our sleep is tortured as our mind starts to imagine all of the possibilities of what could go wrong. When our children are out late at night, or someone doesn’t answer their phone, or any other every day worry, our imaginations run wild, filling in the blanks. And yes, bad things do happen. And yes, people have had to face tragedies. But when we spend our life trying to plan for and prepare for the possibilities that may never happen, we end up exhausted, stress driven and sick and have no reserves left for when tragedy does strike.
Those who have set examples for us to follow, who have created and innovated and taken chances, did not get caught up in the ‘what ifs’. They did it anyway. Some of the most amazing inventions occurred almost by accident, as incidental discoveries rather than methodical well-planned experiments. Some of our best adventures occur when we go off the plan; when we take the road less traveled. Only when you allow yourself to be open to what the universe has to offer you can you truly appreciate this unlikely planet; this remarkable life; these wonderful people with whom we are connected.
I am not one who finds it easy to let go, to lose my attachment to needed outcomes. I like to know what to expect. I like to be prepared for what lies ahead. And yes, reality and responsibilities dictate many of our choices. But within the confines of a regular life there are still opportunities to relax your hold on the reigns, to allow the unexpected to happen. And sometimes you may almost wash away in the rushing water, but you may also experience a rush of sheer excitement and invigoration. You may encounter new people who then direct you to a new way of being. You may blaze a trail for others to follow, simply by not following the rules.
This beautiful fall morning in South Florida, I wish you new possibilities. I hope that you can encounter new adventures even in your everyday life. Let go and let God. And see what you may create.