“Holding on is believing that there’s only a past; letting go is knowing that there’s a future.”
― Daphne Rose Kingma, American author
When the alarm clock went off, I woke with a start. I was confused. Something was wrong – but what?
I rubbed my eyes, feeling the salty crusts left by dried-up tears. And then I remembered.
The previous evening, the deal to buy the house we’d set our hearts on had fallen through.
2014: Goodbye First Dream
It was a saga that had started four years earlier.
Back then, my husband and I were living in an apartment, but we’d been dreaming about moving into our own house since we met. We’d bought a beautiful plot of land on a golf estate, and we loved talking about the wonderful home we were going to build there. We hired an architect who designed a house that would be exactly right for us.
And then, in the same week that we accepted the plans (and paid the architect), my husband lost his job. We were shattered.
Fortunately, he found a new job within a few months, and once again we set our building project in motion.
However, six months down the line, an unfortunate turn of events saw my husband without a job once more.
After that, months dragged by without him managing to secure a new role, and in the end we made the tough decision to sell our property. We’d visualized the happy times we would spend there with all our family and friends, but now we had to let go of that dream. I cried for weeks.
2017: A New Dream
By the time my husband was in a job again, we were more than ready to move out of the apartment. After house hunting for more than a year, we found one that seemed ideal. The ink on the deal had barely dried before I was getting quotes from contractors for the renovations that would make it perfect.
But two months later, on the day before my birthday, the seller’s lawyer sent us a letter. He’d decided to accept another offer.
2018: I Won’t Let Go!
I was beside myself with grief, and I refused to accept the loss.
I felt sure that the seller was guilty of a breach of contract. After consulting an attorney, my husband and I decided to litigate. The attorney told us that we had a strong case. However, because the transaction was above a certain amount, we’d have to go to the High Court, ramping up our legal bill.
Sleepless night followed sleepless night. Having no house made me so upset that I struggled to function properly. But the litigation to get the house was causing even more stress. When I should have been packing and getting ready to move, I was actually meeting lawyers to try to salvage the deal.
I started wondering whether it would be better to make peace with what had happened, and just let it go. But my ego seemed to have other ideas…
Weeks passed and flurries of legal letters followed. My stress levels skyrocketed, but we were in limbo. The case could drag on for five years, we were told. And in the meantime we couldn’t make offers on any other properties. We would remain stuck in the apartment, and even at the end of it all there was no guarantee we’d win.
But still I pressed on.
Why Can’t I Let Go?
Why was I holding on so doggedly? One morning, I listed some of the reasons – and, in the process, I realized that I was doing more than just clinging on to a dream.
I was continuing to fight because my ego had suffered a blow. The unfairness of the situation was making me angrier by the day. And, to stay true to my values, something deep inside was telling me that I needed to “win.”
After some careful thought, I reasoned it out like this:
• We could have a new dream.
• My ego would survive.
• I couldn’t control other people, so it was too bad if their actions irked me.
• My values were my values, and I didn’t have to prove them to anybody else.
I phoned my husband and told him we should call it quits. It wasn’t worth our money, time or energy to pursue the matter any longer. Besides, this wasn’t the only house on the market.
And the moment I made that decision, I experienced an immense feeling of peace and relief. The nightmare was finally over!
Two months later we purchased the house we live in now – and we love every inch of it!
Knowing When to Let Go
During last Friday’s #MTtalk we discussed the importance of knowing when to let go. Here are some highlights from our chat.
Q1. What do you tend to hold on to most, against your better judgment?
@JusChas My mistakes. I replay them over and over and over again. Also, I hold on to negative actions that folks intentionally did to me. Or that I feel like folks intentionally did to me.
@harrisonia Sometimes I hold on to hope that someone will change – despite knowing that after years of many examples… they will not.
Q2. What are some of the reasons that you hold on to things and don’t let them go?
@nymelonballer Fear of change or the unknown. The “devil you know” can give you a false sense of stability and peace.
Thanks to @temekoruns for this nugget: “Many of us take on people as construction projects. We must channel our inner Maya Angelou. When people show you who they are, believe them.”
Q3. Why is it so difficult to let go?
We have different reasons for finding it difficult, but fear seems to be a common theme.
@itstamaragt Fear of loss. Letting go of something means losing it and that feeling alone drives people away from letting go. Also, the attachment/memories can make it even more difficult.
@MapDorcas Fear of change. Fear of the unknown. Difficulty in dealing with grief – if what’s being let go of involves people and relationships.
Q4. What does it feel like to keep holding on?
@Midgie_MT When I keep holding on, I feel hope… yet at a certain point that fades and I start to feel drained.
@MurrayAshley It feels awful. Like continually knocking your head against the wall in exactly the same place. Add being an overthinker to the mix and there’s hell right there.
Q5. What are the consequences of persevering when a situation no longer serves you?
@LindahMbaisi You waste a lot of your time when you hold on to things that are not destined to be part of your existence – time you could have used to create a new path.
@MicheleDD_MT It can be soul crushing and this leads to personal crisis and health issues. High blood pressure, GI issues, anxiety, depression.
Q6. Is there a danger in letting go too soon?
@BRAVOMedia1 This is where it becomes a balancing act – letting go too soon maybe is our ego response and not an authentic response. It’s knowing “when” to let go.
@DreaVilleneuve I think the danger is far greater in holding on too long.
Q7. What’s the difference between “giving up” and “letting go”?
@TheCraigKaye One decision is made from a position of struggle, whilst the other is made from a position of strength.
@GThakore Giving up is the result of losing hope whereas letting go is the result of strong willpower.
Q8. What helps you to let go and move on?
@PIPability Recognizing that what may seem like a boulder one day is really a pebble in the bigger picture. What I let go of today allows me to gain something extra tomorrow. Just have a positive perspective that everything works out.
@BrainBlenderTec Time, as with age things dissolve into the past.
Q9. What does it feel like to let go?
@TwisterKW Exhilarating. There are so many emotions that come with letting go, but try to hold on to the exhilaration to fuel the next part of your path.
@Yolande_MT Letting go feels “light,” and right. I’m more “agile” mentally and emotionally because I don’t have a ton of stuff that weighs me down.
Q10. How can you help someone else to let go of an issue?
@MarkC_Avgi Listening to their mental struggle to let something/someone go… showing empathy. Be there, when needed, as support.
@YEPBusiness You can’t until they ask for your help. The light bulb has to want to change. Anything else in presumptuous.
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection from this chat.
People often ask questions with good intent, but they don’t know when to stop. If you’re the only gay person in your organization, for example, or the only Asian person in a white team, you’ve probably had your fair share of it. And can you imagine being the only single father in a day care support group?
Most of us have probably experienced a feeling of “onlyness.” Next time on #MTtalk, we’re going to discuss the difference between “onlyness” and “loneliness,” and we’re looking forward to hearing your experiences and ideas. For now, please vote in our Twitter poll to let us know what it felt like to experience “onlyness.”
Finally, here are some resources relating to our #MTtalk about knowing when to let go:
Managing a Person With a Victim Mentality
The PERMA Model
How to Apologize
Dealing With Anxiety
Snyder’s Hope Theory
Breaking Bad Habits
The Johari Window
The GIVE Model
How to Manage Rivalry in the Workplace