Three words: Let it go.  It’s more than a rhythmic phrase that sounds good when Idina Menzel sings it — and boy does she sing it!  After a year of COVID-19, something so inexplicable that our grandchildren’s grandchildren may talk about it, we’ve learned about what matters most — and if we’re lucky, what matters least. It gave us time to contemplate deeply about life.

The Freedom of Letting Go

In the Positively Present article “4 Ways to Embrace the Freedom of Letting Go,” writer Dani DiPirro discusses her difficulty in learning to let go, calling it one of the most challenging things she’s done. “Hanging onto the things you no longer need might feel comforting, but consider what would happen if trees clung to all of their dead leaves?” she writes. “Come spring, the brand new (alive!) leaves would have a pretty tough time finding room on the branches. Same goes for us. When we cling to what’s no longer enhancing our lives, we block off possibilities for new things to flourish.”

DiPirro adds that “releasing our own dead leaves isn’t always a smooth and effortless process, the way it seems to be for the trees, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it. If we want the freedom that comes with letting go, it’s up to us to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work of letting go.”

Hold On to What Matters Most

As a musician, losing the ability to perform publicly for live audiences due to the pandemic has created an emptiness. Along with my family, music is an integral part of my life, and while I can play at home, something is missing when you can’t share it.  Our band, Club Phred, is finally booking dates. I can see a glimmer of hope, and it’s made me realize more poignantly my love for music.

DiPirro tells us to determine what we value most. For me, family and music are critical, as well as treating friends and clients with respect and dignity. The important thing, she writes, is that “when you take a step back and think about what you truly value in your life, you’ll realize that much of what you’re holding on to isn’t as essential as you might’ve thought. What’s essential is being healthy, positive, mindful, and living your life to the fullest (or maybe some other things that matter most to you!). If you are clinging to things or people, you’re not experiencing true freedom. You’re restricted by beliefs that aren’t allowing you to thrive the way the trees do in the spring. Stepping back and assessing what really matters to you will make letting go a lot easier.”

Psychotherapist, author, and mother Dr. Ilene S. Cohen offers 12 tips on letting go. In her article, “Important Tips on How to Let Go and Free Yourself,” Cohen suggests that holding on to painful things doesn’t fix or change anything. “Deciding to hold on to the past will hold you back from creating a strong sense of self — a self that isn’t defined by your past, but rather by who you want to be,” she writes. “Oddly enough, painful feelings can be comfortable, especially if they’re all you know. Some people have trouble letting go of their pain or other unpleasant emotions about their past because they think those feelings are part of their identity. In some ways, they may not know who they are without their pain. This makes it impossible for them to let go.”

Adjusting High Expectations 

Our high expectations also get us into trouble. “Expectations have a way of keeping us stuck because they lead us to fear certain outcomes,” Cohen writes. “There are no guarantees in life, and there’s nothing we can really do to get the outcomes we desire when dealing with others. When our expectations or needs aren’t met, we need to respond rationally and appropriately. Sometimes this means setting respectful boundaries; other times, it means letting go.”

I have been influenced by many women who have fought bravely to let go of toxic relationships, jobs, or surroundings. They taught me to appreciate what is and learn from whatever pain I’ve endured. We all struggle to let go of things, but we can strive to be free of negativity. It’s never easy, but there is light at the end of the tunnel.