For so long, my yoga training taught me about surrendering, letting go. When I lost a job I loved, I decided it was a chance to practice letting go, that I had to accept things that were beyond my control. But the lesson I’ve had to learn recently is not about letting go—it’s about when to hold on.
My three-year-old daughter recently fell off the swings at the playground next to our Quaker meeting. She has been learning to swing herself. She usually needs a push, some encouragement. She stretches her feet out on the upswing, but turns them back toward the ground too quickly, so she is not as independent as she’d like to be. My son pushed her a few times, then moved on to the sliding board. As she slowed down, she moved her hands toward her lap to button her sweater and let go of the sturdy chains of her swing. I saw what was going to happen before it happened and tried to warn her—“No, Izzy, don’t let go, you need to hold on.” But before I could speak, she had already fallen to the gravel. The shock startled her at first, and then began the crying. She smacked her chin on the ground; her top front teeth went into her lip. I ran to her quickly and held her, assessing the damage and taking her into my arms. I told her, “Remember, you can’t let go on the swings. Don’t let go,” I repeated. “Promise?”
She nodded. We went into our Quaker meetinghouse to clean her up. I wet a paper towel and saw the little sores on the inside of her mouth.
“You have a boo-boo,” I told her. “It’s going to hurt for a little while. But it will get better.”
This is a common occurrence, to nurture a child who’s been hurt, but the words had particular resonance for me. They were words I needed to hear myself.
I’ve been dealing with an enormous amount of stress. My divorce is over, but the fallout of it is not. In recent years, I’ve had to let go of so much, and sometimes it seems like the letting go will never end. I let go of a marriage, financial security, a house, jobs, a beloved boyfriend. Friendships. Dreams. A random array of stuff. I’ve tried each time to surrender when necessary. The letting go caused a wound, a shock at times, pain I was hoping to avoid. But I’m learning there is also a tipping point, a time when it’s imperative to hold on. I remember that wounds hurt, sometimes unbearably so, but they also heal. They do get better. Not right away. It takes time and patience. The wounds sting before they’re gone, sometimes longer than we’d like.
If we work on our own healing—if we take care of ourselves—the wounds go away and we learn our lesson. We do better next time. We’re wiser. We grow.
The day my daughter fell off the swings, I told myself, Everything’s going to be okay. You just need to hold on. And I told my daughter what we both needed to hear: “Don’t let go.”