By IFFP Member Jennifer Byrne
Rev. Julia always says how we have each other to hold us in this IFFP community, so I’m trusting in that support today and want to return the love with some thoughts that I hope will resonate with you.
I have to have a reason to write. Otherwise, nothing comes. Others seem to be able to let thoughts just flow as if they have an endless fountain of ideas, opinions, and knowledge. To be able to identify their viewpoint on a topic and express it—often on a dime’s notice. I’m in awe of the fluidity of being they seem to exude. To back-burner fears of judgments and self-consciousness—allowing thoughts to come to focus only on the message. A “letting go” of sorts. Ahhh…to be that free.
I come to you with what I consider to be Part Two of an initial story I shared here just over 5 years ago. My story then was much like it is today—a story of belief. A journey really–from disbelief to a trusting. A personal reconciliation of the lack of acceptance from the Jewish community I whole- heartedly identified with growing up when I married outside the religion. A lesson in what it meant to see beyond labels/groups to the love underneath. And the little town that that new openness allowed me to create that I’m proud to say is still standing tall at the Park Heights Baltimore JCC now having hosted thousands of kids to play 5 1/2 years after it’s creation. I can still hardly believe what we built from a mutual trust then; and what has become of that labor of love project today.
But like peeling away the layers of skin from an onion, we go deeper with each of life’s lessons. Sometimes it’s good to pause and look back to see where you’ve come from to know where you want to go. This piece I share with you today is this reflecting pause. My getting out of my comfort zone to push forward to an ever new and brighter day. I am forever hopeful.
I couldn’t help but wonder if it was ok to take this opportunity to get write this. If what I was going to say would be enough? If I would be enough. Funny how we often look for permission or validation from outside sources to justify our decisions as if it isn’t ok to do things that weren’t outlined already. This idea of letting go is what I want to share with you. Letting go of such ideas that no longer serve us in order to become what we may be.
Like my first time writing, I aim to tell my story, but this time focus on pairing down in the personal details of all that is not necessary to achieve my goal here which is to be open and connect with all you. What else is there in this human experience anyway? Our stories are universal.
Letting go is big.
Letting go of the need for acceptance and labels.
Letting go of ideas about how things should be now or what shouldn’t have been before.
Letting go of the need to force things to be which are perhaps not ready or even right to begin with. Letting go of moments, and objects, and people even.
Letting go of perfection.
Letting go of waiting for the right time to do what you are inspired to do.
What a great sense of comfort and belonging these groups, arrangements, things, and even grudges bring. I know because I’ve sought shelter in them for much of my life but only woke up later to find I had grown comfortably numb in the process.
Don’t get me wrong—comfort is good. What I am proposing is that sometimes we mistake comfort for a purposeful avoidance of pain. They are, in fact, different. The pain I’m referring to here, is one that comes inevitably with facing often inconvenient truths. In my case, the comfort morphed into a quiet avoidance of true self somewhere over the course of many years without me even noticing. It took a shake up, followed by deep self-introspection to actually decipher the roles I unconsciously adopted growing up from those I purposefully came to embrace as my own. Honestly, I would not have had the motivation to face these growing pains head on if the pushback hadn’t been so great.
Religion was just one of the more outwardly facing dilemmas that presented itself in my union with my husband Chris, but from which all flood gates of identity-consciousness opened. Embracing the challenges sometimes paradoxically proves to be the best course of action for growing into ourselves fully. So perhaps, the easy road isn’t all it’s cracked up to be after all? We all seemed to have chosen the “road less traveled” in one way or another but in the long run perhaps it’s the one that has the potential to be more fruitful if we can muscle through the shorter term pain.
Noticing the reasons behind decisions is key. Are we just going through life asleep at the wheel by way of following a prescribed set of ideas for “predictable” outcomes? Or are we bravely digging deep and following inspiration to guide us into the unknown even when it goes against the grain of society’s norms/expectations?
Beware that fear often masks itself in the desire for an unrealistic guarantee for security. For instance: Does this group I belong to truly reflect my viewpoints or am I a part because I’ve just always done it that way and grown comfortable in the belonging part? And the same is true of a need for certainty: Will an insurance policy actually save me from a disaster or disease? Does having a marriage certificate guarantee my partner will never leave?
This might be upsetting, but in reality, there is no true security in an absolute sense in the framework of groups and no guarantees of certainty in plans for the future. We find comfort in these concepts which can soothe us temporarily as long as we understand the reality of the beneficial, yet limited, purpose they serve in a bigger context.
We do our best to prepare for the unexpected but in the end all we truly have is what is right now. What we are holding, feeling, experiencing. Accepting that fact alone allowed me to release the reins a bit. It’s what we see, hear, smell, taste, and touch. It’s the love that is…or isn’t. The situation—good or bad as it may be; and we operate from there.
Complaining, rehashing events, and attaching meaning to things just prolongs the time we could have spent doing something about the facts to make a change for the good. Personally speaking, all the “blame-game” afforded me, were excuses to keep postponing facing fears of following my instincts and dreams.
Alternatively, accepting the bigger picture really is what has allowed me to let go of these false crutches. That there is something bigger going on than what we can understand. That it’s more than just the singular us; that our individual wants are secondary to a greater good for all. This is the only certainty there is—a collective growth; the life continuum; and perhaps, even the expansion of the universe. If we allow ourselves to get out of our own way—first notice and be brave enough to step into that bigger flow—a sense of peace comes back personally that allows us to do our individual work here with an organic ease. A trusting of sorts. A great respect in all that is.
Animals do it so well. They have a grace in just being. They accept the moments as they come without thoughts or pressure to what is next or what was happening even moments before. No worry–they just do. Gather/eat when hungry. Fight/flee when danger ensues. They literally shake off the chase and go on grazing the fields as if nothing occurred just after a potentially fatal trauma.
They let go. Peace achieved through acceptance.
If you think about it, our lives are a series of moments. If you don’t allow the moments to go, there isn’t space to see the new paths/possibilities ahead and we are destined to relive the same ones again and again. And we wonder why we are in a constant state of hopelessness and complacency. We are caught between the stories of past regrets and potential future worries and we box ourselves in the middle with the safety of labels. We identify so much with associations, belongings, and groups as if they were who we are in our entirety. Labels are unnecessary in a world of truth though. They are man-made constructs in an attempt to make sense of the world. From above, we are all just human dots in a much larger picture.
So, my story is no different than many of yours I imagine. Deciphering, and hopefully shedding, the opinions of others we unconsciously took on, to become who we inherently are. Ironically, helping others see, embrace, and express themselves is what I’ve been doing professionally all this time. Personally though, letting go and trusting life’s flow has been the key to me practicing what I preach in terms of true authentic expression for my own expansion. I guess we teach best what we need to learn ourselves.
So, bring on the roller coaster that I’ve been thus far fearful of boarding. I’m finally learning to trust that the full experience of ups and downs will guide me to an overall wonderfully, holistic, and rich journey. I’m actually more fearful of now of missing the chance to ride than anything.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said: “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the full staircase.”
Trusting in an overarching brightness reminds us not to hold on so tightly, allowing life to unfold bit by bit beneath your feet if you can believe it to be so. To make plans, take action, and do the best we can from our tiny vantage points but be flexible and pivot accordingly as the moments reveal themselves. In other words, that—at a certain point—the only thing you have is belief itself that no amount of insurance or reassurance can prepare you for. Trusting in, and welcoming, the full spectrum of colors that life brings. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
This is what being part of the flow looks like to me these days. I have so much that I want to say and do. Hopefully my time here will be long enough to realize my long-time dream of producing the tools of self-discovery and connection I created over the last 20+ years in service of others in a way that makes a difference if I can keep letting go and trusting intuition to guide me.
I’m so grateful for the attention and comforting space you’ve given me here. You are forever characters in this open book of mine. Sharing this piece with you—less than fully confident and thoroughly imperfect—is the newest chapter in my real-time story of letting go. And isn’t one person’s healing towards truth, a leap of growth towards a homecoming for us all in the big picture?