Letting go means not trying to control everything around you. It means giving up expectation and replacing it with hope, desire, and acceptance.

Making Sense of Life

This is a realization I came to recently while trying to make sense of change in my life. I recently faced the greatest fear in my life and what happened as a result has changed my life.

You see I learned that I’ve been living, arguably the last 15 years of my life, on auto-pilot. I wanted to excel in everything that I did but never stopped to question if the values and goals in my head were my own or a reflection of others that interact and influence me. It is like that scene from the movie Fight Club where Tyler Durden explains how he go to where he is in life:

Tyler: My dad never went to college, so it was real important that I go.
Narrator: Sounds familiar.
Tyler: So I graduate, I call him up long distance, I say “Dad, now what?” He says, “Get a job.”
Narrator: Same here.
Tyler: Now I’m 25, make my yearly call again. I say Dad, “Now what?” He says, “I don’t know, get married.”

My dad did go to college, in fact he got his PhD and is a practicing doctor of medicine in addition to a scientific researcher. Perhaps that is part of the reason I worked so hard to excel in everything I could. This approach to living has served me well in life.

I took risks; some worked and some didn’t but overall my life graph has been moving up and to the right. Even situations that turned out bad I looked at as positive life experiences. Regardless of what life threw at me, it made me stronger. To the outside world I was a smiling center of zen in the universe. Inside, I had a secret fear that propelled me forward faster than ever. That fear was my greatest ally and my most heavy burden.

Facing Life’s Greatest Fear

My great fear in life was that my entire history and existence was nothing more than a house of cards and if I ever stopped moving forward everything would fall apart. It’s hard to explain this to others who cannot comprehend how a mind can view such a solid foundation as the most fragile of Fabergé eggs. You see I always compared myself to the next person at the next level.  Every achievement ever made was like a drug and I always needed more to keep me happy.

One day I faced a situation I could not overcome.  I tried every brute force method of change to no avail.  In the end, I did the only thing left to do.  I let go. I stopped trying to force the situation.  I said to myself, “everything you have tried hasn’t worked so maybe not trying is the thing to do.”

The moment I did this it was if everything started falling into place in a way I never imagined. I vividly recall being at a conference after party and someone asked me what I was drinking.  I paused for a moment looked at my drink and replied, “exactly what I want.”  It was an iconic moment for me that I could live my life in any way I wanted.

The trick to unlocking my life laid in listening to those voices in my head and being able to differentiate between my own and those of friends or society at large.  As I began to rebuff societal norms and expectations I began to unlock my own personal happiness.  This is still a work in progress – and one that takes work – but for me “letting go” of expectation has helped my find more joy and love than I ever could before.

Opening Up

I used to put people into Procrustean boxes.  There categories included: work colleagues, social friends, and personal relationships.  Sub-divided within those were family, close friends, acquaintances, and activity partners.  When I looked at each person I wanted to place them into a category and became frustrated when their entire existence didn’t fit into one of those boxes.

I had ‘close friends’ but some I didn’t see or speak with for years. I had ‘family’ that acted more like ‘friends’ and ‘family’ that acted more like ‘colleagues’.  For the most part it worked out but I really struggled with the overlap, or lack of overlap.  For example, there were people I wanted to put in the category of ‘close friends’ but we were really only close on one level and not much beyond that.  Can a uni-planar friend count as a close friend?

So again I used the key that worked for me in the past: letting go of expectation.

Instead of putting people into boxes, I simply want to embrace those parts of people who match with parts of me.  I no longer care if the overlap is 5% or 95%.  I’ve accepted that I can experience people in part or whole much more happily than I can searching for those few people who will match 99%.  Opening up my friendships and relationships in general has enabled me to experience parts of people I would have written off or simply never come in contact with because our worlds would never collide.

I want simply to experience more from those around me. I want to not limit myself by expectation. I want to love freely and share experiences with those closes to me.

The lack of expectation, outside of experience, is what prevents disappointment for me.

These days it seems like every time I work through a situation I say, “but this for sure must be a wall/limit” and then remind myself that life and love really are limitless.  Life and love are bound only by our own constraints, and thus our troubles are often times self-imposed.  By removing expectation and my own constraints I’m learning to truly live without limitation.