I know that ‘Let it Go’ is the current Disney anthem (I love it too) and probably the obvious cinematic reference for a post all about letting things go.
But whenever I hear people talk about the importance of ‘letting go’, I tend to think of Rick Grimes in the third season of The Walking Dead. It’s just after Carl smokes Lori (after she makes a baby) and then Rick loses his goddamn mind in spectacular fashion in the bowels of the prison and chops, slashes and smashes a hundred zombies to bits.. oh yeah, sorry… ‘spoiler alert’.
The idea here is that letting go was hard for Rick, because he loved Lori (even though she boned his best bud behind his back) and letting go of the things we love is hard. So hard that it might make you single-handedly kill a fucktonne of zombies.
Whether it’s a break up, an opportunity that didn’t pan out or a series that has recently ended, letting go of something you love is hard because, well, you love it. In time, however, the pain of feeling cheated and bereft fades, leaving you with fond memories and lessons from the thing or the person that is now out of reach. And I say that because it is just ‘out of reach’, it’s not gone.
When you love something, you never really lose it, you just learn to love it from a distance.
But what about letting go of the shitty stuff- the people and things that you really fucking hate? The names and the places that make your blood boil just thinking about them? Revenge might be a great theme when it comes to action movies, but actually taking revenge can be messy. Also, it means you can kiss that high road goodbye.
Whatever you do in vengeance is likely to be more premeditated, more malicious and more debasing to your own values than what was done to you in the first place. More often than not, people are not acting against you, they are just acting for themselves. Taking revenge implies that you have more effort, time and energy to spend on them than they likely ever had for you.
And then there’s Karma, which is a far preferable path for most. Just pour a long cocktail and wait for the laws of the universe to cycle round and punish the unjust. But in reality, do any of us ever get the righteous satisfaction of watching our enemies crawl, pitifully before us, begging for mercy?
In fact, despite what the proverb says, if you wait by the river long enough, you’re more likely to see the bodies of your enemies whiz past on their new jet skiis than you are to see their bloated corpses float by.
Because that’s life. And life is unfair as shit.
So what do we do? Do we burn the fuckers’ houses down? Cut their balls off? Kill their families? Or do we cut their balls off first, then kill their families and then set fire to their houses to burn and collapse around them as they bleed out?
That sounds like a lot of work.
Maybe letting go isn’t only for the things we want, it’s also for the things we don’t want.
And maybe it’s as simple as choosing to think of, look at and talk about the things that make you happy and excited, instead of those that make you bitter, sad or resentful. It’s not about avoiding reality, it’s about being more careful about how you construct that reality.
I know that I don’t want a reality haunted by a compulsion for competitiveness, by false benchmarks for success, by past slights and unresolved debts. I want a reality woven together from things that I think are true, and real, and beautiful. Like friendship, good writing, love, health and cat hair.
Back to The Walking Dead- the zombies didn’t care about Rick killing them. They didn’t care about jack shit. They just wanted brains. Rick only made himself tired, sore and crazy by taking out his grief and frustration on them. His ‘revenge’ ultimately didn’t make a difference. It didn’t bring Lori back (on a side note: good).
That’s why letting yourself hold onto and obsess about what makes you feel crappy is kind of like a futile zombie bloodbath in the basement. The zombies don’t care. The only one who knows what you’re doing, the only one who feels it, is you.
I’m done killing imaginary zombies. I’m saving my energy for the real ones.
And now- my favourite Rick dad joke: