Leaning Into Letting Go

I hesitated to write on this topic.  Not a lot of Joie in letting go.  But letting go has been all around me lately, so I feel like it is important enough to include in my blog.  It’s part of midlife, so it’s part of what brings us together on this blog. 

Facebook has had a rash of postings from friends who are sending their last baby off to college.  The pictures of dorm room decorating and suitcases and packed cars are all bitter sweet.  It is exciting to see your kids head off in a positive direction, as much as it hurts to let them go.  I am years away from this event (with high hopes that it will happen), but I empathize with them.  My boys pull away from me a little more every year, like they are supposed to. 

A close friend lost a parent recently.  We all feel her loss.  Logically we know our parents are not going to live forever, but that does nothing to reduce the sting when it happens. The grieving process from losing one of the most important people in our lives can take years.  Birthdays, holidays and other special events can set off a fresh round of tears and memories. 

This post was also inspired by my own letting go.  My father’s death three years ago started a chain reaction of mourning for me; for the relationship we didn’t have, the one we did, and all the hurt in between.  Most days I don’t think much about it.  I have enough on my plate to keep me busy and I consciously lean toward joy.  But sometimes, I’ll hear a song, or read something in a book and be hit with a flood of memories.  That’s when I need to set aside time to grieve, to let go.  

My favorite life-lesson guru, Danielle LaPorte, tells me to start each day asking how I want to feel that day, then what actions I can take to feel that way.  This plan is fantastic till I come up against a day of letting go.  I don’t want to feel sad or lost, but I do, and there is no getting around it.  So I decided to lean into it, just dive right in.  If I was going to cry, I would really let go; take some time, curl up with my son’s teddy bear, put on a sad song, open a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and really have a good cry.  Those days are just as important to me as the ones where I accomplish 15 things before noon.  They clear the dark places out of my soul.  

As I said, not a happy topic for a Friday morning, but an important one.  Some days that’s just the way it is; not much joie, but a whole lot of vivre. 

Why Crazy?

One of the unexpected positive side effects of middle age is a mental transformation.  Until I got to this stage in life I never understood why people seemed to go off the deep end in their 40’s and 50’s.  I get it now.  

As I crept closer to turning 50 it dawned on me that I am finite.  My logical brain has always known this, but I pushed the thought to the back burner because my demise (from old age, of course) was so far away.  Now, logic tells me that I may not live to 100 (or want to).  This body may shrivel up and wither away sometime in my 90’s, or even my 80’s.  That really doesn’t leave me much time . . .to do what, I’m not quite sure, but now I feel a psychic time crunch.  

It is this ticking clock that brings on what others might see as crazy.  When I look at my dreams, my bucket list, my BIG to do list; there are things I have had to let go of.  Scratch rock concert promoter off my career list.  Right now I am deep in a career of raising two teenagers and when I am done with that job, I can’t see myself wanting another one that involves extremely loud music, cleaning up after people and juggling multiple schedules.  

Other things have moved up on the list.  Tour Europe before I need a walker or a Hoveround.  Skinny dip more often.  Take gourmet cooking classes (and eat my homework).  Brush up on my high school French, in Montreal or Paris.  Hug and kiss my kids as much as possible before they slip away.  Date my husband.  

I see that my time is too limited and too precious for people who are petty or mean.  I’m filling my life with people of all age groups who are fun, and kind, and live with a carpe-diem attitude more often than not.  

I also understand why the divorce rate spikes in middle age. People change during 20 or more years of parenthood and that can become glaringly obvious when the noise of child rearing quiets and you can hear your clock ticking.  You either decide to tackle your bucket lists together, as lovers and friends, or you don’t.  I count myself lucky that my sweetie wants to drive me to the tattoo parlor and video my skydive.  He wants to join me in my crazy and I’m looking forward to his.  

I could deny growing older and pretend my birthdays away, but I really don’t want to.  I like having a hall pass for breaking out of my box; a get out of jail free card for tattoos and bikinis, sports cars and romance.  I like my middle age crazy. 

The Curvy Girl Revolution

I worked in a fancy restaurant at Disney World one summer when I was 25.  Around 10 p.m. every night huge families visiting from South America would arrive for dinner.  I remember them for two reasons.  One, since the restaurant was mostly empty this late they would request one table for the adults and another for the kids, on the other side of the restaurant.  

The second thing I remember is the women.  The mothers of these children (and possibly the grandmothers too) would dress in very sexy, revealing clothes for their evening out.  And these were not small women; there was skin spilling over hem lines, waist bands, low-cut tops.  But the thing that made my jaw drop was their attitude.  They strutted in with a walk and a look that said, “yeah, I’m sexy, I know it, you know it.  Ain’t it great?!”  (only in Portuguese)  Even at a stick-thin 122 lbs. I was jealous of them.  They ate (real food!  Not the diet plate!) they drank, they laughed, they flirted.  (OK, so they also left their kids to be baby sat by the wait staff, but hey, they were great tippers too.)

I grew up with super athletic women being the ideal.  Stunning tan goddesses who could spike a volleyball, run a 10k, and keep up with the guys.  I was a day-glo white Irish girl with long nails that prohibited volleyball, double D’s that prohibited running, and no desire to out bench press anyone I was dating.  I never associated curvy and girly girl with beauty. . . till Christina.  

In 2010 Christina Hendricks was voted the sexiest woman by the mostly male readers of Esquire magazine.  It made headlines.  This woman had CURVES, and, it turns out that many (many, many) men like them.  Who knew?  Since then I’ve discovered Kim Kardashian (weird show, but she rocks her curves), Sophia Vergara, Beyonce, and Salma Hayek, just to name a few.  Burlesque artist, Dita Von Teese, is not only curvy and sexy, but also super pale (my skin idol!).  I figure if she can rock it, so can I.  I’ve stopped apologizing for my lack of a tan (or burn, in my case).  

I hope this new love of curvy girls will let more women see that size negative 0, model-thin women are not everyone’s ideal.  You can feel sexy without six-pack abs and cut triceps.  The women having the most fun and the ones eating and drinking and laughing and flirting.  They enter a room with a walk and a look that says, “ain’t it great?!”