The Hardship of Letting Go

woman looking at landscape and letting go

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, “Ugh, just let it go already!” I would definitely be able to pay off the rest of my student loans. Being a sensitive person, I know I allow certain things to get to me more than they should. Recently, I was in a situation where something from my past came up, and I still tried to talk about it in a way where I was defending myself. There was no need for it and in theory, I shouldn’t care anymore, but I still do to an extent. And it left me really questioning why.

What happens to us, whether it’s good or bad, alters us or molds us into the people we become. Whether I like it or not, the bad things that have happened to me have shaped me and made me the person I am today. My error in acknowledging this is thinking that I somehow have to dwell on these things. That my past has to stay my present. Yes, these things happened, they shaped me, but I don’t need to still think about them or be haunted by them. They happened, they had their purpose, and now I’m a different person than I was. And in a way, that’s incredibly powerful – realizing that the person who dealt with said situation is not the person that you are now.

But, like I do, I thought about it even more. Why are these specific scenarios so hard to shake? And then it dawned on me: They were the events that were least expected. My brain had no way of processing them because they caught me completely off guard. I remember around the time that a lot of these events happened (and I’m keeping them vague), a person said to me, “I don’t get it, you’ve had a lot of stuff happen to you, why is this so hard for you to understand?” And that was true, I had dealt with tragic death and parental divorce, but even as painful as those circumstances were, there is an understanding to them. I know that people die, so while my grandfather’s death was unexpected and tragic, death is a part of life. My mom and ex-step father getting a divorce, well, there were a series of events that happened that prepared me for the divorce. It was a logical step, even if it was hard to get through.

The things that I have been unable to shake are the things that I can’t logically understand. Things like betrayal and gossip and overall gross behavior. I was lucky that I didn’t have to deal with these things in my youth. I had an incredibly honest and open group of people surrounding me. So when things like this did happen in my later twenties, I had no preparation or training with how to deal with it. Because I’m the type of person who likes to really understand things, I would sit for hours on end thinking about a situation and examining why it happened or what I could have done to change the outcome. And the answer was simple – nothing. Sometimes crappy things happen and more often than not, there is nothing that can be controlled about it. The only thing I could control was how I react to it, and I admittedly reacted poorly.

Perhaps that’s why I still dwell, because I know I could have handled things differently. I could have chosen to have thrown up my middle finger at the situation and just walked away, but instead I held on hoping and praying that it would change. I didn’t want to admit that everything around me was crumbling, so I just stayed and pretended and tried very hard to focus on the good of the situation, which was slight. Maybe I can’t let go because I let myself down for allowing things to happen and not using my voice in a positive way.

There’s the stereotype of women not being able to let go and obsessing about things and I can see how it’s a bad habit. But maybe it’s because we care more. We care a lot how actions, words and situations impact our souls and how they impact the people around us. That’s not to say this is a woman only issue. I have known plenty of men who are gossipy and hold on to a lot of baggage. But speaking for myself, a woman, I can say that I don’t let things go because I care way too much. And learning to not care is a foreign concept to me.

So the next time someone tells you to “Let it go,” I suggest holding on until you learn the lesson of the situation. And then absolutely, let go.

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Michelle Sabato

Michelle is an actor and writer who was born and raised in Cleveland's Little Italy. Some of Michelle's hobbies include: reading, writing, film and carrying conversations solely made up of movie quotes.

5 CommentsLeave a comment

  • This is a beautiful meditation on the impact of unfamiliar/shocking experiences…even the ‘small traumas’ of daily living. Thank you for the honest exploration of your journey through ‘letting go.’

  • Michelle, it sounds like you have read one of my favorite helpful books: When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Rabbi Kushner. I took the very same advice to heart; that all we each have control over are the ways in which we choose to respond to the bad things. This has helped me many times since I read it after my 13-year-old daughter died in 1994. And you’re right – some of the hardest things to ‘get over’ are the things that are shocking or unexpected, so we can’t fully process them or achieve closure. But after facing this most horrible thing in my life, the control freak in me was forced to let go (physically and intellectually) in order to move forward with my remaining child and husband, into the future. But my heart never let go; Kyla’s death changed me forever, as your experiences changed you. It seems to me that they made you stronger, more loving, more thoughtful, and more of a contributor to the world.

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