Let go is a constant assignment. Constant!

How little I understood the concept of “letting go” when I first saw the slogan: Let Go, Let God, on the wall of an Al-Anon meeting nearly forty years ago.  It sounded so simple.  I didn’t consider myself “attached” to any one or any thing.  In reality, my feelings, thus often my actions, were attached to the behavior of everyone.  Absolutely everyone!  I was so enmeshed in who ever was present that I couldn’t even recognize it.  Whatever any one did or said had an impact on me.  And the closer they were to me, the greater the impact.

I had been introduced to the idea of “detachment,” another way of explaining letting go, a few years before going to my first Al-Anon meeting in a book written by John Powell, a Jesuit Priest.  The book: Why Am I Afraid To Tell You Who I Am, caught my attention while I was teaching a course on personal writing at the University of Minnesota.  It was a perfect small text for that course.  It was also a perfect small text to teach me a very important lesson, one that I treasure even today.

Powell tells the story of his good friend in New York, a friend he often visited when he was in the area.  They took an early morning walk every day and Powell was struck by how friendly his friend was to others that he encountered.  He was particularly cordial to the newspaper vender he saw nearly every morning.  Powell, on the other hand, couldn’t help but notice how rude the vender was to his friend.  He finally asked him why he was so kind, even generously tipping,  such a rude man.  His friend said, “Why should I let him decide what kind of day I am going to have?”

I literally was stopped in my tracks when I read that.  Instantly I knew that I had let every person, in every instance in my life, define how I was going to feel.  And I had lived that way forever.  From that moment on I knew there was another way but I didn’t know how to practice that other way.  Going to Al-Anon was the beginning of another way.

I’m pleased to say that detaching from the actions of others is now like second nature.  With most people, that is.  I still get ensnared by some of “my teachers,” but being a work in progress isn’t all bad.  It means I still have a good reason for getting up every morning.  Letting others have their life, letting them reap whatever benefits or pinches they might deserve for their behavior, is what I must learn to celebrate.  Continuing to “orchestrate” situations simply isn’t my job.   Not today.  Nor will it be my job any day in the near or distant future.

I am relieved that this is so.  I also have a built-in forgetter.  My primary teacher reminds me that my codependency hasn’t been “cured” yet.  Darn!


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