Holding On, Letting Go

I think a major part of my spiritual practice is subliminal song lyrics (I sure end up quoting them a lot when I write). Little phrases that pop into my head to remind me what I’m working on, or a song I’ve heard a thousand times suddenly speaks to me in a new way. This week, I had both.

The opening line from a Sarah McLachlan song keeps rolling in my head: Hold on, hold on to yourself, for this is gonna hurt like hell. Now the natural response to that is: What the…? RUN!!! But it’s no use, what you’re running from is within. So I hear that subliminal song lyric and think: Well shit! but try and brace myself as much as I can. (Incidentally this song is also on my A-list when I’m composing a mix CD for friends going through breakup. Sadly it’s the best advice and commiseration I can offer the love-eviscerated).

So I brace myself and hold on, through things like my latest health adventure: heavy metal detox. A process that I can only describe as leaving me feeling poisoned (as it should I suppose, just feeling it on the way out rather than in). It’s like all the not-fun parts of being drunk (another kind of poisoning I suppose) dizzy, queasy, uncoordinated, addle-minded. Good times.  I’m also generally really good at having a freak out any time I start feeling crummy because I fear the relapse and the collapse of my life that usually follows, so not always approaching these days of detox with faith and patience. I often wake up the next day surprised as hell I’m not actually dead and I no longer feel like crap and can get on with the life I was so sure I’d lost. It’s hard to hold on.

Of course it’s never just toxic chemicals we get ourselves stuck with, but all kinds of emotional crap as well. “If you’d wanted to feel those feelings, you wouldn’t have stuffed them in your tissues in the first place” – a reoccurring observation from my acupuncturist. True enough, and that leaves us with the task of going through it all over again (hopefully now with some maturity and perspective). This time, holding on and seeing it through to the other side.

Right now, for me, it means clearing out some crap that got laid down when I first got sick in high school. Undiagnosed and exhausted, unable to get back to what I thought was my life, powerless and frustrated I responded with all the fury a thwarted teenager could muster (anybody remember teenage girls? YIKES!). And now, 20 years later, up it comes (here’s hoping I’ve got the patience and grace to handle it this time). Coming home from acupuncture where the bastard (gratitude through gritted teeth) has picked the needle points to stir up all that crap, I’m stuck in traffic – again powerless and frustrated, tears rolling down my face. Some song by The Verve comes on the stereo… tie yourself to the mast my friend, and the storm will end. And it just makes perfect sense to me!

When it’s too hard to hold on, you tie yourself in – surrendering to it, letting go of even trying to hold on, just putting yourself in the power of the storm. Eventually it’ll end. And I swear it will, but you gotta go through it first – ALL of it. And sometimes if you don’t lash yourself to the mast you’ll chicken out and bail overboard instead.

the uphill slog...A psychologist friend whose work used to involve counselling couples mentioned again this week what she called the rollercoaster effect. Couples reach difficulties in their relationship and the tension builds as they try and work through it (the upward hill of the rollercoaster), and a lot of times it just gets too hard, too uncomfortable, and somebody bails out before they can reach resolution (at the crest) – both missing out on the downward coast of released tension (not to mention throwing up your arms and going WOOOO!). Couples that hit the hill time and again without every peaking over the crest tend to fall apart.

There’s so much stuff comes roiling up as we move through our lives, ya just gotta hold on. And when you can’t hold on, lash yourself in. And if you haven’t the strength for that, find a friend to sit on you (and thank them later, ‘cause you’ll be cursing their socks at the time).

Holding on to get through letting go. Better living through paradox… Channel surfing this week, I heard the mentor of Being Erica quote Ralph Waldo Emerson: Every wall is a door. For as stuck and frustrated as I’ve been feeling, the idea of seeing a wall differently sure caught me, and got me thinking about the paradox of blessings/curses. My Achilles heel, and the root my current suffering is utter stubbornness, digging my heels in and resisting what I think shouldn’t be. Suddenly I realized it was also my greatest strength. That tenacity – that ability to hold on no matter what – I could channel that to hold on and stand my ground in the middle of my storm; not to resist it, but to resist the urge to run. To finally crest a hill I thought would never end, to be able get to the other side and throw my hands up in WOOOO!

There’s momentum on the other side, freedom from long carried burdens, and the delicious feeling of being back in the flow. But only if you hold on, hold on through the part that hurts like hell. ‘Cause, I gotta tell you, (to quote a Robbie Williams song) on the other side: something beautiful will come your way (that’s three subliminal song lyrics in one article – Ta Da!).

Trust me on this: hold on through the letting go. It’ll be shitty, it’ll be awesome. It’ll be worth it.

Want to read more on the idea of giving up to get something done? You can check out I Quit. And on the topic of letting go and riding things out, I’m rather fond of Don’t Let Reality Ruin Your Day.

Oh, and I discovered another reference to the value of my stubbornness in Escape Velocity. Apparently I RAWK (or at least am getting good and loving my crazy bits).

21 thoughts on “Holding On, Letting Go

    1. ps- i just visited this site once again and noticed the tag line under Moonchild’s place — grasping nothing, discarding nothing

      really the highest wisdom, i think. but for me if i’m at all on the way there, everything in it’s place, everything in it’s time.


        1. Great video Dagmar! Exactly what I’ve been feeling – holding on no matter what (or who) comes your way.

          Really liked the wisdom of Kafka’s slamming doors – what a great learning opportunity (yikes!).

          Thanks for adding so much dimension to the topic. Awesome.


          1. fun video :-)
            i notice in the video he’s holding on (to the nourishing stuff) and letting go at the same time.

            i’ve been going through some of my old computer files lately. found something else about letting go that i can pass along…

            Letting go takes love.

            Letting go does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t take responsibility for someone else.
            Letting go is not cutting others off, but the realization I can’t control others.
            Letting go is not enabling but allowing others to learn from natural consequences.
            Letting go is admitting powerlessness, which means that the outcome is not in my hands.
            Letting go in not to try to change or blame another; it is making the most of myself.
            Letting go is not to care for but rather it is caring about others.
            Letting go is not to diagnose but to support.
            Letting go is not judging others but is allowing them to be a fallible human being.

            Letting go refuses to arrange or guarantee results and allows others to make choices that determine their own destinies.
            Letting go refuses to protect others from reality but encourages one to face the facts.
            Letting go refuses to nag, scold, or argue but instead searches out my own shortcomings and corrects them.
            Letting go is not regretting the past but growing and living for the future.
            Letting go is fearing less and loving more.
            — Author unknown.


            1. Thanks for sharing this poem, Dagmar. Its really describes what I’m going through right now. Letting go is all about love – whether it’s letting go of things for us personally or related to other people we’re in relationship with. In a way, letting go is a combination of inner reflection of what is healthy to hang on to and realizing what aspects you need to let go of. Where you cannot change things but need to be supportive, or let people make the mistakes they may or may not be making. By that I mean, in our eyes, we may see it as a mistake, but it’s a process they need to go through on their own. Letting go is often the best form of loving someone. The key things I love about the poem are that it means to support and to allow people to be human, to figure things out for themselves, and also to not regret the past but look forward. This does not mean we shouldn’t acknowledge our role in how things have turned out, but so often we want to condemn ourselves. We need to learn to observe, make the necessary changes, but NOT to condemn ourselves. And definitely, Letting go is fearing less and loving more. Back to the top – letting go is often the best way to love.


            2. As I mentioned in my previous comment, this poem really resonated with me. As I was preparing a blog post entry on my own blog about some things I’m going through right now, it struck me this poem can also be relevant to loving yourself. It also is all about empowerment. I wrote a revised version with this in mine.

              Here’s my revised version:

              Letting go takes love.
              Letting go does not mean to stop caring, it means I can’t take responsibility for someone else.
              Letting go is not cutting others off, but the realization I can’t control others.
              Letting go is not allowing others to enable me but allowing myself to learn from natural consequences.
              Letting go is admitting powerlessness, which means that the outcome is not in my hands.
              Letting go is not to try to change or blame another; it is making the most of myself.
              Letting go is not to care for, but rather it is caring about others.
              Letting go is not to be critical about myself but to support and look for the good things.
              Letting go is not judging myself but allowing me to be a fallible human being.
              Letting go refuses to arrange or guarantee results and allows me to make choices that determine my own destiny.
              Letting go refuses to protect myself from reality but encourages me to face the facts.
              Letting go refuses to nag, scold, or argue but instead searches out my own shortcomings and corrects them.
              Letting go is not regretting the past but growing and living for the future.
              Letting go is fearing less and loving more.


          1. great! i’m sure she’ll get a kick out of it.

            i went to utube and found some more videos by badly drawn boy. i watched another one i thought was really good… it started with a dead duck and a being from another planet.


  1. While I was reading your detox description of getting rid of the heavy metal toxins in your body and how songs play an important role in your process, I couldn’t help but think of the heavy metal music my sons have introduced me to. Contrary to my sons’ first impression of their mother’s taste in music, I do like most of the stuff they add to my musical palate. (I now can be caught listening and enjoying punk and heavy metal as well as my usual pop, folk, classical, and global music selections) And I also learned that there are different kinds of heavy metal music. Generally they can be split into two genres – melodic and rhythmic. I do prefer the melodic more. This is a long preamble to suggest playing some melodic heavy metal while you detox heavy metal. (Dan and Phil suggest bands Nightwish, Baroness-albums: Red Album, and Blue Record, and Mastodon – album: Crack the Skye). By the way I often listen to Sarah McLaughlin and every time I hear the lyrics Hold on, Hold on to yourself. This is going to hurt like hell, I feel my body brace for a hit. I use this kind of musical therapy a lot, especially when I’m alone in the car.

    As to tying yourself to the mast of your ship, you probably already know this but that’s exactly what Ulysses does when they go through the pass of the Sirens. He knows that it’s the fastest passage to get to where his ship needs to go. He protects everyone else on the ship by stopping their ears with wax but he wants to hear the Siren’s call, supposedly the most beautiful and dangerous music in the world. So he leaves his ears open and has himself lashed to the mast. Because everyone else is deaf to the music and his pleading to bring the ship closer to the rocky shore and the sirens, the ship safely passes. So lashing yourself doesn’t have to be about resisting, but just staying safe while you go through a dangerous time, and keeping everyone else around you safe too.

    And seeing walls as doors reminds me of the artists Magritte and Escher. They were able to turn normal perspective into something magical and freeing. Both the artist and the viewer are no longer bound by normal parameters but space suddenly opens up to other spaces, other dimensions, other possibilities. Recently I’ve been doing a lot of reading about bohdichitta – buddhist warrior training or training in fearlessness. It’s sort of the spiritual equivalent of turning normal perspective into something magical and freeing. It’s a way to see suffering as a space that allows other opportunities. Of course I don’t understand all that I’m reading but it explains how life is an illusion of our own creation. All the suffering and pain I experience is what I create myself. If I can see a way of opening up, sitting with it, getting to know it, realizing that I’m not unique in owning it then it becomes familiar and I can let it go more easily.

    It’s sort of like when I create something artistically. I could never become a production artist. I’m more into creating one of a kind things. Once I’ve spent hours molding, sculpting, carving, painting, detailing and sitting back in awe and appreciation I can let that go and I don’t have to do another. In fact when I’ve tried to duplicate something because someone requests “I want one just like that one”, I can’t do it.

    And thanks to Dagmar for sharing the Kafka story. I haven’t read Kafka for years. Besides music therapy, I use literature as a kind of therapy too. I get a lot of insight about myself in the books I read. The right books at the right time often help me. That’s why I enjoy reading and participating in this website. I’m learning about myself and how I move in this world.


    1. When I read your article, Val, I thought of something I try to say to myself. “The only way out is through.” It helps me accept how mucky life is and how awkward I’m stuck being. If I’m feeling angry or disgusted envious or ashamed or guilty, well, how inconvenient, well, I probably don’t want to burden other people with it, but, that’s what I’ve got to feel, that’s where I’ve got to start.

      (Though in some circumstances, I have tried to go through something that’s a desert, and there’s no going through to another side, there’s just going back to where I came from. Some depressions or similar angsts were like that, and now I have habits of not going, which isn’t so useful, or of going along through, or going back, or paying attention but being steered by what used to have worth until my emotions come back.)

      Oooo, I have an inner teenager too! Do you think the second time of going through stuff we block up the first time is harder? I suspect so, but I also think that there were big rewards for repressing most emotions I repressed, at the time.


      1. I think it’s actually way easier second time around jyanti – you get to go through teenage issues/feelings with an adult mind, and it makes a world of difference. You’ve got the skills to handle it, which you may not have had at the time.

        I think the toughtest part is breaking through the inertia of having stuffed those feeling for so long, having put it off so many times it’s hard to not put it off just once more….

        Eventurtally you just have an ENOUGH! moment. Everybody’s always running into things that trigger their stuff, only to skim over it and move on. At some point you just stop and say, what IS that? Pulling the monster out from under the bed.

        I’m also terribly fond of the phrase: “turn towards the storm.” Instead of running from it (and being caught up in it longer) moving INTO the storm, meeting it head on, and getting through it sooner.

        And I liked what you said about being steered by what used to have worth, holding on to what you remember matters, even when you’re not feeling it. As good a strategy as any, I think.


        1. Typo – my last post should read “or disgusted or envious or”

          That’s interesting, Val. I tend to be afraid that it’s so hard to find my stuff and connect it to my past and sort it. The thought of recurring opportunities and triggers is encouraging to me. I have had lots of stuff resolve spontaneously, or with small triggers (people, places.)

          I like to sing my way through. (I’m very unmusical.) KD Lang’s treatment of “Calling All Angels,” U2’s version of “Love, Rescue Me.” Dagmar, Donna, I also like quotes about how shitty life is, “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” (Shakespeare.)



  2. Just a quick addition about letting go. I’ve been playing Sarah Brightman and Andrea Bocelli’s version of Time to Say Good bye. Got it from my teen daughter for my birthday (that’s another story for another time). I prefer Jackie Evancho’s version but can’t look a gift horse in the mouth, especially a teen one. The song is a sad, sweet, joyous song about letting go. Who cares if I don’t understand Italian.


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