THE POWER OF GOODBYE: HOW I LEARNED TO LET GO
I am giving my age away by naming this article after a Madonna song. Bear with me because this is not a lament about how the once magnificent performer peaked with the Ray of Light album. This is about letting go of things that do not serve you any longer.
Letting go doesn’t come easily for me. I'm a natural hoarder and I suspect it comes from moving around so much when I was a child growing up in exile. I guess holding on to items made me feel anchored when my world was always changing. Fast forward to me as an young adult with a disposable income and I am convinced that I single-handedly kept textile and shoe industry afloat. Nevertheless, I had to learn to declutter my life. My first lesson in cutting back came when it was time to deal with my overflowing closet. Out went the ill-advised sale purchases, the items I kept threatening to repair but never made it to the tailor, and the outdated fast-fashion. It was initially painful trying to cull all the non-essentials, but after two years I got it down pat and was chucking out clothes with ease every six months.
The next challenge was navigating the online dating streets. The numbers are weighted in our favor as women, which was a good thing for me. The downside was having to sift out the creeps. Initially, I struggled with the entitlement and just plain sleaze I encountered. I wasted precious time and data explaining why it was rude when they didn't say “please” when asking for a picture or how their thirsty comments about my body made me feel objectified.
Then one glorious day I had the epiphany that it was not my job to raise other people's children. The block button became my ally. Instead of lengthy explanations to entitled men-children about their behavior I simply erased them from my inbox and existence with one click. It has been so liberating to not to feel the pressure to engage with men who don't deserve my attention.
Then my father died and nothing was the same.
I went through all the stages of grief including a particularly messy phase where I drank too much and consequently made poor life decisions. Once I started coming back to something that resembled normality, I began to get rid of superfluous people. The first round of eliminations were people I felt had not been there for me during this difficult time. One of the casualties was my best friend of 18 years, who told me she had not come to the funeral because her boyfriend of 4 months told her that her attending the funeral was against his cultural beliefs. Losing her hurt. A lot. Once I set my anger aside from her letting me down during the most horrible time in my life, I accepted that she had made her choice. Seeing that her choice was not me, I decided to move on.
I only started feeling real push-back when I started to remove undeserving family members from my life. As a Black woman I have been raised with the narrative that family comes first, which I respect because it means that I have a built in support network. As I've grown older I've began to question this notion in its entirety because it also seems to dictate that we tolerate sucky behavior from people simply because we share DNA. If I tell a family member that Friend X has disrespected my boundaries, stolen my stuff, sworn at me and falsely accused me of doing mean things, their immediate response would be to tell me to remove said friend from my life. Some of the spicier fam would even offer to accompany me to talk to Friend X, just in case I needed backup. The minute I change the name from Friend X to Family Member Y, the same people who were so ready to cape for me turn into enablers. All of a sudden I'm hearing how I should forgive my abusers because we are related.
Luckily for me I am steadfast in staying on this path of mercilessly removing clutter from my life. In all shapes and forms.
I can attest to the fact that since I have decided to leave baggage in my past, my Glow Up has become a real thing. I have achieved the dream of chasing summer, published a critically acclaimed book, lost weight, made stripper money from writing, and found a decent, bearded, funny, GOT watching, smart guy to date online. If I had a lot more zeros in my bank account I would say I'm living that best life Oprah keeps preaching about. While I work to become a millionaire, I can truthfully say the way to ultimate happiness feels much lighter. In the words of that other iconic song of our time, Let It Go. All of it: the baggage (real and imaginary), the people you don't like but think you need, those numbers in your phone you have not dialed in years but keep just in case. When you pare your life down to just the essentials, you will find so much clarity. The peace of mind that comes with it is a welcome bonus.