“I’m done.” The thought began last week when I realized I might lose some of my client hours from my first internship. I called and emailed my former supervisor to ask her to sign the form verifying my hours, and her email had been deleted. Her phone number now went to another business.
43 client hours potentially lost if I can’t find another means to reach her. It could be so much worse. I was only at this location for two months, and I did very little counseling compared to my other internships and jobs. But for me, 43 client hours equals a month worth of work.
I’m a little surprised I’m not freaking out about it. I’m feeling strangely calm. I’m either in serious denial or coping quite well. I’m not sure. Denial. It’s probably denial.
But I feel done. I’m done holding on to plans tightly. I’m done envisioning how my future has to look like. I’m done taking control. Just done.
So many times I have imagined what my life will look like in the future. How many times have my imaginings come to pass? Rarely, if ever. It seems that things tend to turn out either much worse or much better than I thought.
I still have plans. I don’t feel defeated. I will still do everything within my power to get these hours back and do everything I can to get all the hours I need for licensure in time. But I’m done stressing. I’m done trying to perfectly control how life goes. I don’t want to feel anxious and stressed trying to make my life look a specific way. I just want to let go.
I had all of these thoughts last week, and then I didn’t think about it much. But these thoughts all flooded back when I curled up on the couch Sunday afternoon to read From Mourning to Dancing by Henri Nouwen.
The second chapter of this book is entitled From Holding Tightly to Letting Go. In this chapter Nouwen talks about how it is only through letting go that we receive. It is only through letting go that we find freedom. The more we seek to control our lives, the more our we feel the sting of loss.
“Our belief that we should grasp tightly what we need provides one of the greatest sources of our suffering. But letting go of possessions and plans and people allows us to enter, for all its risks, a life of new, unexpected freedom.
How can we live with greater willingness to let go? Another step in turning our mourning to dancing has to do with not clutching what we have, not trying to reserve a safe place we can rest in, not trying to choreograph our own or others’ lives, but to surrender to the God whom we love and want to follow. God invites us to experience our not being in control as an invitation to faith.”
In our chronic pain and illness, we realize that control of life is an illusion. We realize that the more we try to control our lives, the more fear and anxiety build.
“But the disciples of Jesus left their nets, the source of their economic security, and their families, the source of their emotional security, and followed One who promised to fulfill the deepest desires of their hearts. We know what uncertainty feels like. And yet as we let go, we sense that something new, something wonderful can happen in its place.”
Can I hold my plans lightly? Can you hold your plans lightly?
Can I hold my health lightly? My job lightly? My counseling licensure lightly? My friends and source of community lightly? My comfort lightly? My desires for the future lightly? Being ok with uncertainty, and letting go of fear.
What do you need to hold lightly?
This is easier for me to talk about now that my pain is more controlled. My pain does not feel unbearable every day. I am not homebound like others I know. I am able to work much more than I could in the past. I get to go to church every Sunday and have friends, family, and community in my life who surround me. I am able to enjoy things in life that felt impossible to enjoy when pain used to completely take over. Life is not all so bad. And in this place of less suffering, it is easier to think about holding plans lightly.
From this vantage point, I am more able to accept these words that are difficult, and consider how I might continue to hold on to them, even if life goes downhill. I feel more able to let go of control, and perhaps, I can carry that with me should the pain return with greater intensity or should life go down unexpected paths of suffering.
“Jesus says that maturity means growing willingness to be led – even to places we might not eagerly choose.”
Am I willing to go down paths I might not eagerly choose? Not completely. But more so than other times in my life. I am more able to think about this life as less about me and more about a greater purpose. I am more able to let go of comfort and grab hold of God’s plan, whatever it may be.
Oh, it could be painful. It could be awful. But it could be great and it could be glorious. I really don’t know. But that’s what it means to let go. To step forward, not knowing, in faith.
It means finding acceptance of this life we have been given, whatever it may be. Knowing that in the center of God’s will is the best place we could ever be.
Check out the first booklet in the Chronic Pain and the Christian Life series, But God Wouldn’t I Be More Useful to You If I Were Healthy, on Amazon.com.