The other weekend, I went on a retreat at a beautiful, peaceful place called Charney Manor in Oxfordshire. The theme for the weekend was ‘Letting Go’ and I discovered so much during my time there that if I’d had to come home on the Saturday morning, rather than the Sunday afternoon, I would have still felt I’d gained some valuable insights. Individually and as a group we explored various aspects of ‘letting go’, from mental clutter to time commitments to bigger issues about who we are and what our lives are about.
Since my return to ‘real life’, I’ve continued to reflect upon my time there and have felt inspired to act upon much of what I’ve learnt. Yet part of the ‘letting go’ process for me has been loosening my tight grip on the desire to do everything, sort everything, change everything immediately, now, sooner – so not rushing in and overturning too much all at once has been a lesson in itself. Instead I’m recording all my thoughts on what to let go of in my journal and hope to release them gradually, trusting that a time will come when it’s clearly the right moment to lay them down.
Some things, though, have been let go of already. Often these have not been snap decisions, but the result of several months of wrangling and angsting – with the retreat giving me the final push that I needed. In other cases, I thought I’d let go of something only to reconsider. Case in point: my tidy top drawer, in which I keep jewellery and some toileteries. It is usually very neat, like all my drawers. Only it had been getting steadily messier. Not horrendously so, but enough for me to notice my usual standards were slipping. What does it matter?, I thought, It’s no big deal. I’m letting go and learning to let things be. This thought process has been liberating. Rather than chastising myself every time I’ve opened the drawer over the last week, I let go of that inner dialogue that goes something like You must tidy this drawer, you great big fat slob. You are so messy and untidy and disorganised that you fail to qualify as a successful, competent adult. You are a slovenly, immature and useless loser. Quite a relief, clearly, to not have that thought sequence every time I’ve gone to moisturise. Funnily enough, letting go of beating myself up about what is a fairly inconsequential matter (an untidy drawer isn’t going to kill anyone) has had a strange contrary effect: tonight I got up from my desk, seized by an overwhelming to sort the drawer out. No musts, or shoulds, or feeling that my entire self-worth is bound up with the end result; simply a desire to restore order to the bottles and tins. It seems I can let go of the self-loathing without having to let go of the tidy drawer – a classic case of not chucking the baby out with the bathwater.