I think people underestimate how important letting go of something is. Or in fact, maybe they understand how important it is, therefore how difficult it is, and so choose not to face it.
Over the past year I’ve become quite accomplished at letting things go. What’s that phrase?, “revenge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die”. I feel like a lot of things in my life fall under that heading. But as I’ve come to confront each issue I have with the ‘real world’ I have come to realise the immense lightness of being that comes with letting things go.
Sure, I am proficient at bridge burning and I still hold a few grudges, but on the smaller things I think I’m doing pretty well. I used to be incredibly strict on myself, I saw so many other people being lazy, letting things fall by the wayside and I didn’t want to be like them. The downside of that was I used to stick at things I hated. Only within the last year or so did I realise that I actually did myself more harm than good by pushing myself.
I think it was something as simple as finishing that Hopper painting that first sparked the idea that I wanted to change my ways. I wanted to learn about oil paints (I paint in acrylics, much easier), so I decided to do a copy of one of my favourite paintings: Compartment C by Edward Hopper.
I worked on it on and off for a few years. Along with a couple of other projects (knitting things and the suchlike). In the end I dug in and finished it, even then I kept making mistakes and having to repaint over them. When it was finally done, I loathed it, I think I still do. I gave it my sister and it now hangs in the spare room I sleep in at her house.
My rendering over the painting wasn’t bad. But I didn’t learn ANYTHING from doing it. It made me furious. And think of it? All those hours I spent worrying about it, driving myself up the wall about it? Were they worth it? Nope, not a bit.
Yesterday a friend was telling me about his New Year’s resolution. Which was that life was to short to force himself to read bad books. So, in future, if he didn’t like a book after the first chapter he would get rid of it. I started with the whole ‘what if’ idea, like ‘what if the book picked up later on?’. Then I realised… what if it did? Who cares?
Who cares whether that book or film turned into genius some time after the moment you stopped? The world isn’t going to fall apart. And even if it was some unforeseen brilliance, I’m sure someone would convince you to give it another go.
So last night, even though I was a third of a way through a book… a book I was not enjoying, I put it down. And I’m going to give it back to the charity book shop I bought it from (where I also work). That felt pretty great, I don’t think I’ve ever done it before. I usually just punish and guilt myself into finishing it.
Then today I went on to futurelearn.com (a great site for free online courses) to assess what courses I had left to do and even signed up for some more. But, just now, I looked at these courses, primarily the one I still hadn’t been able to finish, and I gave myself some credit for once. As nice as it would sound to have done these, primarily, film-based courses… Did I actually want to them and would I enjoy them? More so than anything, it was this one boring course (the one I’d been unable to finish) which brought something to mind. I have a degree and master’s degree in film making! I already know this stuff! Maybe there is some intriguing bit of information hidden in these courses, but chances are it’s something I already know or could find out easily.
So, I left every one of my futurelearn courses. I mean, seriously, some of them I signed up to over a year ago and I still hadn’t started them. What does that tell you? I’m a champion at accumulating things I should do. But the only things that ever get done are the things I truly enjoy. Even those that require a lot of hard work, proof maybe to myself that I’m not lazy, which I’ve always been afraid of.
Why am I writing a blog about this? I dunno. But I like the idea of just writing about stuff again, whatever it is. I used to have a personal blog when I was in uni, where to be honest I would write about more private things, and I had to stop that (long story). I like working things out in my brain and putting fingers to keys.
More so than anything I’m writing about this because I want to share something, which is that to let go is a brilliant and profound thing. Letting go means you’re free of guilty, worry and that sort of self-flagellation that people are so adept at making for themselves. It’s also kind of easy, at least for smaller things like this. But, about things involving people?
I feel like I’m better these days at, for instance, seeing something stupid someone has written online and being able to shrug it off and not get mad. People say stupid stuff, but I don’t know this person, and the internet is not a place to get into an argument. It turns to poop very quickly.
I’m also better at shrugging off criticisms people might have of me, and attempting to be more confident in what I think. I don’t think I would have started talking about film so publicly if I couldn’t do this.
I only wish I was better at letting go of stuff that gets up inside you. Grudges, humiliating crushes, things you didn’t say to mean people who had it coming… But no one can truly master their emotions I don’t think. What I have got for now is the power to let go of all the daily things that clutter up my thinking, all the things I tell myself I should be doing, but don’t really want to do. And that’s a huge load off my psyche.