Loss. Chaos. Miracles. Lucky breaks. Only the perspective of time tells us which we are experiencing. Until then, we practice the Art of Letting Go.
The Art of Letting Go
I was race-walking from the subway stop in Williamsburg to my trampoline practice at Trapeze School New York this morning. Racing, because subway delays had put me behind schedule and subway work forced me off at a different stop, and I was running late.
It was chilly when I left my apartment earlier. I was wearing two long sleeved layers underneath an Athleta puffy jacket. I had already removed my scarf and opened my jacket, but I was still warm. I was starting to overheat. I was running late. I didn’t want to stop.
Without breaking my stride, I removed my jacket. I twisted my messenger bag around just enough to open the velcro closure and stuff the jacket into my bag. It didn’t quite fit, but I stuffed it in — aiming for “good enough” over perfect, like everyone is always encouraging me to do. I closed the bag. The velcro didn’t quite meet all the way, but I felt it close to a point that was “good enough.” I gave it an extra tug to be sure. I continued race-walking down Union Street, turning left on Harrison Street. It was just 9 am when I was battling the wind on Harrison, approaching Flushing Avenue. The white Phizer building was in my sights; the TSNY tent sits in the corner of its parking lot.
I pushed against the wind as I raced to the tent, sweating.
This is my Saturday morning cardio.
I arrived less than 10 minutes late; not ideal, but since we bounce one at a time, this was not a huge deal. I opened my bag to pull out my jacket and hang it up. Except that my jacket wasn’t in my bag.
Perhaps the bag wasn’t sealed “good enough” to withstand the gusty winds? I quickly walked outside to see if it had fallen out in the last few meters. It wasn’t in sight. I imagined that it was laying on the sidewalk somewhere within the last few blocks I had walked, but where?
There’s no way to know. And even if I did know, what are the odds it would still be there?
I decided to let it go.
In the past, I would have been so upset about this that I would have immediately run back to retrace my steps, and I would have beat myself up over it for hours, if not days or weeks.
Today was different. I had a brief moment of being self-annoyed. I spent less than a minute processing the “should have, could have, if only” thoughts — like I could have paused for 30 seconds to ensure it was in my bag.
And then I let it go.
Could I have avoided this situation by pausing for 30 seconds to ensure I had firmly sealed my bag? Possibly. Ok. Probably.
Was it worth obsessing over? Absolutely not.
In the grand scheme of the chaos and shitstorm that has engulfed my life for the first 3.5 months of 2017, this is a mere blip. It doesn’t crack the top 10 on the list of issues I’ve got going on.
It’s not even the most distressing thing that happened thus far today.
Perspective is everything.
I let it go.
Even in the moment, I was able to reframe this. I will need to release bigger things from my life this year. This is the universe giving me a practice run. A lesson in the art of letting go.
How quickly can you let go of what doesn’t serve you?
I expressed my gratitude for how the jacket served me in the time I owned it: it kept me warm, its bright orange brought color to cold, gray days.
I expressed my hope that it would end up in the hands of someone who needs a jacket more than I do. I have other jackets. I’ll be ok.
Instead of blaming myself for not being more careful or triple checking that the jacket was in my bag, I thanked myself for the foresight to remove my phone from the pocket before I took it off. A lost phone would have been a bigger hassle.
This was a huge twist on my usual playbook: I’m typically quick and harsh with the self-blame, and despite a daily gratitude ritual I rarely thank myself for anything.
How often do you express gratitude to yourself for something you did?
I had my moment. A brief “are you kidding me? I can’t even…” moment.
And then I let it go.
I brought my focus and attention and full presence to my body and to my trampoline practice.
After practice, I finished my workout with conditioning and stretching. I got immersed in a meaningful conversation with a friend. In fact, I got so immersed in connecting during my conversation that I forgot to broadcast my weekly video from the trapeze school tent, and I left way later than usual.
I retraced my route back the way I came. The odds were infinitesimal that I would find it, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to keep my eyes open, just in case.
Miracles can happen.
Typically this is where you might expect the storybook “happy ending:” that somehow, against all odds, I found my jacket on the sidewalk. A miracle.
Nope. Not this time. The jacket did not magically turn up.
As I walked back to the subway, the clouds blocked the sun. With only my two layers and a scarf protecting me, I felt the chill in the air. An easy trigger for the new wave of self-criticism to start.
Instead, something else happened. I considered that my bright orange Athleta puffy jacket was now on the body of someone who perhaps had been needing a jacket. I imagined how grateful that person may have been to find this jacket on the sidewalk of Union Street or Harrison Street. A lucky break. A miracle.
I reflected on how quickly I was able to reframe the situation for myself, how fast I shifted my focus to my practice.
I bore witness to my own progress in the Art of Letting Go.
I recognized my huge accomplishment of defaulting to self-gratitude over self-blame.
I let that sink in:
Self-gratitude over self-blame was my default today.
I felt warmth in my heart. The chill evaporated. Soon enough, I was at the Lorimer Street station, boarding the L back to Union Square.
I considered that perhaps this was a lucky break for me, too. Perhaps this was a message from the universe that I don’t need this jacket anymore. Perhaps the universe will bring me something better to fill that hanger in my closet. Or, perhaps there’s something altogether different in the cards for me, a scenario in which I won’t need a jacket at all.
Only time will tell. Until then, all I can do is continue to trust. Continue to practice the Art of Letting Go.
In the meantime, I celebrate my progress. And somewhere in South Williamsburg, a woman is warmed by her new bright orange puffy jacket.
It turns out that this story does have a happy ending, after all.