As I write this, I’m sitting at the Philadelphia airport waiting to board my Southwest flight to Chicago. My old stomping grounds. I’m spending the weekend with two of the best non-biological “sisters” a woman could ask for. These are women I’ve known and loved for decades. They’ve been with me through good times and bad – from buying my first condo, losing weight for a nation (Shape gig), and surviving the “Todd” years (it’ll be in the book, it was bad), to meeting and loving Hector, letting go of him and an entire life, and dealing with the deep and unwavering grief of loss.
Five and ten years older than me respectively, these two have always been one step ahead, letting me know what lies in wait. In your thirties, they said, you’ll be focused on your career, money, and family. When I started to believe that the children I thought I might want just weren’t in my cards, and I was sad about that, they’d say, “It’s okay, you’ll be okay. You’ll get to the other side, and be just fine.” And they were right.
They were always right.
In your forties, they said, you’ll begin the search for meaning, contemplate the prospect of menopause, and what you’ll do in the second act. And in your fifties, well, they’ll be really lovely. You’ll find your voice. Your power. Your purpose. You’ll find peace with your life’s choices. You’ll also lose people you know and/or love, to death. And not as part of the natural cycle of life; but former classmates, old friends and peers, who pass way too soon. People who share the same cultural references. Once again, sadly, they were right.
They were always right.
They were like the two best unofficial psychics on earth, predicting the future, experience their magic 8 balls. Walking two steps up on the trail, reporting back every rock, stone, animal, body of water, and long log gracing their path. Not only did they know things, but they held me in such great care while they shared. I will forever have gratitude for their wisdom and love and generosity.
And now, they’re both having big birthdays. So, despite the mountain of work on my desk, I am on my way to spend the weekend with them to celebrate. (Let go of all work, no play.) Here at the airport, with a cold brew coffee on one side, and my iPhone charging on the other (love Southwest gate, outlets everywhere), I am filled with both eager anticipation and, yes, sadness.
Because while going back to those old stomping grounds allows me to see them, and brings back so many happy times. It also fills me up with memories of my little one-time family—Hector and my beloved Golden Sophie—who are no longer here. Ironically, they both died of same cancer. Talk about survivor’s guilt: Oftentimes, when I think about the chances of that, it sucker-punches me right in the gut.
While it would be easy enough to just push those memories away, and compartmentalize. Think about something else. Instead, when they wash over me like a wave, as they do when I’m in route to the place I lived for most of my adult life, I pull them close, as the plane begins its final approach to Midway. My ritual? I marvel at the skyline that was once a beacon in the clouds—the signal I was home. Almost at my North Side condo, where Hector and Sophie would be waiting. Then, as the plane descends, I put Shawn Colvin’s So Good To See You on my iPhone…
“Ordinarily I’d have the decency to hold my tongue
And then eventually wind up opening the vein
Rather pointedly you ask me if I plan to turn and run
That’s a certainty when I’m this close to the drain
But it’s so good to see you
Yes it’s so good to see you
To see you…”
I play it over and over again, while the now Willis Tower (always the Sears Tower to me), John Hancock building, Navy Pier, and beautiful Lake Michigan rotate in and out of view. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Until the flight attendant comes over the loud speaker, and welcomes us to Chicago. We’ve touched down.
While this may sound melodramatic, it’s been my way of holding on to what was. And to making peace, before my feet touch the ground, with what is. It reminds me every single time to embrace and rejoice in the fact that, even though they’re gone, it all really did happen.
And that I’m still here.
Which brings me to the point (you knew I’d get there): Even though going back through the old times and emotions can sometimes hurt, I wouldn’t let go of them for all the black yoga pants, lazy walks, long kisses, fall leaves, deep-dish pizzas, trips to Aruba, Broadway shows, girls’ night outs, birthdays, spa days, dinner parties, improv classes, reading and writing time in the world. Because this is my life.
I will never, ever let those memories go, or lose them in the wind shear of 30,000 feet.
For as much as I talk about the beauty of letting go–and will continue to do so, because letting go in the appropriate ways and situations offers us a rite of passage that can move us closer to our destinies, if we let it—I must say this: In some rare cases, the very opposite holds true. Letting go robs us of the people and experiences we need to hold most precious, in order to know we’re alive. And to embrace life to the fullest.
For example, I will never let go of the love I have for my “sisters.”
I will never let go of the memories and love I have for Hector and my beloved Sophie—the good and the not so much.
And I will never let go of the kaleidoscope of feelings I have whenever the plane touches down in my beloved Chicago, where it was the best of times and the worst of times. And where I was lucky enough to experience life, love, and sisterhood in technicolor.
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Jill Sherer Murray is the founder of Let Go For It, a brand dedicated to helping individuals let go for a better life. Jill’s TEDx talk as well as her advice column, Big Wild Love: Let Go For It℠ were created in service to her loyal and growing fan base, who seek support in the act and the art of letting go for the love they desire and deserve. Follow Jill on on Twitter @letgoforit, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.