I met Jill, the author of this epiphany story, when she interviewed me for her a book she’s writing about Letting Go. She specifically wanted to know from me how I would suggest cultivating epiphanies when you know you need to let go but can’t and know you need an epiphany or something to guide (or PUSH) you to the next step. We went over my advice about sparking epiphanies by bolstering your “muscles” in the areas of the four steps of every life-changing epiphany. (See the Introduction and Exercises in the back of the Expanded Edition of Epiphany for more on this.) And I loved her epiphany and how it had led her to create this whole movement — book, talks, workshops — about letting go. My epiphany that led to EpiphanyChannel and the book had to do with my finally letting go of my marriage — I was too terrified to do it for years.
So many of us hang on way too long to relationships, jobs, friendships, things that aren’t working out of sheer fear — of being alone, of being judged, of not finding another job/husband/boyfriend/bestie, of going broke, of being the only one in your family to ever be divorced or single at a certain age, of not being able to afford new clothes/car/home if you let go of your old ones…whatever. We know it isn’t right and isn’t working, but we hang on anyway until Life forces us out or an epiphany comes and we can’t deny it any longer.
My family is from New Orleans and today is Mardi Gras – Fat Tuesday. A celebration that has been going on for weeks consisting of constant parties and parades culminates today in the final celebration of debauchery because tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent in the Catholic Church and other religions. Lent is the 40 days before Easter when you usually “give up something” like candy or smoking or cursing. (Side tangent: My mom actually gave up smoking for Lent back in the ol’ days when no one realized JUST how bad it was for you, and after not smoking for 40 days, she couldn’t go back to it. She tried but it tasted gross to her! Yes, a true Lenten blessing. :)) What’s interesting is not only is tomorrow Ash Wednesday/the first day of Lent, but it’s Valentine’s Day, a day of celebrating love.
I thought this epiphany Jill sent in was perfect for Valentine’s Day and celebrating Love. Even though the epiphany is about letting go of Love, it was a letting go that allowed another kind of Love — the kind that would fulfill her — to come in.
What if we think this Valentine’s Day / Ash Wednesday (in addition to roses and candy and romance or lack thereof) about what we can let go of in our lives? In any area of your life — what is holding you back from greater fulfillment? What about letting go of expectations that make you stressed and unhappy (such as you should have someone sending you roses and taking you to dinner on V-day?) What do you desire but something you are holding on to (usually some kind of fear) is blocking it? What can you identify that you can work on or begin to let go of for the next say, 40 days, and see what happens…see what might come in and take its place. See what epiphanies might get sparked.
Wishing you and yours a Happy Valentine’s Day and loads of love…
The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go
By Jill Sherer Murray
When I was 41, I woke up to the realization that, despite all of his promises of “someday,” my boyfriend of 12 years was never going to give me what I wanted. You know, the thing any woman in her forties would want after more than a decade spent in one relationship: commitment, marriage, family.
Where was I when this thunderbolt of clarity struck? At a stranger’s condominium, waiting for Hector, my boyfriend, to show up to decide if it was something we wanted to buy and live in together. If so, it would be the biggest step we’d ever taken in 144 months, since we’d never lived together. Frankly, I was still a bit in shock that he’d even agreed to the enterprise. But I was grateful that perhaps, despite what my gut was telling me (and had told me for almost a decade), he was open to taking the next step towards forever.
And then, lightning struck. He stood me up. Twice. First, when he called with an excuse and asked to reschedule for later that day, after I’d been waiting for him for an hour. And then again, when he didn’t show at the new meeting time.
You can’t imagine both my horror and shame at believing he’d actually go through with it, not to mention my embarrassment in front of two realtors who’d given up their Saturday for us. Fortunately, one was a long-time friend who understood the situation–and why I locked myself in the bathroom and sobbed.
I’m sure there were moments before this one that could and SHOULD have woken me up, but for some reason, THIS was it—the epiphany that was long overdue.
Although, one could understand why it took me so long to come to it—if anyone could have crawled inside and felt the surgery-without-anesthesia-induced agony that seared through my body once reality set in. The fact that I would have to leave this man I’d loved for almost one-third of my life—that I had no other choice, if I wanted love that worked for me too—was like being cut down the middle with a fresh blade, while lying there helpless and hyperconscious.
What I wanted from this man I loved—a long life together where we cared equally about holiday dinners, broken appliances, family drama, retirement savings, and each other—was never going to happen.
Where did that epiphany lead? To letting go and its ongoing lessons that I had no idea would serve me for a lifetime. Of course, it also led to a lot of dark nights crying alone to Joni Mitchell Court and Spark on a loop and too many pizza deliveries in a row, culminating in an additional 16 pounds that surely wouldn’t help my cause once I’d picked myself up off the floor long enough to contemplate the idea of future love. It also led to letting go of an entire life, not just a man I desperately loved, but a city I’d called home for almost 20 years, a beautiful condo, a job, friends, hair stylist, vets, car mechanics, favorite restaurants, and all the elements that make up the mosaic of a life in one place. I left it all, packing everything I had into a Toyota RAV4 and a moving truck, and headed back East to be close to my family and start anew.
That’s what letting go asks of us: Rebirth. Regeneration. Reclamation. The hard stuff. Our choice? To avoid the pain and stay stuck; or, take the biggest risks of our lives and push through it, red-faced and begging for mercy, and make the impossible choices that will ultimately get us to the other side.
So how did it all turn out? Better than I could have expected, but then again, that’s the power of letting go. After a period of grief over the loss of my old love spent walking in circles in my new surroundings, I started to build the mosaic of a new life. I found restaurants I loved, grocery stores, friends, hairdressers, a writer’s community (since I’m a writer by trade), dog parks, and the best part of all: New love. I did that by letting go of fear and mustering up the courage to try online dating. And while it was utterly terrifying at first, it worked. I found my way to love with a wonderful man, who, like me, had survived the ruins of romance and came out stronger on the other side. And today, we are happily married—something I never thought I’d have the chance to experience. When I finally let go of love and a life that was familiar but frustrating, I was able to let in what I desired most — love and fulfillment beyond what I could have imagined.
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Watch Jill’s TEDxWilmington Talk: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go
Learn more about Jill Sherer Murray: www.letgoforit.com
Jill Sherer Murray is an award-winning writer and speaker who studies relationships and self-growth. She is also the founder of Let Go For It®, a lifestyle 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 @letgoforit on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.