Don’t worry – this has nothing to do with the earworm that has taken over the entire world thanks to Disney and Pixar… at least not overtly. Letting go is about knowing when to turn away; about knowing when to walk away – or run – and save yourself despite someone else’s best efforts to destroy you (whether they mean to or not). Sometimes it’s not walking away from someone who was actively trying to hurt you, but someone who just never seemed to care about your hurt or trying to stop it.
Katie Naum wrote an extremely personal, and difficult piece about her turbulent relationship with her mother – and how it no longer exists. I won’t detail every bit of her story; it’s her story, not mine. However, her story explores an interesting point: being motherless, or even fatherless – by choice. Choosing to revoke a parent’s access to your life and making sure it stays that way. It is an extreme choice… or is it? I have not had to make that choice, and hopefully never will, but my father did. He is the child of divorced parents, one of whom remarried and had another child. He was never the focus of either parent growing up – he was living on his own and paying rent by the time he was sixteen. That’s right… sixteen. One-six. Not a typical standard for teenagers. Yet his parents, on both sides of the equation were around for quite some time, and were even a part of my life growing up; until they weren’t. The constant demands for accommodation and allowance from his father and his second wife eventually culminated in a pitched screaming fight between my mother (his wife) and his step-mother on Christmas Eve. It was brutal and vicious and the details are irrelevant this many years later. That was the last we saw or spoke to my Dad’s father and step-mother. His mother stayed around for years until my parents own marriage hit the rocks. During their struggle to put the pieces back together, my mother reached out to my Grandma for help, guidance, advice, assistance, anything she could do. She got nothing but a dismissive “Well that’s what men do. You just deal with it. I don’t see what I can do to change anything.” This was the proverbial straw, and it broke my family’s collective heart. This was the perfect opportunity (the last one of many) for my Grandmother to actually be a mother… and she chose not to take it. Grandma didn’t come by anymore after that.
The point here is that whether it is the story of an obviously unbalanced woman, like Ms. Naum’s mother, or one of consistent absence and apathy, like my father’s parents, one thing is the same: survival. There’s a saying that: discretion is the better part of valor; or in the immortal words of Kenny Rogers: you’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em; know when to walk away, know when to run. If someone is toxic to your life, bringing nothing but fear, anger, pain, sadness, loss… exercise those demons as soon as you’re able. Though it will sting, you may be able to move past the pain at some point – and honestly, congratulations if you can – but you, your life, and your joy are worth more than what you’ve been given.