Two years ago, when I bought my condo, my bosses sent me a beautiful white orchid to commemorate the occasion. It felt like a celebration of my arrival at adulthood, becoming this person with a mortgage and a car and something I needed to keep alive. I would stare at that orchid and feel the heavy weight of obligation on my shoulders. Keeping that orchid alive seemed symbolic: if I didn’t kill the orchid, I was maybe ready for other “adult” responsibilities (Next Stop: Marriage! Pets! Babies!)
But a few months later, unsurprisingly, the orchid began to wilt, its soft white petals first hanging down, limply, then falling to the ground, one by one. I moved it around, first to sunnier spots in the apartment, and then to darker ones. I watered it more, I watered it less. I pleaded with it to return to its former beauty. I yelled at it to grow (because THAT works). All to no avail. The orchid lost all of its petals, and no amount of coaxing or begging or forcing could bring them back. It was time to let go.
I’m good at letting go of things.
The sweater I once loved that now has moth holes, the pillows on my couch that flattened over time and faded from sunlight, the shoes that aren’t worth one more trip to the repair shop; they all get thrown in a bag and dropped off without a second glance at Goodwill, soon to become someone else’s letting go decision. I leave clothing and accessories scattered across the globe on every trip, in order to lighten my suitcase for the flight home. “Things” are easily released.
It’s the ideas that are tough for me to let go. Like the idea that I killed my orchid. It died in a manner similar to many of my relationships, and I was filled with the same confusion and regret. I loved it too much, or I didn’t love it enough. I suffocated it, or I abandoned it. I couldn’t decipher what it really needed. I didn’t know what I did wrong but that orchid died and it was my fault. And that was something I could not let go. I moved the orchid to my balcony, because I could not face throwing it away.
I have been holding onto these ideas and pressures about how my writing should be progressing as well. It has seemed like it needed to be specifically defined. How many times I needed to write a week (3 seemed ideal), how many sites I should be writing for other than my own (again, 3 felt right), how many new places I should be pitching to publish my work (3 has always been my lucky number!). The idea was that I needed goals, and timelines to reach them, and outlets to help me get there , or somehow my writing (and I) wouldn’t be worth as much.
Unfortunately these ideas are doing nothing to motivate me; they simply give me additional reasons to call myself lazy, or untalented, or a failure.
It’s almost like I’m setting myself up for this failure. It’s almost like I’m looking for a reason to beat myself up. It’s almost like I enjoy it.
I don’t, of course. Who would? But it’s comfortable. It’s easier for me to criticize than to praise. It comes naturally to look for faults.
Except it’s exhausting, and it’s bringing no good into my life. There is no reason to keep hanging onto this pattern. It serves no one, especially not me.
As my beloved writer friend, Jen Pastiloff, has eloquently said, “And then it was time to let go.”
It IS time to let go. Of the criticisms, of the self-imposed writing schedules, of the guilt when I do something else, of the impatience to get there, get somewhere, faster, of all of the ideas that my writing needs to be anything other than what it is: an outlet through which I can connect and understand.
My balcony floor is being refinished this week, so I had clear away everything that has been thrown out there over the past two years in fits of “I can’t look at this anymore!” The extra paint cans, the grill utensils, the toolkit I’ve never opened, the dead orchid.
Except the orchid wasn’t dead. This orchid had, somehow, on its own, come back to life, with three beautiful blooming flowers and several more buds almost ready to open. It didn’t need to be watered, or moved to the sunny side of the room, or implored, or belittled.
It just needed to be let go. Let go to grow on its own, in its own time, in its own beautiful way.
Perhaps if I am able to let go, my own flowers will begin to bloom once again.