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  • Writer's picturepamradtkerussell

Being Done, Letting Go and Moving on

When I first arrived at my self-selected writer’s retreat in Mississippi, I thought I had found a second home of sorts. I imagined coming back regularly to the seclusion, the trees and the creek to rest and write.

But fewer than three days later, I was packing up my car at 9:30 a.m., hours earlier than I needed to.

As I put my suitcase in the car, I knew I’d never return.

The night before, I had decided to rise at 5 a.m., write until about 10, pack my things and be gone by 12. I had been falling short of my daily goal of writing about 5,000 words and I wanted to get more work done before leaving.

I wasn’t disappointed in myself for not hitting my target. It was hard going. I was writing about my childhood, past relationships and the dissolution of my marriage. As Joan Didion once said, “I don’t know what I think until I write it down.” And seeing all of my thoughts on the screen was exhausting. I’d frequently stop and realize what I just wrote and say, out loud, “oh shit.” It wasn’t pretty.

Sunday morning arrived and I got up at 5. But about an hour into my writing, with only 1,000 new words, I was simply done. I had more to write, but the energy that filled me when I arrived was gone. It was like a light switch turned off.

After I showered and packed, I stepped outside and sat in the gazebo to meditate and thank this place for letting me cocoon among the spiders for a few days. I got a loud and clear, but gentle, message from the trees, that yes, it was time for me to leave. It was as if they were placing a gentle hand on the small of my back and were nudging me to go.

It may have been the isolation and the spiders that pushed me toward this feeling, but I think it was more about being hidden in the woods. My preteen and teen years were spent in the woods of northern Indiana. I loved them because they sheltered me from the outside hurt so common at this age. I spent hours by myself exploring among the ferns, smelling the sassafras and wading in a creek just like the one at this cabin.

I think, subconsciously, I realized Sunday morning that, 40 years later, I no longer need the shelter of the trees. That I don’t have to hide. I can handle the hurt and I can come out into the sun.

Elizabeth Lesser in “Broken Open,” said (and I think I’m paraphrasing chapters here) that we can journey down a path with someone hand in hand for years, but then our time with them comes to an end. We’ve learned what we’ve needed from that person, and it’s time to go our separate ways and learn something new.

Or as one unattributed quote floating around the internet puts it, “Sometimes you just have to be done. Not mad, not upset. Just done.”

I read “Broken Open” about a month into my separation, and it helped me reframe my marriage. He and I learned, grew and helped each other along the same path for 28 years. We had some adventures and trials, and we had two incredible daughters. But our journey together was over. It was time to let go and move on, without regret, remorse or longing.

This is a huge lesson to me because I have a hard time letting go. Yet, when I cling to things it only brings me grief and sorrow: Relationships that never got off the ground, jobs that seemed so perfect but never were offered, and especially now in the time of the pandemic – trips and events that I was looking forward to that were canceled.

I’ve slowly come to realize that either those things were not mine to begin with, or the time simply wasn’t right. And so I’ve come more into a practice of letting go. Of just being done with something or someone that no longer serves my best interests.

And so it was with this perfect little cabin, nestled in the woods among the spiders. It came to me at the right time. It helped me further explore my inner life and gave me quiet to begin to contemplate and let go of past hurts and missteps.

But now, I’m done with it. In letting go of the vision of this perfect little writer’s retreat, I know I will find a new place for contemplation and stillness.

Hopefully, I will find that place within me.

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