Permission to love…and let go.
When I was twenty-five, while on a trip to Greece, I had a ‘tripifany’ (like an epiphany, but it happens while you’re on vacation) and I decided it was time for me to follow the whispers of my wanderlust heart instead of my overbearing logical head. This lead to a bold decision to leave my ‘cushy’ government job and travel for a year to the magical land down under – Australia. It was one of those flashbulb moments where everything becomes crystal clear and every cell of your body screams DO IT.
So I did.
Because I knew if I didn’t, I’d regret it. Forever. (And my sole mission in life is to be an old woman with no regrets.)
I wrapped up my big greek vacation with a huge smile on my face and a certain fire in my feet. Then upon landing on Canadian soil I realized what I had to do next – make it happen.
I was terrified to tell my parents of my decision for obvious reasons but I knew in my soul it was what I needed to do. When I spoke the words to my mother, the sadness in her eyes tore at my heart when she expressed how much she’d miss me. My protective father was less than thrilled that I would be traveling alone in a country that’s a 24 hour flight away and 14 hours ahead. They were anxious because they simply couldn’t protect their daughter from that far away. Anything could happen. Worst-case scenarios were discussed. Insurance plans were purchased (‘yes Dad, this plan includes flying my body home in case I die…’). Maps were drawn out, rough itineraries were hatched, guide books, journals, and a sturdy backpack were purchased.
And over the weeks leading up to my departure, my parents slowly but surely let go…which in turn, liberated me to life.
Because the act of letting go is love.
I’m beyond thankful to them for doing that. I know it wasn’t easy. I know they wanted me to stay put. But they loved, trusted, and released me to the welcoming arms of Oz and it’s no surprise that it became the most transformative year of my life.
I also remember experiencing that same liberation during the final moments of my beloved Nana’s life (we kids had to call her Nana because Grandma was too ‘old’ for her). When my mother called me to say that her mother, my Nana, was rushed to emergency room we both instinctively knew this was it. There was no bouncing back this time. It took a couple of hours for our wee family to gather around her, but once we were there the most beautiful transformation happened. Like me, Nana was aching to move on to another place and needed her family’s permission to go. She didn’t ask for permission per se, but we knew she needed it.
So we silently held hands and formed a circle around her crisp hospital bed and through clenched, dry lips and soggy, wet eyes we told her how much we deeply loved and appreciated her. And although it was a quiet and somber moment, I recalled what I loved most about her – her wildly loving spirit. Memories of feeling her excitement seemingly burst through her eyeballs and down her arms when she saw me and enveloped me in a massive hug. Or in the way she unapologetically taught me the importance of buying good gold jewelry, or how to be self-sufficient, or what it means to be a loyal friend (who was still throwing back vodka soda’s with her best friend in their golden years). And most importantly she taught me about the power of love and connection in my most vulnerable moments when she’d hold my hand and assure me that everything was going to be okay. And I truly believed her….because it always was ok with her around.
And now it was our time to hold her hand and assure her everything was going to be okay.
Then my mother intuitively and lovingly leaned over and gave her mother the permission she was seeking. She whispered in her ear ‘you can go now’ and those four words allowed her to do just that. As peacefully and calmly as one could hope for.
I’ll say it again…love liberates.
As Maya Angelou taught me, when we find something, or someone, that we love our instinct is to hold on as tight as we can. We’re scared to lose it, to f*ck it up, and terrified that it will abandon us or be stolen from us. Yet, I’ve found that the opposite is true….if you find something you love, don’t try to encapsulate or cage it. Love needs room to roam, explore, discover, and stretch. It can’t do that if it’s feeling bound and constrained. So if a loved one needs your permission to go, give it to them. Whether it’s to travel the world, move away from home, or to transition back home.
Liberate them. It’s the best gift you can ever give.