The Art of Letting Go
Inevitably, in the course of networking, I get the question:
What brought you to Chicago?
The easy answer, the answer I give when the conversation hasn't yet reached any depth, is that I took a corporate position. Oftentimes this leads to follow up questions about where I came from, which tends to be far more interesting to people than what I do.
Occasionally, and most likely in one-on-one meetings where I'm trying to get to know someone better in order to become a referral partner for them and they are doing the same for me, I feel compelled to be understood.
So I fill the gap when I see it coming, as I work backwards through my experience. I guess I could let people believe I was just ready for change when I left New Mexico, like an opportunity just came my way or that Bossier City, Louisiana was somewhere I wanted to go. The dots from rural NM to the bayou to the Windy City could be connected by whatever people want to think, I guess.
But I generally end up describing the battle scars left by people I once trusted...
I partnered with a friend I'd known for a decade, to be a producer for the property and casualty side of the business... very long story short, he embezzled.
Sometimes people want to know more. Sometimes, I don't say much more about it.
Sometimes, I feel like telling this part of the story gives power to someone who deserves none in my life. Sometimes, I feel like being able to tell the story on this side of it takes away all of the power this person ever had to hurt me.
Usually, when I talk about it, my mind's eye sees myself in the police station, talking to a detective and saying something to the effect of how desperate he must have been to do what he was doing. As if my compassion for him was a seed that I could sow, a nugget of forgiveness and grace that would keep me from feeling victimized... because the one thing in this world I choose not to be is a victim. Right after that visit to that police officer, who basically told me that there was nothing they could do for me and that I was wasting his time (this had to do with the amounts and nature of transactions), I sat in my office and contemplated suicide.
I felt abandoned by everyone in my life at that point; it wasn't pretty. In that moment, I had no options. I'd spent the majority of my mental and physical energy trying to make myself believe that if I could just make "x" happen, I'd be happy there. But for a variety of reasons that seemed mysterious to me then, "x" was always slipping through my fingers.
So when I say to a stranger that I took a corporate opportunity to move to a bigger city, (I leave out the dramatic elements of my mental health at the time) what I mean is that I saved myself. That I didn't know how to make life work where I was, and I needed an out so I looked for one- a last resort, an alternative to the notion that I was far more valuable dead than alive.
Moving meant shifting my misery and discomfort to my husband, meant upsetting the kids and the proverbial apple cart. There were times when I didn't actually think my husband would make the move- we had danced a few times before around the possibility but it never stuck. I think, up until the day the moving truck came, he might have thought I would change my mind. And for a while, moving was a distraction from noticing the infinite network of hairline fractures in the infrastructure of my life. Some things got better when we moved; some things got way worse before they got better. Some things had to stripped down, gutted and completely rebuilt.
Last night, we were talking about the past. How far we've come, but also how it seems like the universe will never let the past just die. I told my husband that it's strange to me, every time I tell my story, I feel like I let go just a little bit more. I let go of being angry at myself for having trusted too easily, for choosing to see the best in people; I let go of the need for closure- I'll never receive an acknowledgement much less an apology; I let go of all the failures I felt like I was running from at the time, and all of the failures that I packed up and carried with me.
Most of all, I let go of the need to understand the why of it all. I used to get stuck wanting some hard and fast answers from the universe about why ... and it was like the universe was Jack Nicholson screaming "You can't handle the truth!"
Truth is, it doesn't matter why other people choose to do the things they do or be who they are. It doesn't matter why a rock solid plan fails, or why what you gave in any situation wasn't enough. All that matters is how we handle who we are now and how we introduce ourselves in this moment... and how we tell our story.