anxiety, discretion, friendship, inspiration, life lessons, love, mindfulness

How To Hold On And Still Let Go

There’s a beautiful poem by Mary Oliver that I’d like to share with you – it’s title is “In Blackwater Woods”

Look, the trees

are turning

their own bodies

into pillars


of light,

are giving off the rich

fragrance of cinnamon

and fulfillment,


the long tapers

of cattails

are bursting and floating away over

the blue shoulders


of the ponds,

and every pond,

no matter what its

name is, is


nameless now.

Every year


I have learned


in my lifetime

leads back to this: the fires

and the black river of loss

whose other side


is salvation

whose meaning

none of us will ever know.

To live in this world


You must be able

to do three things:

to love what is mortal,

to hold it


against your bones knowing

your own life depends on it,

and, when the time comes to let it go,

to let it go.

Fall is breathing its freshness into the air.  A time of transition – and I’ve never been good with transition.  Once I get to the other side of it, I’m fine – but the subtle and not-so-subtle angina of knowing things must change makes me jumpy.  And yet, fall is when kids go back to school, when the forgiving schedules of summer become more intractable, when we shift our sensibilities to what is yet to be.  I celebrate as my best childhood friend seeks to find her new rhythm now that her daughter has started a new career in a city far from home.  My friend D cries in her daughter’s room after she leaves for her freshman year of college (I totally get this – I slept in my son’s room for two weeks).   I sometimes still wonder where my place is in my own little family – as the boys have established their own married lives and I had to give them the room and space to go about their adult lives – and on a daily basis, their schedules and plans have nothing to do with me.

And all these children/adults are doing exactly what we have wished, dreamed and prayed for – they have become caring, responsible, decent people who are loving and loved.  People who are delighting in the lives they are making for themselves.  These are the times when I remember clearly the words of the rabbi at our wedding, reminding us that we are not lucky, we are blessed.  I think about that a lot.

I think about how I’ve yet to let go of my parents though they are no longer here.  In my heart, my friend Alex never hurt with such relentless despair that she would have to leave this life.  I hold on.

I hold on to being in my junior seniorhood and inwardly jump up and down when my trainer tells me that I can still rock ‘cute’.  Of course I’m paying him, I know that – but there are few adjectives for retired cheerleaders that aren’t totally nauseating (and I only did that for one semester in college).  I listen to a friend as she struggles through a huge life change and wrestles with the idea of letting go of that which is already gone.  And look forward to a wedding this coming weekend when two young people let go of their old lives to begin one together.

Perhaps the salvation is not in the letting go, perhaps it is in holding on loosely.  Not necessarily with the intent to try and reel the past back in, but to able to regard it as a touchstone from which to move forward.  To know that as life proceeds without our permission, that which we love with all our being still remain in some way ever-present.  Perhaps that is how we can move forward and embrace the transitions that leave us breathless.



56 thoughts on “How To Hold On And Still Let Go”

    1. I’m trying Deb – though you know that sometimes I still want to grab them and hold them with all I have…Of course they’re way bigger than me, so it may be a stretch (literally and figuratively) you..

  1. What an amazing testament to the difficulty of letting go. You spoke to my soul today, my best childhood friend, and I am letting your words envelop me and comfort me as I practice “letting go.”. I doubt I will ever get it down to a science, but hanging on loosely I can handle as long as aforementioned beloved child can handle that. After all, it’s no longer about me ( that alone is enough to make me angst ridden for a month :). And, at the end of the day, isn’t what we drum into our kids heads “fly”, “take the risk”, “dream”, “dream bigger”, “be happy”, “give-back because you’ve been so lucky”. So, today’s words nurture my soul as I recognize that all of us on the verge of junior seniorhood struggle with something. We all bought in to the myth of how these later years would be angst free. We, also, never believed they’d arrive so soon. But here they are. Ready or not. For now, watching my daughter demonstrate the courage I always knew she possessed fills me with more joy than I could ever imagine and now that holding on loosely, giving the appearance that I’ve let go is an option I can live with that. More importantly I think my daughter likes the metaphor of mama’s safety net almost as much as I do. Love you my cherished friend and the solace your words bring to my heart-priceless.

    1. As long as I didn’t make you cry today, then I’m good to go..:-) Your daughter is beginning to soar in all the ways you dreamed – and I think she too feels the security of her mom’s net which makes the flying all the easier and no less thrilling. A testament to you both..xooxox

  2. wonderful post mims and another keeper! thank you once again for sharing such amazing view i am afraid i still need more courage in the way to hold and release, as i am not strong enough but once again your words not only touch me but help me learn,
    thank you my gorgeous friend you always find a way for me and i promise to find the strength one day to follow this and it is another good reason for it to be a keeper , when i am strong enough i shall read again and try again, and should i succeed i will hug you and thank you, as i do every day
    thank you my friend for being my friend and sister (adopted by me)
    loves xx

    1. Happily adopted kizzylee and always here for you. I don’t think we can do this all at once, but in small steps as we are able. And first, you must get your strength back – that is the most critical job you have at the moment, and the one that i most ardently wish you are able to feel again soon…xoxox

  3. Hm ,is it a question we ask more of a place we come to be? Having it inside us I think but not sure its what we feel , we know its part of us right now and maybe longer.Sometimes we laugh at it and other times it breaks our hearts.. Let go or hold on ,part of being human.
    Thank G_d for that .

    1. It’s a little counter-intuitive, when our hearts want us to hold on and never let go. But yes, learning to hold on loosely is clearly the exercise that will yield the right result I think..challenging though it may be at times..xoxo

  4. Mimi,, I remember well dropping my oldest son off at college and crying all the way home only to realize that letting him go was part of a bigger step of keeping him close.. It is an interesting paradox of life. As Joesph Campbell said “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned,so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.” Life has an interest bag of tricks for us, doesn’t it? Thanks for sharing. Be well, Bill

  5. What Rhonda said!! And I have the space! Add to that while I can’t see you, I know your trainer is right, pay or no pay. I know that time moves so swiftly and while I can still snuggle up to my mini, I am more than halfway to when I will need to write something as beautifully said by you my friend. And ohmygosh [no acronymss!] I hold on too… xo

    1. Laughing – I get it – and when my boys were eight, I held on too – and had no intention of letting go until life told me otherwise. So for now, grab that mini and hug him until he says “moooooooom”…xoxoooo

      1. You know when I learned to ride a horse (I was three – my dad was a big horseman – well a short horseman)..he always would tell me to hold the reins lightly, when my inclination was to hold them for dear life. And yet, I learned that my control was never in those reins…sigh. A metaphor for life..xox

  6. I literally shed tears over this post and had to come back to comment after I could see! I am always inspired by your strength and pure honesty! I swear the day Tuck decides to move on I am going to refer to this post. Absolutely love it!

    1. I’m not sure I’M going to be able to handle it when Tuck moves out!! Thankfully, you don’t even have to go there for a while…there’s a few years to go between five and walking out the door…xox

  7. Mimi,
    For the people touched and loved by you, their love, appreciation and respect for you never ceases, even after they spread their wings and fly away. Their flight path will always include stopovers wherever you are.
    Your the BEST.

    1. Oh honey…there you go calling me out in the gentlest way possible..the fear of course that their flight paths will eventually not include a stopover – or one that is obligatory as opposed to volitional. Mothers and sons – it’s the dynamic in adulthood that is still one I struggle with…as I watch daughters and moms define so much and others nod and go along. I can’t go there now. But I love you and thank you for thinking I’m the best..

  8. Holding on loosely. Love it! I treasure every moment I get to spend with my two grown children. Watching them take on their new lives is exciting and scary. Knowing that while I am still their mom, I can no longer make sure they check both ways before crossing the street, is scary and hard. But … if I can hold on loosely and don’t have to quite let go, that makes it a little easier.

  9. Loved the poem and as the mum of adult children it isn’t easy to watch them not need their mum as much as they did when younger, but after a while we realise they need their mum in a different way well that is my experience………

  10. This is a fantastic post and gives a different perspective on ‘letting go’. Not only do we need to let go of painful memories after painful events that drag us down in order to move on but we also need to ‘let go’ of loved ones we want to hold onto or hold close in order to allow them to move on.

  11. Oh Mimi. I spent the week away from blogging, because I just haven’t been able to write in the midst of all this TRANSITION. I just love how your posts are always so poignant and timely…truly, I look forward to everything you write! And thank you for sharing the poem, I’ve never heard it before and it’s absolutely lovely. You had me in tears from the very beginning 🙂

    1. Hi Andrea, It’s so good to ‘see’ you. I completely understand how overwhelming transitions are – and goo for you for trying to limit the amount of extraneous stuff you take in while in the throes of change. I’m happy that this post ‘rang true’ for you – it was good for me to write it because it defined for me one of my (our) greatest challenges. I wish it weren’t so hard, and I wish you hadn’t cried. And with that said, I am also very grateful that you liked it and came by…hugs, m

      1. Thank you, I feel like it was a much needed break. And don’t worry, it was a good cry 🙂 It’s so nice to know there are other people who share the same struggle. Hugs!!

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