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. – Mary Oliver
Even though she is only six years old, she walks the diving board like a teenager with no fear. Her feet are not sticking like velcro on the peeling white paint, but are jumping up and down ready to take a dive. I am standing, arms sweating, the weight of my flip-flops feel as if I am suddenly wearing winter boots. There are butterflies in my stomach, almost the same ones that I’ve felt every time I’ve taken some standardized test which would determine the “fate” of my future. I’ve already yelled in my best mom-megaphone-voice , “No. Don’t jump.” She doesn’t listen to me. She tells me, “I am going to jump Momma. I am not scared.”
“But you haven’t learned to swim in deep water.” In my mind, I sense she is capable. The apprehension is something I’ve created for myself, not wanting to let go. She is already in mid-jump and now my loud words feel like a whispers in a concert filled crowd.
Various images gather together in my mind. I am not ready. But she is confident about her walk and the pause before the jump only lasts less than one second. Even before I notice her plunge into blue, I hear her confident splash in the water. She swims with purpose to the ledge and announces, “See Momma, I told you I could jump. I can swim too. You were the one who was scared.”
Often times, that is the truth. As much as I want to sometimes, I am a failure at letting go. Underlying my marriage of holding on is my inability to let go of what was, in order to embrace what is. Her first foray into diving unearthed several realizations. Her free will takes precedence over my fear of letting go. Loving her means eventually, yes, I will have to let go. And I know there will be succession of letting go – Saying good-bye to her on the first day of new grade, her first overnight trip, her first solo spin around the block in her car or on her wedding day.
We live in a continual cycle of loving and letting go. And that, as Mary Oliver so eloquently suggests, are the instructions for living a life. Loving to the core and then realizing you must let go.