Have you ever tried, and tried, and tried, until you were blue in the face, and all the world felt stale and useless and without-purpose all for the fact that you could not succeed and it was making you miserable?
And have you ever, actually, given up?
Because I did. And as it turns out, that’s not as terrible as it sounds.
Yes, it was gut-wrenching and horrible at first. I had an identity, and a goal, and they were so wrapped up with this thing-I-could-not-have, that to sever my bond to it, my need for it, was like cutting out my heart and leaving it on a stranger’s doorstep. “Here. You take this dream. I have failed it, and cannot go on living with it withered inside my chest.”
But there is a secret to successful giving-up. I’m not talking about giving up bad habits (though, maybe in a sense I am)–I cannot tell you how to quit smoking or eating ice cream for dinner. But I can tell you how I successfully gave up, and how it unlocked the very door I had been beating my head against for over a year.
When a dream hurts, it means you want it. It means you’re meant to have it. A dream once born cannot be put to sleep again. It will coo and smile and lure you with it’s warm affection, and it will wail and scream when you treat it poorly. Sometimes the wailing becomes too much, and you’ll do anything, everything in your power to make it shut up, grow up fast, and be the dream you always thought it should be. It shocks you when it disobeys, infuriates you when it rebels, and breaks your heart when it gives you the silent treatment for days on end.
It is then that you have to let it go. You have to give up trying to shape it, and protect it, and coddle it. You have to give up pursuing it with fire at your heels, reeling it in when it gets out of hand, enforcing morals, and standards, and norms. You have to stop looking at everyone else’s dream and wondering “why can’t you be more like that dream?”
You let go, and let the dream be what it wants, and was meant, to be. Sometimes this means letting it stew, locking itself away for a while. Sometimes this means letting it run away.
But dreams are forgiving. Dreams know who they are, and at their core they will always love the one who gave birth to them. They will always come back, when you give them time to heal, and grow, and be who they are. When you’re willing to let go despite the fear and pain and shame, your dream realizes how much you really love it.
Eventually, dreams come home again. They slip in through the back door while you’re asleep, and unpack their things, quietly. As they settle in and rediscover the comfort of home, they re-learn how to trust you. They speak up, on occasion, venture an opinion, an idea. They point out the cardinal at the window, share a funny joke they heard, tell you they missed your smile.
Then one day, while you’re living life as best you can, your dream slips its hand into yours and squeezes tight. It lingers, and says “I’m here, if you’ll have me as I am.”
And it’s up to you to squeeze back, and tell it, “I wouldn’t have you any other way.”
2 responses to “The Art of Giving Up”
Beautifully expressed. And rather like having children. 🙂
[…] I will have another existential crisis. Maybe I will fail, and fail, and fail. Maybe I will even give up. But I already know, no matter what, that I will keep crawling back, bloody and bruised and broken, […]
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