One of my favorite places in the world is literally being washed into the ocean right now.
(Photo courtesy of KOMO news. Video found here.)
It is a red, A-frame cabin in North Cove, Washington. Locals call it ‘Washaway Beach’ because, for a century, the beach has been washing away at this part of the world.
The cabin in this picture is not the cabin that is my favorite place, but it is next to that cabin.
Twenty years ago I had to walk a mile to get to the beach from the cabin.
But now…my cabin will be the next to fall.
My cabin is a respite in the busy world for me.
When people ask me to think of somewhere relaxing, or to think of a favorite spot, this is where I think of.
I spent many summers living in this cabin with my family, laughing and running on the beach, reading old National Geographic magazines, playing board games, and going without a TV (can you imagine?!?).
I finished many pieces of homework sitting on the wooden stairs,
knees crunched up under me, as if at a very small desk.
This cabin was the first place I thought of myself as a writer.
I have been grieving about this loss a lot.
I keep running through old memories of this place.
With my family,
with my Papa,
with my husband,
walking amongst knee-high, scratchy green grasses.
And simultaneously thinking about how, soon, my favorite place will still exist…at the bottom of the ocean.
I have also been thinking about the Buddhist idea of non-attachment a lot.
That holding on to a particular outcome, a particular way, creates pain.
How we must also let things go as they die and change.
To hold on is painful.
And worse, to hold on is useless pain.
I must learn to let go of the pain and sadness that this destruction brings.
I must learn to accept that this is what is.
There are two kinds of letting go that I have encountered in life.
The first is the kind of letting go where I have no control over the outcome.
I cannot control the sea storms or their giant waves.
I cannot control what will happen to this cabin.
This will happen. I cannot make it any different than it is.
I have no control over this.
And I am so sad.
I am sad that this place will be gone.
I am sad that I will only have my memories and never be able to visit it again.
I am sad that all I have now are Polaroid-like memories that I can flip through in my mind.
And they are fading.
But, there is no stopping this.
If I hold on, try to deny it, try to ‘fix’ it (but how???) I will only feel more pain.
The real answer, the one I do not like, is that I can only, like those sea waves, let go of my grief and desires
one crash at a time.
Let these feelings be pulled away, bit-by-bit, like the tide pulls in the wood and the sand,
dragging them to the ocean bottom, where they can rest.
I can only let my sadness dissipate.
Small steps, tiny bits of letting go, until it is done.
[Although, I suspect the memory will sting for a good, long time.]
Eventually, my grief will wash away, too.
It might take years.
And that’s okay.
The other kind of letting go is much worse, in my opinion.
It is the letting go that you have a choice about.
The kind of letting go that must be fought for and one must be dedicated to.
It is the practice of intentional letting go.
When I was trying to let go of That Guy, I had to do this kind of letting go.
I dedicated myself to letting go because I knew it was best for my soul.
This kind of letting go feels like pruning a tree branch.
[I’ve done it before, I thought. Hell, I’ve done it a lot. I even sawed down the Christmas tree!]
Only, as I pruned one branch, five others sprouted in its place.
And, as I cut each of those branches of desire off- letting them go – another five sprouted up in their place.
Mis-placed desire can re-produce easily and endlessly.
This kind of letting go is hard work.
My arms ached after a while.
And then they burned. And there was still years of work ahead.
I wondered if this was some kind of curse, my inability to cut it all out and leave it behind.
I made many mis-steps in the letting to process.
I got very tired.
I put down my axe and pruning shears once or twice (and learned what a mistake that was).
Sometimes I got lazy. [And had a huge mess to clean up later.]
Making the effort to really let go of something is draining.
I had to be dedicated to it.
With time, I understood how to prune that desire, that attachment, and let things go.
I know, now, what it takes to really let go.
Effort. The effort of mind and body to work in conjunction. Like an old, married couple, the body will pick up where the mind has no energy.
Knowing in my soul that this is the right path. When you are dedicated to the life of the soul, to nurturing it, you will do what must be done for the health and goodness of your soul.
Self-compassion. Being kind to myself as I learned to let go was essential. Berating yourself for mis-steps, going backwards, or anything just creates more pain and dissonance inside you. Internal dissonance and pain does not help the soul heal.
Faith that this would work out, somehow, some day. Faith is another component of the soul, and having faith that good will come of the letting go process can keep you afloat.
These are what kept me afloat, able to let go and move on.
This is what I know of letting go.
The kind over which we have no control – and grieve anyway.
And the kind over which we exert control – and grieve anyway.
I grieve for the loss of this wonderful place on planet Earth.
And as I grieve, I let go.