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Becoming Seasoned

The Subtle Difference Between Giving Up and Letting Go

Photo by Felix Russell-Saw

She had bright orange hair that kinked around the nape of her neck. She wore a black lace miniskirt, black tights and combat boots. With a smile that lit up the room and a hyena giggle that pierced it. She greeted everyone by name and with interest. She’s my favorite Coffee Bean barrister and on that day, when I was still sitting on the edges of victimhood after my computer was stolen, she woke me up and got me present.

As I watched her interact with a woman, going beyond your basic barrister and customer moment, I was surprised as I got tears in my eyes. I was suddenly really emotional.

It continued throughout the morning. But, what I realized is that they weren’t tears of sadness or loss. I had certainly shed several tears bearing those descriptions. No, these were tears of gratitude. And, hope. And little flickers of joy. Life. Humanity.

I choose this.

I was still feeling anger and wanted vengeance at some level. I’d just received a denial of claim from the valet company who’d parked my car when it was robbed, which felt like being victimized all over again. And, was getting no response from the garage company where my car was vandalized. I wanted to see the security camera footage. I wanted to catch someone to make someone responsible for the crime. Every morning I woke up with a nervous stomach. The butterflies of vengeance.

Then I saw this Lao Tzu quote: “Victimhood is staying in the suffering.”

Those feelings of gratitude, as surprising as they came, softened the edge of vengeance enough to see through it.

Gratitude reminded me that to dig deep into my own personal power for what to do next. Gratitude reminded me that people are good and most often want to do the right thing.

I appealed to a person at the valet company, with kindness, with directness. And, it worked. They paid for my broken window. Gratitude.

My insurance company (Liberty Mutual rocks) took care of me. I felt heard, believed and resolved. More gratitude.

I felt empowered. Which I realized was the antidote to the suffering. The key to unlock the gate in order to leave victim-hood.

But, could I put it behind me? The nervous stomach still persisted. It still gnawed at me that someone needed to pay for what they did. But, I noticed that what was really underneath the nervousness was something more.

The thing is, I really wanted to just move on. But, I felt guilty about that. Was I giving up if I let them get away with committing a crime against me, and who knows how many others? Why did I want to pursue it? Because, I felt guilty if I didn’t.

Is it giving up if I let it go? Or if I let it go, is that giving up?

It got me thinking about the difference between giving up and letting go. It seems there’s a fine line between them yet they’re vastly different. It comes down to the feeling behind it, the intention inside it, and the embodiment of it. It's a mindset shift.

Then, it got me thinking about all of the other areas in life where giving up or letting go can either hold you down or set you free. Where things didn’t happen like you’d planned. Where a dream fell short of realization, over and over again. Or when you wake up one day and look around at your life and things aren’t what you thought they’d be. 

In this context of giving up:

Giving up is staying stuck in the what ifs. The if-only’s. The I-won’t-be-successful-unless-that-thing-happens. The expectations that start to feel unhealthy.

Giving up is the stomach ache. It’s catching your breath and holding it. It’s shoulders that hug your ears. It’s the energy that gets stuck. It feels heavy. Like being deep under water and holding your breath, in the moment right before panic sets in.

Giving up feels sad and like failure. Falling just short, or way short. Always wondering what could have been. It feels like letting yourself down or letting another down who might have invested time and energy.

Giving up is a never-ending feeling of not quite getting there, of feeling less than.

Giving up is rooted in regret.

It can live in your psyche and permeate everything. Giving up shackles you to the very thing you’re trying to release.

Giving up keeps you in the past.

Letting go, on the other hand, is a beautiful release.

Letting go is acknowledgment of the ending of something, a moment, a life phase, an exhausted effort, a situation that doesn’t serve anymore. Whether it's a relationship or a job or a long ago goal imagined in a former self.

Letting go is releasing what isn’t working anymore. What you have no control over. Events in the past that have nothing to do with the present. That can’t be changed because they’re over with, gone, dead and buried in the past which has nothing to do with right now.

"Letting go is the exhale." Andrea Quinn

Letting go feels like a full breath with an exhale that courses all the way through the body. It feeds the present not the past. It fills it up while at the same time creates alive energetic space where the “stuff” has been taking up room.

Letting go is an unlocking.

It’s the oxygen tank under the water.

It’s air.

It’s the turbo fuel injection.

It’s freedom.

With letting go, comes clarity. It clears the fog.

Letting go is removing yourself from the one-foot-in-one-foot-out syndrome. You know that place, right?

The profound gratitude was the beginning, the way in, to letting go for me.

I was still holding the grief and violation in my body so went to see a wonderful reiki healer who helped me to work the energy out, to release it.

It was during that session when I felt a complete and full feeling of gratitude that it all happened. I actually felt grateful that the event happened.

I released the attachment to the violation. It was something that happened to me, but I let go of the suffering. And, the guilt for wanting to move on.

Letting go put it in my past where it actually is anyway.

Letting go is a 4-letter word. Letting go is love.

Related: Letting Go is a Four-Letter Word where I go into more depth on the subject of Letting Go

Giving up or letting go is a matter of choice.

What’s the solution, not what’s the excuse?” Jack Canfield

Sometimes, it’s a deep-seated desire or lifelong dream that you’re not ready to give up on. The feeling of giving it up can feel like you’re giving up on yourself. Believe me, I'm a lifelong proponent of not giving up on your deepest dreams. 

But, this is where letting go becomes a powerful tool for not giving up on yourself, where you move out of victimhood and into empowerment.

The language of victimhood is full of blame and self-pity and resentment and regret and excuses.

The language of empowerment is about the solutions and taking back your power and letting go of the energy that’s keeping you stagnant.

"When you don’t want to let go of it yet, trust that there’s a better way." Dina Strada

The empowering choice is to let go of old expectations around it, of what you wanted it to be or thought it would look like, all those years ago.

The empowering choice is to change the thoughts within the dream or goal or relationship. It all starts there. 

Give that desire or dream or goal or relationship a fresh conversation. Bring it into the here and now. Modernize it. Give is a new wardrobe. Apply today’s technology to it. Reframe it. Be open to a new way.

For me, the clarity that came from letting go of what happened with my computer, and all of the stuff that come along with that situation, has freed me to look more closely at what's really important. To inventory other things I've been hanging onto, dreams and otherwise. Reviewing and releasing some. Reframing, changing the thoughts and conversation around others. Recommitting in a new way.

That's letting go, not giving up.