"You Really Let Yourself Go"

When something is shifting. The space between monkey bars. How scary it feels to let go, and also the relief that comes from no longer gripping so tightly. The way you move through the day, surprisingly, nothing momentous appears to be happening. And yet in you, this changing, this thing you sense into yet can’t yet name.

You find this culture increasingly toxic. It becomes harder to breathe, to stay open-hearted, curious, joyful, compassionate. Everything feels like argument, like a relationship where you can’t win, where no matter what topic you raise, your words are thrown back at you in a way that leaves you confused and defeated.

Nor do you want to turn away from hard things. It’s that you want to meet them from a new place and you can’t figure out where that place lives in you. So you get up to go pee, from the study room E you snagged while your daughter is in class to the Women’s restroom, and you glance at the stacks along the way and realize you’re in the poetry section.

Soon, the table is piled with books. Marge Piercy, Rita Dove. Oh yes, these are my companions. The fan offers white noise, and beyond the grey blinds the world, too, is grey. There are places, you remind yourself, that aren’t grey. So many places. You decide you’re allowed to dream, something that seems so obvious yet is the first to get swallowed by the thick fog of February.

Dreaming, a whole world. Different ways of connecting, and needing to always begin again inside.

Last night, you read about how books become a way for our souls to find each other, for our inner selves to be seen and recognized. The outer selves are so often shells, armored, reactive, perhaps going through the motions.

Competition, consumerism, comparison. More, more, more. Buy, buy, buy. No one is every satisfied. Well, ok, that’s a big generalization. You are so rarely satisfied. You worry about money constantly. You practice mindfulness and tell yourself you have everything you need. You get very very small – peering down to look at a drop of melting snow clinging to a branch before letting go. You let go.

You let go so many times that you wonder why it isn’t easier, as if easy is this thing you’re supposed to aspire to. In fact, easy is one of the many myths you choked on as a child and long to outgrow. Those pants haven’t fit in years; get rid of them. Love this body as if you never saw a single magazine cover or overheard an aunt or mother or sister or lover talking about her latest diet.

“I’ve really let myself go,” your grandmother used to say. And something in you perks up. Something that says, ooooh that. Yes. Let’s do that. Let’s let ourselves go, go and go and go all the way far far from this land of keeping up and not once passing “go.”

It’s rigged, you remind yourself. This system. It’s rigged against anyone who rejects it. Like an abusive partner, it will tear you down or build you up, without ever really seeing you as you really are. And at some point, only you can decide when enough is enough.

What damage is your soul enduring every time you ignore the voice that says, “Something about this needs to change”?

And what about when change is anything but apparent, what then? There are mouths to feed. Rent to pay. Clients to care for. Laundry to fold. Dinner to make.

And so you make room. In the smallest of ways, you practice letting go. You change up your daily rhythms just enough that you’re able to start seeing where you’ve become stuck, where autopilot has kicked in and left you vacant. You listen because you deserve to listen. You listen because your life depends on it. You listen because you have always known this, too, would change, this moment, these ways.

You pray a little, too. May these changes be for good. For the good of the body. The individual body, the collective body, the body politic, and the body poetry. The body that breathes and guides and moves through day and night, sleeps and rises, releases and metabolizes, remembers and forgets, changes and changes and changes.

Step away from what feels toxic.

Step away from what feels stale.

Step away from what keeps you from being able to hear yourself think.

And then see what feels good. Today, it was going for a short run in the bitter cold morning, alone. No phone, no timer, no measure of speed or distance.

Just one footfall following the last, breath visible, heartbeat strong and steady, and a path that led you away from home, then back again.