MIDLIFE MUSINGS - HOLDING ON LOOSELY

Photo by William Stitt on Unsplash

HOLDING ON AND LETTING GO

We read so much about not holding on to things - about opening up and letting them go. But, sometimes I wonder if there isn't somewhere in the middle, somewhere where we don't clutch too tightly, but also where we don't give up completely and give it all away.

Wouldn't it be nice to find that balance? To be able to have people and things in our life that we are in touch with, but not owned by. To be able to hold things that are precious, but not possess them or try to control them. To be able to appreciate connection without having to own everything.

HOLDING ON TOO TIGHTLY

We can hold on too tightly to our husband, to our adult children, to our friends. The more we grab on the more the other person fights to be free. We fight the loss of relationship by striving to grab it and clutch it to us, but all that does is tie the other person to us with commitments and obligations that aren't necessarily their choice.

If someone doesn't naturally want to be in your life then you can't force the issue. You can't demand, and you can't insist they meet you on your terms. Expecting too much from another person can be the death knell of a relationship. Nobody wants to be forced into interactions that are more than they can handle.


DESPERATION

When we get lonely or we feel insecure, when we feel left out or left behind, when we feel superfluous, we tend to tighten our grip. We feel like we need to grab on and not let go because we're drowning. The trouble is (as all lifesavers know) when we grab on too tightly, we will also drown the person we're clinging to.

What do we do when we feel that urge to hold on tight? The answer we're given is to let go - to open our hands and let the person or the situation go free. We're supposed to relinquish any ownership and just wish them well and let them move on.


LETTING GO

The trouble with letting go is that it feels like the "all or nothing" approach. To turn our backs on someone, or to completely give up seems so final. It quite often seems like the only choice - especially when our adult children are stretching their wings and pushing us aside. They don't want us holding them back and all they seem to want is their freedom and no commitments or obligations. But that is so tough when you're the parent isn't it?

What if there was something in between?
What if we could loosen our death grip on our kids, on our partners, on our friends? What if we could loosen our hold but not let go completely? What if we kept connection but didn't suffocate others in the process?

It's hard to let go anything we love. -Madeleine L'Engle


HOLDING ON LOOSELY

Maybe it's not about letting go completely, but a matter of holding on more loosely. Holding on tightly is about insecurity and an inability to see ourselves autonomously. When we take the risk of opening up our grip and trusting ourselves to be strong and independent, it frees the other person to be able to maintain contact without the risk of being dragged under.

We need to find out who we are in our own right and share that with those who want to be part of it. It's not about forcing relationship with those who don't want it, let them go and wish them well. It's about finding a balance in our relationships with those who are close to us. Having friendships that are healthy and not used to prop ourselves up. Having a marriage that is about two people bringing out the best in each other - not becoming co-dependent and needy and draining. It's about letting our kids go but still maintaining a small place in their new world.

WHAT ABOUT YOU?

Are you holding on too tightly? Are you drowning others because you feel insecure and left behind? Or are you releasing your grip and keeping a healthy balance in your relationships? It's a tricky balance to find sometimes but worth it in the end.

It's not about holding on tightly or completely letting go - let's just hold on loosely instead

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40 comments

  1. I had a mother who hung on for dear life and never gave me the space to grow, when I needed it most. She forced and forced and in the end to save my own mental health I had to cut all ties. She is one of those people that you can never have middle ground with. As hard as it was at the time, it has been a valuable lesson to learn from.

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    1. It would be so easy to fall into that trap of smothering your children and you gave the classic other side of the story Jenni - clutching onto people just forces them away in the end doesn't it? I'm so sorry that it happened to you though.

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  2. I haven't quite gotten to that stage with my kids yet, but I have been a stay at home parent for 16 years so when it happens it will likely be huge... Great advice here.

    A beautifully written and thought provoking post.

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    1. I've been part of an empty nest FB group Ness and it's scary to see how bereft some mothers are when their children leave the family home - we need to trust we've given them good foundations and gradually reduce our grip on them or it becomes such a wrench when they leave.

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  3. I've always been a very independent person and we raised our children to be independent people, so my challenge is the other way - I hang on too loosely sometimes. I neglect my relationship with my parents and even my children for my own life and goals. Maybe I'm afraid of being too involved, too needed. Maybe it's a selfishness caused by too much self-centered focus. I love the idea of finding a balance in my relationships where it's a healthy respect for everyone's (including mine) space but still allows for more interaction and involvement. This was very revealing for me....thanks for writing it!

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    1. We were very big on modelling and teaching independence too Melody - it's so important to be able to have your own identity and confidence and (altho I miss them heaps at times) the thought of still parenting our kids when they're adults is really stifling for everyone concerned. But maintaining the right amount of connection is where the balancing act comes in!

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  4. This is also very beautiful and so timely for me right now. It is such a tight rope walk with setting free holding on maintaining connection…

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    1. You're just at the beginning of this really Carla, but you do such a great job with your daughter that I'm sure she'll be self-confidently sailing off towards the sunset before you know it - I hope you are happy to wave her off when the time comes :)

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  5. A timely reminder that hanging on too tightly is worse than letting go. In letting go you will know the truth of that relationship.

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    1. You're right Jennifer - it's that old saying about "if you love something, let it go" because people who don't return were never really invested in the relationship in the first place were they?

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  6. Hi Leanne, thanks for this post. I was also a stay-at-home-mum with my three, and would have expected to find it hard to let go. However, I found, like Melody, that I so appreciated the freedom I experienced, I had to remind myself to keep in contact - especially now all three live far away and have their own families. I do love them all dearly, but sometimes the days go past and we have no contact with each other. A look at embossing folders- #5 in ProBlogger Challenge

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    1. There can be weeks that go by without hearing from our adult kids Shirley and most of the time I'm fine with that, but sometimes I miss having them nearby - but trying to force the relationship and grabbing onto them doesn't help at all - better to give them the freedom to do the relationship on their own terms isn't it?

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  7. I hold them loosely. It's not easy. I want to know everything they are doing and thinking. All the time. So, it's a work in progress.

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    1. Having them close by can blur the edges sometimes can't it Diane? I often envy parents who have their adult kids nearby, but there is the whole balancing act of not being too involved and infringing on their boundaries - boy this parenting gig is tricky at times!

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  8. Letting go is a work in progress. I started understanding that when I dropped them off at college. That is when I realized they are good. They make good decisions and they are good problem solvers. I did my job. I felt good about it. They are now 35 and 37...........I must admit I wouldn't mind it if we all lived in the same neighborhood. But, that is just a fantasy!

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    1. I can't believe your kids are that old Ellen! You don't look old enough to have 30+ year olds :) And yes, I know all about the fantasy of having them in the neighbourhood - and learning to make the most of those visits and then letting them go again until next time.

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  9. A fine balance indeed...one that for most of us is a work in progress. Thanks for the important reminder, Leanne.

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    1. It's a tightrope at times isn't it Christie? Giving everyone space and at the same time still feeling that closeness that we all value.

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  10. I agree with you and your readers, Leanne. Knowing when to 'hold on tight' and when to 'let go' is very hard. Finding the balance in between can be even harder!

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    1. I'm learning that there is always a "too tight" hold Donna - nobody wants to be grasped and held too close - we all like a bit of space and room to maneuver or we feel like we're suffocating.

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  11. Interesting and very helpful post, Leanne. In my learning via buddhist-predominated teachings of Pema Chodron and Jack Kornfield I know that we need not be attached to anything. Good or bad. I know that when I am trying to get some contact with my grown kids and grandkids it can only be done when there is a willingness to do so. So, the invitation is always there but it is up to them. For far too long I used "duty" and "guilt" as my father did in particular and I guess I hated it so why would I do that to my kids. I do not. I takes a lot of restraint on my behalf but these are people in their 40s and 30s with lives to lead. I have done my job as mum and even though I would like to be contacted more, I do not 'guilt' them at all. Sigh. I am getting better at not feeling the obligation with Dad too and it is working. I feel more in control of me. The only person I can control. Thanks for linking up for Life This Week 40/52. Next week: With $1000 I would...

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    1. I've learned a similar lesson with our adult kids too Denyse - let them set the boundaries and don't expect that they have the same sense of obligation that we had. I'm finding my elderly in-laws are becoming more grasping and needy and it is definitely something I hope to avoid as we age!

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  12. I love this Leanne. I have a tendency to hold onto things tightly. My new word for the new year is going to be light- hold things lightly, walk through the world lightly, feel light and joy and be lighter in spirit.

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    1. I've been giving some thought to my "word for 2018" too Michele - I really like yours and how you're applying it. Now I'll have to give mine some serious consideration!

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  13. I SO needed to read this post. As soon as i saw it at Blogger's Pit Stop, I knew I had to hop over. With two sons spreading their wings, I have all the feelings of wanting to hold on. However, you are right on about needing to hold on loosely.

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    1. The whole launching out of the nest stage is such a big one for mothers Jenny - knowing you've done your job but still feeling sad to see them go. It's definitely something that takes some getting used to - I hope you find the balance :)

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  14. This applies in so many ways. Thanks for the thought provoking post this morn.
    Carol Cassara

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Carol - and for your positive words :)

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  15. It was hard to let go, but you do it and hold your head high and be strong. Thats what I did when I left my son at college.Great Post.
    Maria

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    1. I think it applies to all empty nesters Maria - knowing how much to let go and how much to step back is such a tricky balance isn't it?

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  16. This post has obviously met some needs and given input into thinking and practical aspects of life's adjustments. A feature of this post will give others the opportunity to consider these things.
    Kathleen
    Blogger's Pit Stop

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    1. Thanks so much for the feature Kathleen - I have so much respect for the Blogger's Pit Stop so always appreciate it when I'm featured.

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  17. This made me cry, Leanne, but in a good way. I really and I mean really needed to read this today and I popped by #BloggersPitStop and there it was, featured, as it should be (sorry I missed it when it first came out, but maybe I didn't "need" it as much then and so glad I found it now). Thank you. I'm off to share this so others can find it too. Hope this weekend treats you kindly. :)

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    1. I'm glad it spoke to you Donna - it's been a very long and hard lesson for me to learn - letting go of the tight fist and letting others choose whether they want to be part of my life has been tough but ultimately really worthwhile.

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  18. Hi Leanne, I think there’s a fine line between holding on too tightly and letting go completely. As parents it can be hard to find that balance especially as your children grow and leave the nest. Mine are now grown up and live far far away but we still manage to maintain good relationships. Sometimes I’d like to be more in their lives but it’s hard when we live so far away from each other. I just make the effort that when we do get together we enjoy ourselves and I try not to overwhelm them. Lovely thoughtful post! Congrats on your feature at Blogger’s Pit Stop too 😊

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    1. You're so right Deb - it takes a while to get the balance right with adult kids and to know that you can't hold on too tightly because it's not good for either party. Once you work out what is the best gentle way to hold and connect then life is good.

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  19. We raised our kids to be independent. Two live about 400 miles away. I am working on adjusting to that but I am not holding them back.

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    1. It's the best thing for everyone to let them go, but it's just figuring out the nuances of keeping the relationship in balance and not losing contact that's the tricky part isn't it Elise?

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  20. I can appreciate your post more than I would like to admit, I'm a strong "holding on" type of mom myself. "If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be."

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  21. I have a tendency to hold on tightly to family due to past, long ago experiences, and it took a lot of work to lighten up in order to let our son pole vault, which can be a very dangerous sport if not done correctly. Then, I was over-hard with our daughter telling her she needed to go to college {and not drop out like her mother...} but that didn't work. She needed a break. Thankfully everything turned out alright and life went on but I think I finally loosened enough to let them fly away to their own lives. :) They are happy to call home or visit. :) And, Hubby is happy that I blog and he can play his online game and "just be." We often don't do anything on weekends so he can just rest. Long, long days at work require that. ;) Took 30 years to get here...

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