Five years ago, my friend Sarah and I did something we called the Legend of 75.
I was 20 and depressed and in effort to forget all the nonsense in my head, we went to a town an hour and a half’s drive south of Tampa as loudly as we could.
Windows rolled down, we yelled nonsense heading south on I-75. There is something so freeing about yelling “I definitely consistently prefer peanut butter and honey over peanut butter and jelly when it comes to sandwiches!” at 80 miles per hour. I let go of something so I could start to pull myself back together.
Being free requires letting go. (Which, luckily for other drivers, doesn’t always require yelling out the windows of moving vehicles.)
I think to some extent everybody wants and likes to be free. We feel freed from overweightness when we’re in good physical shape. A significant other makes us feel freed from loneliness. We feel freed from stress when, whatever the method, we reduce it. When we don’t have what we want or need, there’s always a little something that keeps us bound to some other thing. A need to think a lot about how to get out of a rut, if not just about the fact that we’re in one.
How does our culture respond? Certainly not by letting go.
Not in shape? Get diet pills.
No significant other? Join eHarmony.
Stressed? Buy self help books.
What a lot of us end up with is our original lack of freedom — a few extra pounds, loneliness, stress — plus another thing. And then another. And another.
We want to be free from whatever it is, and instead of letting go of what causes it, we cling to something else that we hope will negate the effects of it. I remember once, I spent a day — a whole day — cleaning out my closet because I finally couldn’t take the clutter. I had too much stuff so I sorted through it for hours. In my sorting, I found multiple self-help books, all on attaining simplicity. Not only did I have a lot of clutter, but a collection of things I thought would help me rid me of my clutter was, in fact, part of my problem.
How typical it is, with good intentions, to commit to things that, lo and behold, distract us from doing what we actually need to do.
Maybe we don’t need diet pills, but to let go of an old way of taking care of the body. Maybe there are behaviors or beliefs in our lives that need to be let go before we can successfully be a significant other to someone. Maybe we’re stressed because we’ve committed to do too many things, like read multiple self help books. Maybe we need to let go of something.
Then we can pull ourselves back together.