Letting Go and Holding On

I have already shared this quote but I think it’s worth repeating:

“All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on.”  — Havelock Ellis

Couldn’t this be understood in so many ways?  It could be speaking to each of us about this God-awful road we are all marching down — about the place that faith and hope have in all of it. If you have faith, sometimes you have to let things go. You have to believe God or some other higher power will take care of it all. It’s out of your control. And yet, you have to hold on too. You have to keep hoping. If you give up hope, you give up everything, don’t you?

Or it could mean knowing when to keep fighting, to keep forging ahead, to keep believing in the dream we all covet…that little bundle of joy. But then, isn’t there a time when we might need to move on, either to the next treatment or to a new way of living, perhaps without the child we have been praying for? (Is this sort of “letting go” and moving on even possible? I don’t know that it ever could be for me.)  It’s a fine, careful balance indeed.

But this quote also means something else to me. It’s about my relationship with my sister. I will not be letting go of her anytime soon. I know that now, after my conversation with her yesterday. It went as good as I could have hoped for. I think we both hung up feeling like we each had our turn to say what we wanted, that we’d been heard, and that there is still a chance to heal things between us.

As sams at what a day for a daydream suggested, I had a list (a long list, I might add) of talking points for our discussion. And yet, in the end, most of it went unsaid. Some of it, I felt, was petty, some of it water under the bridge, some of it things I needed to let go, some of it too hard to bring up. But I said what I needed to, I think. I feel satisfied.

Mostly, I talked about my pain (thanks, Daryl, for that suggestion) — about how much infertility and miscarriage hurt, about how I am never free from the ache and grief they have both caused me. I wanted her to know that there is nothing she can say or do that can make it better, but that there are things that can make it worse. I did tell her I felt abandoned in the days after my miscarriage. That it hurt me so deeply a part of me had been trying to punish her for it all these months. That I just need her to be more sensitive and gentle with my heart. And I apologized for being so hard on her, for having such high expectations of her, for holding things against her when I have always known that her intentions were nothing but good.

And she thanked me for the gift I sent and told me how much it hurt to hear that I couldn’t be happy for her (which, I will tell you now, I never said…but it’s all about perspective and interpretation, isn’t it?) and she said that she feels like she’s in such a tough place because she doesn’t know what to say to me anymore. She doesn’t want to be insensitive, but she also doesn’t want to hide her happiness. She doesn’t want to keep bringing up what I’m going through because she thinks that’s cruel, but she doesn’t want me to think that by not talking about, she doesn’t care. Both valid points, and so I explained to her my expectations on both accounts. One thing she did not say was “I’m sorry.” Not once. I did, she didn’t, but I guess that is another thing I will have to let go. I had hoped for an apology for her lack of support when I lost Teddy Graham, and for not handling these last few weeks very well, but we hardly talked about those things and she did not offer anything of the sort. That’s something I just have to accept, I guess. If there is one thing I have learned about my sister in the last few months, it is that she is rarely wrong. She is the one who is always the victim. The one who is always owed the apology. The one who has been hurt so deeply. It is never the other way around.

We talked about her pregnancy, too, and about my infertility and fear for what is around the corner, and we both agreed to just be kinder to each other. More supportive. And to give one another the benefit of the doubt going forward. After all, neither one of us means to do any harm. It was not a perfect conversation — I’m realizing as I type this how much I failed to say that I probably should have — but it was successful. We cleared the air (mostly) and I felt better afterwards. I think she did, too.

And so we are holding on. We’re still trying to figure this sister thing out, but we do need each other. And so, if I want this relationship to flourish, I will have to let go of the anger, the pain she has inflicted, the things she has said and done or failed to say or do. I will have to pick my battles and let go of the small stuff, everything that doesn’t matter, so it doesn’t fracture what we have. I will have to forgive. It’s a process and it will take time and I’m still learning how to do it…but I do believe it can be done.

A carefully orchestrated dance between letting go and holding on…it really is a fine art, isn’t it? One I will probably be practicing for the rest of my life.

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3 thoughts on “Letting Go and Holding On

  1. I’m glad you both had a chance to say what you needed to say. It sounds like, in the short time you’ve known each other, you’ve already learned a lot about what you can and cannot change about her (like that she’s never wrong). As much as it hurts sometimes, those are lessons all sisters learn about each other, and you can choose to either hold onto those things, at the expense of your relationship, or, as you have decided, you can let go and keep moving forward. I think this is a really positive step for you both.

  2. You two sound like you have already been sisters for a lifetime. 😉 Your relationship seems an awful lot like my relationship with my older sister. She never understands when her words or actions hurt me…it’s always that I’m just too sensitive (according to her). And if she should happen to “apologize” it’s either in an email or a text and usually says something like “I’m sorry you feel I did this or that.” Which to me is an unapology. So I end up having to let go of things a lot in order to keep some type of relationship with her. I hope you and your sister are able to do a better job of apologizing and letting go than me and my sister. Sounds like you are off to a good start even though your conversation wasn’t prefect. Hopefully it’ll only get better from here.

  3. It’s hard to navigate a relationship with your sister when you’ve known her for a lifetime (this I know!), never mind the short time you two have had. On paper, this couldn’t have been worse timing and you two still have things to work out, however- it sounds like you are off to a really solid start. Tiny steps are sometimes the most important ones.

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