letting go

This is the type of essay (still not sure if the right word for this style of writing is ESSAY but hopefully you get the point after you read this ~thing) where I set a timer and just go. The objective is volume. Pure volume. People sometimes roll my eyes when I say the objective is volume. They think I am kidding. Or perhaps they do not think I am kidding, but they still do not understand what I mean when I am talking about volume. What does volume mean to you? I tend to mean VOLUME to a degree that is often underestimated by people because…well…most people produce rather low volume in their day to day lives. This is for a variety of reasons, reasons not particularly top of mind for me (but use your imagination in thinking about ways in which social systems today discourage volume).

I produce an amount of volume that I think is measurably above the average, but I think I can/will do more. I tend to rarely regret increasing volume. It basically always leads to higher quality. I don’t say this as a law of physics — I can think of counter-examples where more volume creates more noise and more motion and never really leads to progress — but I do say it with a degree of confidence that getting more shots up, notably at the appropriate level of abstraction, will lead to better results.

I am writing this from an airport lounge in South America. I am writing this after having spent a week in the jungle. I went to visit a friend — we basically avoided going indoors for a full 7 days. Meaning we slept in wooden huts of sorts outside ish with mosquito nets. Yes we sweat a lot. At least I did I have no idea about him in that he had his own hut. When I say spending a week in the jungle, I mean pretty rural/basic environment. That meant no air conditioning. We spent our days writing a LOT — we had wifi and our computers! — and walking around the jungle and floating in the river. Simple life. There’s a lot I could reflect upon from my time — in the simple life — but that’s not the point of this exploration. Just know, there is a lot. But that topic, while full of volume, is not what’s top of mind.

I have something occupying a large amount of real estate in my head. And I am eager to address it head on. It is a rather sad topic. So I would not say I feel extremely happy and excited to be staring at the cursor right now getting my fingers to move in this pattern — I will say that I feel _ready_ to do so.

The topic…the topic is about grief. And the grieving process in general. It is about how I feel about grieving, and in writing this, I write to you transparently and tell you that I feel the need to grieve right now.

I have a lot more loss in my life this year than in any other year before. Loss really across the board.

Now I want to caveat this essay with the intention not being one of pity or calling myself a victim. I am lucky. And in so many ways I am grateful to be alive. And honestly I am grateful to be grieving (although it can be hard to say that and yes I wrote it but I certainly do not think the emotion I most feel right now is gratitude as I experience a lot of the sadness associated with grieving).

You see this year feels a lot different than other years for me. I will not say my life has been linearly positive – I have had ups and downs, but this year has felt especially down. Like the lighting feels dim. The music feels intense. Everything feels heavier.

Now maybe this just happens in your mid twenties. Maybe it’s just that mid to late twenties vibe. I tried accepting that answer but I think there is more to be found. There is more return from seeking more volume, so that is what I am doing. Letting the words fly and trying to clear the real estate in my head.

So when I say this year is different than other years, I think yes, things that seem bad in the moment have been happening to me (or taking more responsibility, I have put myself in positions where things that I would call bad in the moment are happening — I am responsible, yes.). Like, the quantity of bad, big moments certainly seems higher. And will get to more of that in a second, but the other difference I want to highlight is that my reaction to those bad, big moments has also been different.

Different in a way that I struggle to describe completely but will use a word like intense to try to represent how I feel it’s gone. I think in juxtaposition to previous years, my reactions have been far more dramatic and painful this year. And I am not entirely sure why. I am not entirely sure what I did differently. And that is one thing I am thinking about — why is this happening to me? Why am I SOOOO SAD? And upset? And frustrated? And angry? What is going on here?

So starting with perhaps the volume and amplitude of the bad things happening. Yes, it is higher than normal. Across both my personal and professional life, I have seen more “losses” than ever before. More valleys than I am used to experience and certainly did not anticipate experiencing.

What was perhaps at least a little different about these valleys was that they deeply involved experiences with my emotions. Truly deep cuts into my heart. Moments where I had opened up the emotions and allowed something to penetrate deeply in a way that I do not think my former self could appreciate even if reading this essay.

And the only way I could deal with these moments, as they fractured as I mentioned core parts of my identity and what felt like intimate parts of my heart, was to grieve. To actually grieve. To lean into the sadness and not run from it. To not try to mask how I actually felt. To not just fast forward through it. To not just write the people off. To fire them. To move on.

To pause. Feel the emotion. And let it drive me.

This was painful. I started to think…perhaps this is the weight most everyone carries with them all of the time? I had never experienced this range before. I started hating a lot of life and honestly started feeling more depressed. But it wasn’t all bad — I mean it felt really bad in the moment, but distance/space started to make me feel more appreciative. Slowly, though, it took a long time. And it kept getting interrupted by more calls for grieving. More calls for sadness. More calls for emptiness and loneliness.

Before I would simply drive over those calls just like speed bumps. I would not at all understand what people meant when they got upset about things. I would just keep moving forward.

But this year…this year was different. My heart sank in a way it had never sunk before.

And that led…to something unexpected…unexpectedly great but also relatedly problematic.

I started loving things (and by thing I also mean people). I started understanding people in a way I had not previously, and that led me to opening up even further. To trying even harder to make things work and express my care. I did this in a golden rule type of way. And I think, and I think this will become circular so hopefully I do not lose you as I lose myself, that the painful grieving process actually made me more empathetic and vulnerable to the outside world.

Now the vulnerability has positives — you get to experience this whole new range of emotions and really lean into what it means to be alive, but you also find yourself more susceptible to being tossed and turned again.

Do you see how this can feel like a self fulfilling cycle of sorts? Tossing and turning. The emotions driving me rather than the other way around. No foundation to bank on. Caring too much about what other people think. Not believing in myself.

This was the cycle I experienced this year. Felt like a washing machine. Tossing and turning me. I did not feel like I was driving (that does not absolve me of responsibility, but is the truth).

And right now, as I write this essay, I am grieving. I probably do not sound like I am grieving. I am not writing exactly like the thoughts in my head, though I am trying to move in that direction. But I just lost another ~ thing ~ just days ago. A thing that meant so so so much to me. Words struggle to express how I feel adequately. I lost something that really meant the world to me. I could write a book on this topic. The thing I lost. I could write probably many books on the pros and cons of how that made me feel.

And I think it will now be gone forever.

And that sucks.

And I have to let go of it. I have to let go. It’s over.

And I feel terrible about that. I feel sad about that. Those words do not suffice how I actually feel about it. I feel like I was punched in the face and punched in the heart. I have major regrets. I am extremely nervous. I am anxious. I am sad. I am longing. I wish I could just go back and somehow fix things.

But I am sticking to my decision. I have to. It’s honestly one of the hardest things I have ever had to do — at least that is how I feel — but it is what I am going to do.

I have to because sticking to the world before making the decision was also not right for me. I was suffering in a way that was eating at me and perpetuating the cycle of self-hatred and insecurity. I killed my foundation. I knew it was not right for me, I had the gut sense and feeling, but I could not give up. I truly tried everything I possibly could think of to make it work. But it did not. And no matter my efforts, nothing I could say or do would make a difference.

And in this moment in the grieving process, I see my brain looking for some more elaborate story. I am looking for some complex explanation as to why I could not make it work.

But distance will solve that. Distance, I know, in my heart, will make it obvious that the answer, like most answers, is simple. The answer is simply that it was just not meant to be.

I can and do try to make it more sophisticated than that. My brain wants that. My heart does too. But only today, because I know that these false band-aids won’t stick for long. They will re-expose the wound.

The wound needs to heal. But more importantly, and during the grieving I realize that, I need to rebuild a foundation. That foundation needs to start with me and my ability to make decisions from a place of confidence.