An enigma and a paradox
Very difficult to know
True love is holding close
True love is letting go
- David Mitchell
That is the opening stanza from a poem my father wrote many years ago titled, Letting Go. Those words have been playing in my head for over 20 years. I understand them more with each passing day.
This week has been a hit-me-over-the-head-with-the lesson-of-letting-go kind of week. And I bet that it has been that kind of week for many of you too. The end of the school year will do that to us.
This morning, my five-year-old pre-kindergartner and my seven-year-old first grader threw their arms around each other for an end of school picture. Immediately after, I checked my Facebook page to find a Timehop video of my three-month-old son laughing with my two-year-old daughter.
I think one of the Facebook algorithms is labeled “Make ‘em cry.”
Recently I was in a writing workshop with Pam Neal and our assignment was to write a story in only a few lines. We had just a few minutes to think about it it. For as much as I love improv, quick and short writing assignments are not my strength – as anyone who reads this column has probably deduced. I was struggling to write about a girl experiencing tears of happiness for the first time, and being so unsure what that feeling was about.
The last line I scribbled out in a frenzy as the clock was running out read something like, “She couldn’t know yet, that the best joy in her life would always be painful.”
I was writing specifically about a time in my childhood when I gave my mom a Mother’s Day gift and I cried because the gift made her so happy. I remember the incident because I was so very confused by that emotion. What was it to be happy and to cry at once?
As I read my story out loud in the workshop, I realized that I could have been talking about a graduation, or moving away, or a wedding day, or childbirth, or parenting on any day of year, or celebrating a milestone, or celebrating a beginning, or celebrating an end.
All the best moments of my life have both the yin and the yang. The appreciation for what is and the nostalgia for what will never be again. The excitement for what’s next and the missing what is done. The holding close and the letting go.
So at the end of the school year, what is this feeling that’s very difficult to know? Why am I bawling through my daughter’s awards ceremony and my son’s PreK graduation?
It’s gratitude for all that has been that got us to here. It’s a deep appreciation for all the people who dedicate their lives to helping my children become who they are and who they will be. It’s pride and nostalgia. It’s wonder and fear. Painful joy. Joyful pain. The enigma and the paradox.
What do I feel as I watch my kids grow up? It’s not sadness. I want them to grow. It’s...well, I guess it’s what my father says. It’s true love.
For all of us holding close and letting go this week, how lucky we are to know that kind of love.
Julie owns The Scene on Beaton and OTL Creative Studios (otlcreativestudios.com) with her husband, Markus Baldwin.