The Relief of Letting Go

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It all started with the diamond stud, set in a delicate, silver heart. My parents had bought me the earrings when my first child was born. 

About ten years later, I’d taken them off and put them on the sheet of linoleum that we used to cover our kitchen counter for Pesach. Late that night, after the linoleum sheet was rolled up and the yellow-tiled counter was bare, I remembered them.

One earring was on the floor. I was sure the other one would turn up. Earrings don’t just walk away on their own, right?

I searched the floor, the baseboards, the entire kitchen. Nowhere to be found. I knew it would turn up; it had probably gotten stuck inside the linoleum.

Maybe I am holding on because part of me hopes.

Only I didn’t find it, and I still haven’t. But I kept the lone diamond earring in the beige gift box, tucked in my dresser.

One day, the missing one might reappear.

*

I have several single earrings – the handmade citrine drop my sister bought me, the match lost somewhere in Marina del Rey years ago; the chunky silver and blue earring I bought at Target at the peak of coronavirus, in preparation for getting dressed in regular clothes and wearing jewelry again.

There are more. I won’t bore you with the details.

Why am I holding on to them? Do I entertain some fantasy that the match will magically reappear, just be there beside the lonely earring in my jewelry box? Maybe. I admit, every so often I check under the bed, because a chunky earring doesn’t just disappear one day after purchase.

Maybe I am holding on because part of me hopes. One year before Pesach, I’ll take out the box of dairy dishes, and at the bottom, looking like a scrap of tinfoil, will be the nineteen-year-old diamond earring.

Every so often, I look at the solitary earrings and tell myself: Let it go. Let it go.

As we prepare for the new year in the month of Elul, it is the perfect time to let go of what isn’t serving us.

But I can’t. I want things to be complete and perfect. I don’t want anything to be missing.

*

If I let go, if I take these broken sets and just get rid of them, what will happen? Perhaps I’ll feel freer, and in true Marie-Kondo fashion, disposing of the old will make room for the new to fill the empty space.

Because that is what it is: empty space. These things I don’t need, whatever they are, are taking up space I could use for something else. Something new. Something I want, or something I craft.

As we prepare for the new year in the month of Elul, it is the perfect time to let go of what isn’t serving us.

We all have our ‘single earrings’ – the relationship we want to be a certain way, that dream job, the book we wanted to write. Big and little things that we put effort into, that could have been. 

We hope. We try. We invest time – days, months, or decades. We might invest money, a lot or a little. And then we realize – what we wanted, what we thought would be so perfect, is just not happening.

We want to hold on. This relationship or friendship must be like this. This child must be the child I dreamed of. It – whatever it is – must work.

Maybe it will happen. It could be one day I will find the lonely, citrine earring on the street of Marina Del Rey on my next Costco trip, as I always think of it when I go there.

But more likely, I will never find it.

And there is a pang each time. The pang of grief. It doesn’t go away. Yes, we can have it even for an earring. Of course, we have much greater pangs, ones that wake us up in the middle of the night, or that we steer clear of facing as much as possible.

We want to hold on. This relationship or friendship must be like this. This child must be the child I dreamed of. It – whatever it is – must work.

I spoke to a friend recently about her marriage. She has a solid marriage, with love, respect, and friendship. Yet, it isn’t the way she envisioned it, with a close emotional connection. He doesn’t share his emotional life with her, or with anyone. It has been close to a decade. I said to her, “What if you give up on the idea that it will eventually be like that. Imagine – if you let go of that hope. How do you feel?”

She hesitated, then exhaled. “Good. Relieved.” 

When we spoke later that month, my friend said she felt letting go of that dream made room for something else. “It can be what it is, which is still good.” She said the resentment of her husband, which she’d held on to for many years, had dissipated, almost overnight.

We don’t need to force relationships, people—or ourselves—into a fantasy we have created. Perhaps we view what marriage ‘should’ be according to Disney, or what children ‘should’ look like according to our society’s standards, no matter how narrow those standards are, and no matter how clear it is that our children are not fitting into that box.

Yes, there will be a pang of grief when we let go. But there will also be a sense of relief. Serenity comes from letting go and making space for something new, perhaps something utterly surprising.  

As we prepare for Rosh Hashanah, it is a perfect time to ask ourselves: What am I holding on to that I can let go of? What can I build from this ‘imperfect’ relationship, or this challenging job? What do I want to make instead with the potential that is there?

Yes, there will be a pang of grief when we let go. But there will also be a sense of relief. Serenity comes from letting go and making space for something new, perhaps something utterly surprising.

When we see ourselves and our lives this way, as full of potential, we embrace the beautiful, imperfect reality in front of us, and craft it into something that will shine.

Last week, I saw it again: the chunky silver earring, sitting on my dresser. I scooped it up, along with a couple of random buttons and an old receipt, and dropped them into the garbage. There was a twinge of pain, even for a twelve-dollar pair of earrings. But more than the pain, I felt the freedom of getting rid of something I have no use for, making room for what will come next.

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Devorah Talia Gordon
Devorah Talia Gordon is a freelance writer, creative writing teacher and editor. She earned an MFA in Creative Writing from Antioch University, and writes for magazines and newspapers, both online and in print. Her passion is fiction writing and teaching, inspiring Jewish women and young adults to tell their own stories, or create amazing ones. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband and children, and loves hiking and yoga, baking challah, blending green smoothies and thanking Hashem for everything. Devorah Talia can be reached at dlgwriting@icloud.com.

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