A lesson in letting go

When a trusted friend told me, “like a baby learning to talk, at the start, the words don’t matter..just enjoy the sounds and let that be music until the words form,” it was specific advice relating to starting my blog.

I didn’t realise it at the time but it has become advice for me in general and I’ll share why in a moment. Her words and support and my practice with paper and pen gave me the confidence to just give the blog a go. So I have and while it’s still early days I am finding music everywhere.

I came across a book, “Finding Inner Courage” by Mark Nepo who is an author/poet/philosopher and if that’s not enough, a cancer survivor. His work put perspective behind the advice ‘enjoying the sounds’ or in other words ‘letting the story unfold’. He shares an enlightening story which I hope you enjoy as much as I have.

There is an old Hindu story.

In it, there is a boy who wants a drum but his mother can’t afford a drum and so sadly, she gives him a stick. Though he doesn’t know what to do with it he shuffles home and begins to play with the stick. 

Just then, he encounters an old woman trying to light her chulha, her woodstove. The boy freely gives her the stick. She lights her fire, makes some bread and in return she gives him half a loaf. 

Walking on, the boy comes upon a potter’s wife whose child is crying from hunger. The boy freely gives her the bread. In gratitude, she gives him a pot.

Though he doesn’t know what to do with it, he carries it along the river where he sees a washerman and his wife quarrelling because the wife broke their one pot. The boy gives them the pot. In return, they give him a coat. 

Since the boy isn’t cold, he carries the coat until he comes to a bridge where a man is shivering. Riding to town on a horse, the man was attacked and robbed of everything but his horse. The boy freely gives him the coat. Humbled, the man gives him his horse.

Not knowing how to ride, the boy walks the horse into town where he meets a wedding party with musicians. The bridegroom and his family are all sitting under a tree with long faces. 

According to custom the bridegroom is to enter the procession on a horse, which hasn’t shown up. The boy freely gives him the horse. Relieved the bridegroom asks what he can do for the boy.

Seeing the drummer surrounded by all his drums, the boy asks for the smallest drum, which the musician gladly gives him.

While the story finishes there,Nepo’s narrative continues to explain the beauty behind letting the story unfold. He continues on..

If we limit the old teaching story to the boy asking for one thing and his mother bringing him another, we have a lesson in not getting what we want, but accepting what we are given. 

If we end the story when the boy gives the woman the stick, we have a moment of altruism or sacrifice. 

If we end the story when the woman gives the boy half a loaf of bread, it becomes a lesson in barter and fair exchange. 

But if we let the story take its full and natural course, we are given something quite different. For the longer we let relationships unfold, the more we see how everything goes together and how answering the needs of others depends on how we accept what we’re given as unexpected medicine, even if it’s not what we want..

This humble story, allowed to unfold, lets us recognise that the unexpected gift that comes our way might not be for us. It might be that, like the Hindu boy, we are called to carry it to another.

This story resonated with me so strongly for the simple fact that, letting things go their natural course has been difficult for me. I like to be in control and to drive an outcome with no cracks in the armour. Rightly or wrongly, it’s an approach that has brought me much success.

So of course, having a baby challenges that very notion of being in control. Like most new mums, I set an incredibly high standard for myself as a parent, as a caregiver and always kept it on. In my mind only the best would do. But the best for who? 

My parenting story so far, like so many who have come before me and like the beautiful mums who are sharing the journey with me, is about letting go.

Bubble gum  - Katharina Jung

Source: Katharina Jung

I’ve learnt that as prepared as you can be not everything will go to plan. I’ve also discovered many new things about myself along the way including the realisation that there is a strength in being vulnerable.

Motherhood changes you and with it comes some euphoric highs and yes, even some soul crushing lows. My lesson was to have the tenacity to roll with the changes rather than try and control the situation and in doing so, have the courage to reinvent myself in the face of it.

Yes I resisted at the start because I was caught up with wanting to be perfect (both as a mum and a writer); but like a baby learning to talk, at the start, like my beautiful friend said, the words don’t matter..just enjoy the sounds and let that be the music.”

And it’s only just the beginning of the story for us.

11 responses to “A lesson in letting go

  1. It has been said that the only permanent thing mankind knows is change. In order to accept a change, we have to let go of a former idea or practice, and this is very hard at times. However, the change can be a lot more valuable in our lives than what we had before. The lesson “to let go” is a true and wonderful adage.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. True! Thanks for this very inspiring post. And also for sharing about the old Hindu story, I honestly haven’t heard of that before. That would really be a good bedtime story for the kids.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Having an older son already married and out of our house, I can look back and see you’re absolutely right……parenting is learning to let go….and it doesn’t stop….there are many layers to letting go all the way through. But the best part is when they come back just because they want to….you’d never experience that if you never let go!

    Liked by 2 people

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