The Importance of Letting Go

For being a fairly bright person, I have a tendency to be a slow learner.  I say it’s a feature, but I suspect others view it to be more of a system malfunction of sorts.  I’m especially daft when it comes to certain subjects.  Percentages and letting go for example.

I sport a five inch scar below my left knee from the last time I water-skied. And even though there were 28 stitches involved, it wasn’t my most traumatic experience that features my body, a swimsuit and a power boat.  No, that would be the last time I water-skied in Oregon.

It was during college and started with a innocent, “Hey, we’re taking the boat out.  Wanna come?!?” and ended with “Well, I guess that could have been worse.”  In case you are not familiar with the Portland, Oregon locale there are two rivers that meet in the basic vicinity of the city:  the Columbia and the Willamette (pronounced will-lamb-ette, and not some of the absolutely bizarro pronunciations we hear).

So two large rivers, all coming together in a trifecta of fun, sun, and good times.  Except for one little problem.  Well, several to be honest.

First off, it’s a boat-full of college students.  Secondly, I much prefer my water in a glass, or in cube form with alcohol shaken over it.  Thirdly, I have to take out my contacts when I water-ski.  Does anyone see some potential problems here?

So I get my life-jacket on, brave the chilly waters and get in, flounder about in the god-awful wet and manage to get my borrowed skis on my feet.  Now, if you are a good swimmer or even a passable swimmer, putting on a pair of water skis isn’t too much of a challenge.  For me, it is immense.  There I am, in a life jacket that reduces me to a turtle flipped upon its shell and the whole time all I can hear is the theme song to “Jaws.”  Finally, I’m ready.  And I signal the boat to begin pulling me in order to get the rope ready and all that.  I yell “hit it!” as a plane flies overhead.  And so it begins, me attempting to take up slack and decipher the vague hand gestures my fellow boaters are making whilst the equivalent of an entire squadron drones past overhead.  Right about the time my ski tips begin losing the battle of being above the water line, the driver hits it.

Picture if you will just what the laws of physics say will happen.  It did.  The unfortunate part is that while I was cartwheeling across the rather choppy surface of the possibly toxic Willamette, I forgot to let go of my death grip upon that tow rope.  So it wasn’t one or two cartwheels, complete with my skis still attached and my swimsuit rising ever higher and higher , but too many cartwheels to count.

Finally, some logical part of my brain managed to separate my friends’ shouts of “let go!” from the impromptu crowd’s laughter as they gathered to watch the debacle that was me.

To say I was pretty bruised, ego and, ahem, other parts, is to put it rather mildly.

It was a good lesson on the importance of letting go of the tow-rope; yes it was.

Another example of my poor-learning abilities came about ten years later.  At the time I was living in the Minneapolis area.  Like the rest of Minnesota, it is dotted with bodies of water.  Since it was the 90s, many fine physical specimens were typically found roller-blading around the lakes.  Oh how I wanted those long, lean thighs, those browned and muscular calves.  I decided that if I too became a roller-blading aficionado, I would somehow become all kinds of awesome as well.

There was only a few problems with that plan and most focused on my role within it.  Let’s just say I am not very good at roller-blading and that each time I fell, I became a bit more reticent to try it again.  And besides, my goal was to effortlessly glide around Lake Hennepin in my short little Daisy Dukes and strappy tank tops.  Instead I looked like the Michelin Man with an overprotective parent.  Helmet, gloves, elbow and knee pads…I sported the entire safety package and all of it bore the scars of close contact with asphalt.

Right about the time summer disappeared into the long winter of Minnesota, otherwise known as September, my bruises faded enough for me to try again.  But what to do?  We’d gotten yet another snow storm and one does not rollerblade through 3 feet of snow.  I had a brainstorm.

I got myself all spiffied up in my Sporty Spice attire and plugged in my dusty treadmill.  Now right, some of you are cringing.  Why?  I really thought this could have potential.  If I put the treadmill on its slowest speed and highest ramp, surely I could use it as a rollerblading surface.  Right?

Turns out the answer is no.

There I was, cautiously filled with optimism as I put the plan into action.  I grabbed onto the handrails, hopped onto the treadmill and promptly flew off the machine.  Too bad I forgot to let go.

There are so many times when holding onto a perceived safety net seems like the right idea.  The trick is knowing when to let go.  There are times the answer is obvious – you are in physical pain from holding onto something that is actually not helping anymore.  But what about the times when holding on is important?  When you are miserable but not ready or able to make it to the next step?  And the trouble is, when in the moment of panic and angst, it can be very hard to know if this is the time to let go, or to readjust your grip and hang on a little longer.  Perhaps that is when we are saved by the voices of others, calling from afar and helping to show us what we cannot yet see.

Unfortunately, life isn’t always as obvious as water-skiing or rollerblading on the treadmill.  The good news is that when in hindsight, you held on just a bit too long, you usually come out of the situation okay, albeit a bit more bruised than you hoped for.

5 thoughts on “The Importance of Letting Go

  1. When I was about ten years old, living in Orange County California, my two best friends and I rode our bicycles together. When we got to one steep hill with a sharp curve at the bottom, the raced down as fast as could be and swerved around the curve, having quite a thrill. I rode down cautiously, using my breaks. My friends taunted me, “Chicken.”

    One day, riding my bike by myself, I decided to try “Dead Man’s Curve,” with no one watching. Hoping, I guess, I would graduate form the chicken category in a miracle. My bike was cheap and faulty. As I turned into the curve at high speed, the chain slipped off the sprocket and tangled into the spokes. I tumbled and was dragged along the asphalt for several feet.

    Blood streaming down my face, mixing with copious tears from my blubbering, I stumbled the ten blocks home by foot. When I stumbled into the house, I scared my mother half to death. After she cleaned me up, she discovered I had nothing more than surface scrapes that bled a lot, but no serious injuries.

    After that experience, I decided: I am a chicken. I am going to be a chicken all my life.

    I am now 67 years old and I have never broken a bone. Shakespeare’s line from Julius Caesar about about brave men dying but once has always amused me. Actually, my life has had a few close calls with serious injury or death, but none of them arose from acting bravely or in a foolhardy manner. Luck of the draw, I guess.

  2. Great! I’m proud of you for trying water skiing and bladeing, concerned over what ever Guy – like thought pattern made you think you could blade on a tread mill.

    Right now I’m imagining someone at the treadmill company signing a form to authorize adding one more warning sticker to the treadmill: WARNING – This unit already has wheels inside of it, don’t try adding any more to the outside!

    It’s important to know – when to let go(no rhyme intended).

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