There Are No Postcards from Limbo

In order to open to something new, to completely throw yourself into it, generally you have to let go of something old. The something old might be an idea you’ve had about yourself, a relationship that’s ended but hasn’t ended completely, a way of being, a job you’ve had forever, or a role you’ve played for someone that just doesn’t feel right anymore. We human beings are complex, and sometimes we try to jump and hold on at the same time, and then we lament the fact that our arm really hurts, and wonder why we can’t fully land in the new adventure, but seem to be swinging in agony somewhere between what was and what is.

I get emails from people who have gone through a breakup, but are still sleeping with the ex, because no one new is on the horizon, and it feels familiar and comforting in a scary, uncertain world. I think many people can look back on relationships that just wouldn’t die. The break up and make up thing, the going back once more, just to see, and just once more after that. Or people who stay in jobs that don’t inspire them at all because the idea of looking for something else seems daunting and overwhelming. People who are tortured and depressed because they’ve told themselves they can’t or shouldn’t pursue their dreams, some of whom are convinced they aren’t worthy of love, or happiness, or a life that feels good to them. People who think their past trauma renders them broken.

The only thing that comes from trying to leap and cling at the same time is pain. You’re attempting to perform diametrically opposed actions at once. You leave yourself suspended, hurting, neither here nor there. Limbo isn’t a great place to hang out. Change can be scary and it can really hurt if it isn’t wanted, but as always, the only power we have is to face reality as it is, and try to be fearless. Fearlessly open, accepting, heartbroken, afraid. Fearlessly afraid, that’s a concept, huh? But what I’m talking about is the ability to embrace and examine your feelings, and to accept what is true for you, and also what is true for other people.

When you know yourself and you know how you feel, you can speak about it calmly and with compassion. That’s really all you can do. You can’t control circumstances or other people. You can’t make anyone happy, you can’t force someone to love you or open to you, or decide to go for it with you. You can’t expect to forge a new path for yourself if you’re clinging to the old one. At a certain point, you have to let go and leap. It isn’t easy; few things in life that are worthwhile are also easy. Love isn’t easy, it requires bravery and a willingness to be vulnerable. Sustained gratitude isn’t easy, it demands that you pick your mind up and bring it back to all the things that are going well, that you do have, again and again. The birthing process isn’t easy, whether we’re talking about birthing a person into this world, or a new way of being, or a work of art. All these things require your willingness to go through the pain of opening, but you know what’s worse? Hanging out in the birth canal where you can’t breathe deeply and you can’t see the light. Where you feel like your head might explode, and where, if you screamed, no one would hear you. That’s not living, not in a way that’s sustainable.

If the journey is the thing, and I believe it is, hanging out endlessly at the forks in the road isn’t likely to fulfill you. There are all these amazing views and experiences and new languages and tastes and roads to be traveled. I understand it may break your heart to leap off the road you’re on, but you never know what’s around the bend, and clinging will never lead you to happiness. Trust that if you let go, you’ll land on your feet.

Sending you love,

Ally Hamilton

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