I throw like a girl.
The ball just never gets very far down the field. So when I saw people at the dog park in Mill Valley flinging balls that arched gracefully into the air and sailed far down the field, I thought, “Well, here is my dog’s salvation.”
I bought one, took it to the dog park, placed the tennis ball in the Chucker’s claw, pulled my arm back and let fly. The ball landed with a thud in front of me.
My dog was not amused.
As a last resort, I read the instructions on the packaging. The secret to graceful flinging was right there in black and white. “Let go before you think you should.”
Well, that has deep meaning.
I was going to write a post about a month ago about people advising others to “Just move on,” from a disappointment, betrayal, loss, or trauma. I find that really annoying. Because, truth is, people do move on. They wake up, their feet hit the floor, they go to work, they buy toilet paper, they go to bed, then wake up the next morning and do life all over again.
What doesn’t happen, and what moving on doesn’t accomplish, is resolution. Life after a life-changing event is not the same, and the ground beneath your feet doesn’t get stable just because on the outside, your everyday life looks the same.
This has been a strange decade for me. It included a tremendous amount of loss. People died. People fell out of my life. I had to move away from Mill Valley, which is close to the ocean and sheltered by Mount Tamalpais—a physical place to which I felt spiritually connected—back to my hometown, a physical place to which I feel no spiritual connection.
Returning threw me into the white water rapids of my past. I thought I had calmed those rapids. But really, I had just given myself time to gain the strength I needed to navigate them.
Writing became my way to navigate the rapids. My writing took on a new depth. I learned how to rewrite. I learned how to love rewriting. I discovered that finding the right word, while arduous, was the way through.
I learned about endurance and that I am resilient.
It’s been over a decade since I learned that essential life instruction in the directions written in black and white on the Chucker’s packaging:
“Let go before you think you should.”
I have thought, well, yes, if only I could learn to let go before I think I should. And then it occurred to me just the other day: that’s how we let go. We always let go before we think we should.
We move on, but grief, betrayal, anger, sadness move on with us, and, blindside us when they arise to remind us that something has changed for us. We are not the same as we were before whatever life-changing event pitched us into change.
And then one day, Aeschylus says it’s through the awful grace of God, we manage to find our footing on the path change has put us on. There is no resolution, closure, justice, or erasure of trauma that gets us there. I think it is simply that we realize we are on life’s path and decide it’s the path we want to be on.
Let go before you think you should. I think that might be what faith is to me.
I learned one other life instruction from product directions. It was from a giant bubble wand—one of those big hoops that make long, giant bubbles. Those bubbles look particularly magical to me.
The directions said that you could use any liquid dish detergent, but for best results, use Joy.