You spend longer than you should holding on, white knuckles becoming the most prominent feature you own in place of your smile. You’re told to let go, so you open your hands and beg for them to just disappear. They don’t. You shake and scrape and pray that when you look at your hands again all traces will vanish, and yet pieces of their memory still stick to you like sand. You run straight into the ocean and let waves wash over you, hoping you’ll emerge cleansed as someone new, whole, and completely without them. Yet as you wipe the saltwater from your eyes, you still feel the sting. How despite that most of your memories return to the universe as drifting thoughts, some still refuse to leave, refuse to let you forget.
You want to forget. You want to forget their smile and the way their hand felt against the small of your back, their quick wit and soft laughter under their breath about nothing in particular. You forget the way they kept you awake until 4 am because neither of you wanted to go to sleep, for fear of waking up to discover they were a dream. You try to treat memories like a delete function on your laptop—forget, delete, erase, forget, delete, erase, forget—and they tell us that this is the only way to let go, is to destroy any semblance that they were intertwined in your life.
The art of letting go isn’t about making all of their memories disappear, though. It’s about accepting that some parts will stick with you, but that’s okay. As you keep moving forward with your life, those little pieces blend with you, not as painful and overwhelming stop-in-your-tracks memories, but as reminders of a different time and place. The art of letting go is opening your hands and walking forward, knowing that some things will stick, but not letting that keep you tethered to the ground. It isn’t about scraping every last pieces off your skin until it’s raw and bleeding before you start moving forward- because love doesn’t simply wash away clean, it intertwines within you in ways you can’t even see- and that doesn’t cease just because the other person is no longer by your side.
Because if you wait until you have discarded every trace, feeling, or thought of them before you decide to let go, you will never let go.
You will always sit still believing that you can’t possibly continue on the rest of your journey until you’ve forgotten them completely. And that isn’t possible, nor would it even be healthy. You loved someone. You made mistakes. You dealt with an incredible pain that knocked the wind out of you and brought you to the floor. You have to remember how this felt, so that you can learn from your past, and more importantly, so that you can remember that you survived it.
Because the art of letting go is not about forgetting and then moving on, but taking steps forward fearlessly, with some memories still with you, as a reminder that you are able to survive.