Thought Catalog
March 21, 2017

I’m Slowly Learning To Detach

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Jeremy Bishop

Sometimes I hold on so tightly—to people, to memories, to the thoughts racing wild in my head. I want to know the direction my life will head down. I want to understand why God gave me certain people, or why they had to leave. I want to cling to what’s familiar, trace what I know into the lines of my palm. I want to measure the future, calculate the pain, make sense of it before it comes and crashes into me like waves against the shore, leaving me powerless.

I’ve always loved in a rush, throwing myself into others’ arms, getting lost in eyes and smiles, believing beyond a doubt, that every kiss was real. Detaching, then, has always been the hardest part. Because I’ve grown up believing that when two people connect, you’re supposed to fight. You’re not supposed to throw in the towel when it gets hard or when you’re scared of forever. You’re not supposed to say goodbye when things aren’t working out, and start looking for someone else to fill the void.

When you love someone, your life is their life, and vice versa. There’s supposed to be a tie, a knot, a connection less paper thin and more permanent.

But it doesn’t always work like that with people—we’re imperfect, we’re selfish, we have wants and needs and when they’re not being met, our hearts tell us to leave.

But I can’t help but look back, even if I take steps away.

I’ve always found it so hard to let go because I don’t take love lightly; it’s not just a feeling I can replace and let go of.

But sometimes I spend so much of my life holding onto people and memories that serve me no purpose. I turn around, searching for answers, when the truth is right in front of me.

Sometimes I spend so much time and energy reminding myself of the way things used to be, how my life was, or how it felt to have a certain someone’s fingertips intertwined with mine. I beat myself up over what I could have done or what could have gone differently. I wonder whether I should have said something I didn’t, or if I could have saved what was to change all that is right now.

I think about the past and glorify it; I get lost in memories and circle around friendships and relationships that have changed so much since then, they’re hardly recognizable. I keep thinking that if I hold these people and memories close, maybe they will suddenly materialize before me, like some sort of magic. As if I could will them to existence just by keeping them in my head.

But the reality is that sometimes you have to let go of something you loved, sometimes you have to walk away from people that do not benefit or brighten you, sometimes you have to release what you cannot control, and trust that God is bringing you to better.

Sometimes you have to detach, and know that detaching is okay. There’s nothing wrong with moving on from the past. You simply cannot spend your life looking into the rearview, wondering what if.

Detaching does not mean you no longer care; it doesn’t mean your cold-hearted or have closed your door.

Detaching means you’re giving yourself distance; it means you’re putting the health of your heart first, and walking away from what has only been holding you back from happiness, purpose, and love.

And I’m slowly learning to detach. I’m slowly learning that it’s okay to no longer be friends with people who only have their best interests in mind, who only call you when they need something, or who don’t answer when you’re reaching out to them.

I’m learning that it’s okay to walk away from relationships that have broken me, from men who won’t give me they’re whole heart, from ex-lovers that continue to resurface but only demand from me, and never give.

I’m learning that it’s okay to remember the past, but it’s okay to tuck those old memories into a scrapbook, a shelf, a memory box in the back of my closet.

It’s okay to love what was, but infinitely better to appreciate and focus on what is.

I’m learning that detaching does not mean I’m weak. It doesn’t mean that I’m losing my big heart, or leaving people that need me. It means I’m doing something for myself—moving on—and allowing myself to find the love and happiness I deserve.

I’m learning that sometimes you care so much for people, situations, and moments that have happened, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s nothing wrong with saying goodbye to a life filled with looking back, over-thinking, and wondering about what could have happened.

There’s nothing wrong with detaching. It’s okay to keep old memories in your heart to grow you and build you, but there’s nothing wrong with starting new, without being held hostage to your past.

And so I’m slowly learning to detach. To love from a distance. To say goodbye to old people and painful memories and make room for what fills me, effortlessly, with joy and love.

I’m learning that I do not have to pretend what happened didn’t, or that the people I once loved don’t matter, because they always will.

I’m learning that my past has shaped me, but it doesn’t have to control my thinking. I don’t have to agonize over the future, or look back with regret.

I can simply look forward, trust God, and know that where I am headed is the right direction, as long as I leave what was behind me, look ahead, and smile. TC mark

Marisa Donnelly is a poet and author of the book, Somewhere on a Highway, available here.