Depending on the circumstances, sometimes saying goodbye is difficult. Whether it is a friend or loved one you will not see again for some time (or ever again), a career you have enjoyed, the home you grew up in or any number of other things in life, saying goodbye can be painful. Often these people, places, and things become an integral part of our life; so much so that losing them is like losing a piece of ourselves. I don’t want to lose a limb any more or less than I want to lose a family member.
Sometimes, however, saying goodbye—no matter how painful—is essential in our ability to move forward and grow.
I have become acutely aware the last 6 months or so that I have been hanging on to several things which I have needed to say goodbye to. Sadly, I don’t really know why I was even hanging onto any of these things.
The reasons we hang onto things (and have a difficult time saying goodbye) are varied. Maybe we hang on because we still love the person. Maybe we hang on because of the memories we have. Maybe we hang on because we have hope for something more in the future. Maybe we hang on because we are afraid—of the future, loneliness, stability, strength, etc. Whatever the reason, letting go (saying goodbye) isn’t always easy.
What then, to make of the things we hold onto when we know we shouldn’t. These are the things we hang onto knowing they have no value; knowing they are harmful; knowing they are detrimental to our health, emotional or physical well-being; knowing they will only cause pain. Why do we (myself included) hang onto these things which only bring negativity to our lives?
It seems so easy from the outside to say “let it go.” I have even found myself thinking, “I need to let this go. I have to let this go” only to find myself at some point afterward still hanging on and reminding myself of the same things.
For me, the issue is, I linger on the good. Even when it is outweighed by the bad I receive from whatever the source is. I clutch to the positive. That is the kind of person I am. I rejoice in positivity. I choose that for myself and surround myself with it. So, even from the negative things in my life, I search for and cling to the good—because even bad things have good.
If, however, I hang onto the good in something that is actually net-zero, or worse net-negative, I am losing any of the positive things I gain—or I am “borrowing” from other net-positive things to cancel out the bad from this one thing. Instead of letting go of the draining thing, I hang onto the good—allowing the negative to further drain me.
I am working on it though. I am learning to recognize the net-negative things in my life so I can say goodbye to them and let them go. It may be that some of those things return to my life at some point in the future, but I am not hanging onto the possibility either. If they are meant to return they will. If they are meant to be free they will.
I often use the analogy of buckets of water. We all have buckets in our life. These buckets are our friends, family, work, hobbies, etc. They represent all the pieces of and things in our lives. We are constantly adding water to and taking water from these buckets with our interactions which each one. I used to have many buckets (too many). I was surrounded by the multitude of buckets and constantly working to maintain them all. In my maintenance efforts, I wasn’t aware of the buckets I was constantly adding water to. I didn’t recognize that I was using the “overflow” of my positive buckets to compensate. I was adding ten “doses” just to get one back. I focused on the one return and saw it as a great thing worth keeping the bucket in my life.
Guess what? It’s about quality not quantity. It isn’t about how many buckets you have. It is about having the right buckets that “practically maintain themselves.” Of course there must be a certain amount of effort involved, but there aren’t a few friend buckets, or family buckets, or hobby buckets that require the bulk of your attention while granting little (if any) return. By eliminating these net-negative buckets, not only am I able to focus my attention on fewer (more productive) buckets, but the simplified maintenance actually helps me be a happier and healthier person overall.
Don’t get me wrong. It took time and the conscious effort continues. Eliminating some of the buckets in my life was extremely painful at first. Many tears were shed. However, it didn’t take long to notice the shift in my well-being as my attention wasn’t diverted by leaking/draining buckets. My whole demeanor changed as I was able to focus on all the wonderful things around me. The renewed focus and attention on the remaining buckets further boosted the positive returns from them. No longer were they sustaining the negative buckets.
So, painful as it was in the beginning, I am grateful I was able to say goodbye and let go of the buckets that were not benefitting me. It was painful and, for me, seemed a little selfish. Ultimately, though, the only person you can count on to have your best interest in mind 100% of the time, is yourself. If you don’t clean house, if you don’t eliminate the draining buckets, no one else will.
Do yourself a favor and say goodbye to the buckets that drain your life. It will be difficult in the short term. However, in the long run, you and your life and all the remaining buckets will be much happier and much better off.