Now, women forget all those things they don't want to remember, and remember everything they don't want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly. - Zora Neale Hurston
When I was seven, I went to my first water park. I had been anticipating the experience for weeks: the chance to wear my lavender swimsuit with white lattice trim, eat a hamburger bigger than my head and above all, ride down colossal tidal slides. I remember my mother leading her ducklings (myself, my sister and my cousin) into the children's pool merely to get our "feet wet," but by the time I climbed up the ladder, scooted to the edge of the slide and prepared to propel downwards, I froze. For three hours, I sat at the top of that thick slab of white, refusing to let go of the pole above my head for fear of flying off or drowning in the two feet of water below me. Silly notions, but fear is seldom rational. Finally, at the behest of my mother, I climbed back down the stairs, crushed by my own inaction.
Letting go. In a city of transience, the phrase seems simple enough. The action invites release, like a balloon lifted by the float of helium, an unerring and organic occurrence. Why then, is it so difficult to carry through? We see it and feel it everywhere. We pick up on the dialogue in coffee shops and on park benches, a woman sitting in the frigid cold, trying to accept a relationship that has come to an end. "I need to let go," she sighs, biting on a half-empty coffee cup, staring at those happy couples, necks nestled, before her.
This week, I dragged my Christmas tree down five flights of stairs. I left it on the curbside of a busy Manhattan street, where a sanitation driver would come in the morning and toss it between other anonymously bare trees -- Scotch Pines and Douglas Firs marked with a shelf life between days and weeks. They brought us joy, a communal spirit of twinkling lights, but trees without roots they were. No matter how we decorated them, with ornaments and turtledoves, we knew that when their branches began to wither, it would be time to unravel those sentiments and let go. We know this, yet sometimes it's easier to leave the dirty work to someone else.
As with trees, so with love. Love, that inexplicable emotion that can swell our hearts and provide the light we need. It stops being kind when we let ourselves be unkind, misunderstanding masked by anger and even angrier words, when we cleave to those small bits of pride, pride that can feel like some loathed trapping blocking the good in us. When our best intentions are no longer salvageable, it's time to let go. And we should leave it up to fate, really, for hearts that come together can only be described as kismet, the definition falling somewhere between unalloyed thrill and trepidation.
Why are we afraid to let go of something which could not be grasped in the first place? We yearn to perch on the catbird seat, but wind up -- for fear of falling -- on the ground. My New Year's resolution is to be more courageous, to understand that life begins with one affirmation: memories do not fuel the future. For the future is nothing without a brave face and the willingness to love freely, but also the freedom to let go. Because everything -- our youth, the tree, the flux of "You and I" -- has an expiration date.
PS: After many more starts and stops, I eventually went down that water slide. It was scary and fun and all those things you come to expect when you are little and staring down the mouth of your first beast. It was not the perfect ending to the day, but it was an ending, both hands open.