We understand the weight of something heavy when opposed to something light. For example, we know the difference between say, the weight of a feather and the weight of a brick.
Sometimes we expect something to be heavy until we lift it and we’re surprised that it’s light. And then we say to ourselves, “That wasn’t so bad.”
Sometimes, this goes the other way around, which means we understand the physical nature of gravity. But there’s a different kind of gravity.
The depth of gravity, like say, the weight of the moment or the heaviness between two people can be thick, like the tension between us. There are times when emotion weighs us down. And there are times when the heart aches and of course, someone comes along and says, “You have to let this go” as if it were that easy.
Thoughts can weigh us down. Emotions can be so heavy that we can hardly lift ourselves to get out of bed. By the way, if someone were to ever disagree with my theory then I would suggest they never lost someone or felt the unforgettable pain of a broken heart.
We understand what we can see. We understand that a 5lbs dumbbell weighs what a 5lbs dumbbell weighs. This means it cannot weigh more or less than what it is. There is no negotiation. The dumbbell will always weigh 5lbs.
I’ve had to lift heavy things at work. I’ve had to put a wrench on old pipes that were screwed together back in 1926. I had to put my back into it and pull as hard as I could. I watched a group of laborers carry two buckets of wet cement up two and a half flights of stairs. They did this with one bucket in each hand. They carried the buckets of cement up to the roof of a building and then went back down for more.
I suppose the buckets weigh about 60 to maybe 70lbs each. They did this for hours. The laborers walked up and down the steps with buckets of wet cement from the 29th floor, up past 30, and then out onto the roof. They’d go up, dump the buckets of cement and then head back down to fill up again. Safe to say, this is heavy work. Safe to say this is the kind of work that can make a person achy and sore. It is also safe to say that work like this does not have a long life expectancy. It’s not good for the bones or the body. A person can’t work this way, this hard and under these conditions for too long. And if they do, then the consequences eventually catch up and the body breaks down.
I say the mind works this way sometimes. I say that we tend to run up and down and carry the weight of a heavy heart and the weight of the moment. Safe to say that we are not built to undergo this kind of stress. Safe to say a person can’t live this way, this hard and under these circumstances without paying the consequences.
Then again, the weight of the mind is an interesting thing. Again, we understand the weight of a bucket with wet cement as opposed to when the bucket is empty. But the weight of emotions can be infinite sometimes. And again, someone will always come along and say, “Hey, don’t you think it’s time you let that go?”
We can certainly attest the world would be a lot lighter if we did let go. Then again, if it were easy then we could forget about it, right?
They call this weight an unresolved tension. This is the weight of something stressful or anxious. This is the weight of rejection or fear, pain, shame and/or guilt. No one else can tell how much this weighs to you. The same as no one will ever understand the physical relation to you lifting a bucket of wet cement or an empty one; your feelings and your relation to weight and gravity are yours. Hence, this is why the most hated advice (although perhaps necessary) is “Why don’t you just let that go?”
There comes a time when the weight of a moment is not as heavy. There comes a time when either our strength improves or the hands of time have decreased the gravity between us. There also comes a time when a piece of us is free enough to decide to move onward and the heartfelt memories that brought us a tear have been forgiven enough to promote a smile.
There also comes a time when a person can only hurt so much. And we hold on. We hold on because we don’t know what else to do. We’re afraid to let go; as if this means we’re not loyal to our love.
If this is helpful, perhaps I can offer my relation to the mourning process, which might help explain my point —
I remember when The Old Man died. I was heartbroken. I was heartbroken for the obvious reasons that happen when a son loses his Father. I was heartbroken because my Father died. I was heartbroken because there were so many things that were left unsaid. We never had the chance to truly experience a father and son bond. So much had happened and so many arguments. Too many things were said and too many hurtful transactions took place between the two of us.
There were things I did wrong and things The Old Man did that were wrong as well.
But yet, I would never discuss them and I would never charge The Old Man for this. I would never discuss this because perhaps there was something in me which believed if I did not hurt or mourn him; or if I discussed his faults or the difficulties between us without taking full responsibility, this would not only degrade The Old Man’s memory. But more, this would also reflect that perhaps I didn’t love him the way I should have.
I held it this way for a long time. I held the weight of my guilt and shame. I held the weight of my unresolved tensions and the unresolved problems which didn’t even belong to me. I held them because (to me) I was being loyal to a memory — and if I were to be honest about them or speak openly about my feelings then this would mean that somehow, I was being disloyal.
Mom was this way too. She never let go of her feelings when it came to my Father. She never let go of the loss. “He was the love of my life,” she said. “How could I ever possibly let something like that go?”
Eventually, I grew to the point where I was able to be honest about my interactions with my Father. Eventually, I was able to discuss the unresolved problems we had between us, which meant, eventually, I was able to find a sense of peace between us by saying goodbye. I had to learn that saying goodbye was not being disloyal. Instead, I was saying goodbye to the unresolved dilemmas that debilitated me from properly living my life.
There are splits and breakups that happen in our lifetime. There are the unfortunate fall outs that end messily and leave us broken. The weight of loss becomes heavier with the fear that perhaps we lost someone because the loss was somehow “Our fault.” We hold this weight. We hold the pain and the rejection. We become weighed down by the consideration of conversations that went poorly. We are weighed down by the things we “Wished” we said instead of what we actually said.
We can weigh ourselves down by reliving and recreating old conversations to relitigate the past, but all this does is lead us to the unnecessary work, which is the same as the laborers running up and down stairs, carrying buckets of wet cement. But again, we know what the cement weighs. Emotions can weigh infinitely and the stairs can go up and down forever, if we let them.
I know how much a paper cut hurts. I broke my ankle once. That hurt a lot. I broke my collarbone. That hurt too. My first round of stitches was in my left eyebrow after I fell and hit my head on the corner of a coffee table. That hurt a lot. My back hurts sometimes. My knees hurt too. Perhaps this is because I work a lot. I fell down the stairs once. That hurt both my ankle and my pride. I know enough about physical pain and I can understand them because at least physical pain comes with a description. It’s easier to put physical pain into perspective, isn’t it?
That’s the thing about heartache. There is no physical description. There is only the weight of the loss. And there is nothing that changes this, except for time, and hopefully then a shift in gravity. I think about the rejection I feel because of people I lost in my life. I think about the weight that comes with this. Then I think about the words, “Just let it go.”
Sure, as if it’s that easy. And maybe it is. Or, maybe this is a trick that only time can pull off.
Something I offer is a goodbye letter. I’ve written many of them throughout my life. I’ve used these goodbye letters as a therapeutic tool. I’ve used them in some of my coaching sessions with some of my clients. In all honesty, it’s hard to say goodbye but it’s harder to hold the weight of things we can no longer carry. Last night, I came to the realization that perhaps now is the time for a goodbye letter, which is brief but necessary —
I am writing this to you with no bad intention or nothing mean or angry behind this at all. Instead, and quite oppositely, I am writing this with all the love I have and all the courage I can muster.
It’s okay that we don’t understand each other. It’s okay if we don’t get along.
It’s okay if you want to go live your life because either way, life is going to happen. You have your purpose and I have mine.
It’s not that I don’t want to be part of you. It’s more that whether I like this or not, I have to give myself the permission to let you choose your path. And if I’m not in your future then of course, I’ll be disappointed — of course this will hurt. But something I’ve learned is I can’t carry the weight anymore. And figuratively speaking, I can’t run up and down the stairs anymore, trying to fix what can never be undone. I can’t carry the weight or submit to the pain.
I am not saying goodbye to you specifically because I will always be here. I’m only allowing myself the permission to heal the same as I’m giving you the space so that you can heal as well.
The idea of the words, “Just let it go,” don’t always make sense to me. But either way, there comes a time when we have to forgive ourselves and our mistakes, even if someone else hasn’t forgiven us — and I get it. It’s fine. But there comes a time when a person can only hurt so much. Eventually the gravity changes. People heal. And that’s all I want for the both of us — is to heal.
I’m not saying goodbye to you. I’m just saying goodbye to the heartache and the pain. I’m saying goodbye to the rejection and the shame and the conversations I wish I could have changed. I’m saying goodbye to the arguments and the heavy energies that weigh me down. And if this means goodbye to you then please understand, this was never my intention. But I suppose intentions and interpretations lead to misunderstandings, and for my part, I apologize.
I just want to heal, which means I have to go now.
I can’t carry this weight anymore.
It’s time to let go.