Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and notice my hands are clenched. I exhale, uncurling my fingers, feeling the muscles loosen. I splay them flat, mashed under the pillow until the ache is gone.
Even in my sleep I can’t let go.
Even in my sleep I am scared and clinging to what little control I have of this world.
I want to stop clenching my fists in my sleep. I want to stop holding those anxieties in my muscles and nerves and bones.
But I can’t just make a decision to be more trusting and faithful. Because faith is a muscle. A muscle I must exercise even on days when I am tired and sore and unmotivated. When I have made mistakes and am afraid of starting back at one. When I am doubting. When I want to give up. When those parts of me are weary and broken.
That is how you build muscle. By ripping yourself apart so you can be stitched back stronger.
Those muscles don’t appear overnight and I won’t be able to move mountains on my first try. I must work myself up to these things. With practice. With patience.
So I’m trying.
Every time I’m faced with a choice, I ask myself if I’m making a decision out of my desire to be in control or out of my desire to relinquish it. What can I say no to? What should I say yes to?
When I choose to do something kind for myself or when I choose to let go of something I am taking these micro leaps toward freedom. They are small and might seem insignificant but they are a snowball rolling down a hill. They are building on each other, coaxing me towards the light, and making me strong.
This week I started experiencing some unexpected nerve pain, possibly left over from the time I had the shingles. It started in my right leg then moved up to my shoulder blade and then down to the bottoms of my feet. Instead of agonizing over my bank account and letting my fear of lack decide that going to the doctor was out of the question I made an appointment to see a doctor and a masseuse.
When my pain worsened at work, I didn’t let my fear of letting people in stop me from being honest with coworkers. I didn’t let my fear of not living up to people’s expectations stop me from leaving early. I gave myself permission to stop fighting against the pain and rest.
Maybe that’s the lesson I’m supposed to learn, that we’re all supposed to learn. Stop fighting. That means no more digging your heels in when you think you’re right or when you feel scared. Don’t keep the illusion of control in a death grip because it is just an illusion. We can plan, we can prepare, but we can’t create perfection.
Letting go doesn’t have to mean jumping out of an airplane with no parachute. It can be tiny, almost imperceptible changes to the way you breathe, the way you sleep, the way you dream, the way you listen, the way you ask, the way you answer. Say no to making decisions out of fear and say yes to making decisions out of faith and you will build that muscle one micro leap at a time. Until it is strong enough to move mountains. Until it is strong enough for you to let go when you know you can’t.