An event that has always stuck in my mind was this one time where my cousin’s back got all scratched up because I didn’t know how to let go of her as she was sliding down a snowy mountain.
We were on a family trip and we were partners for tube sliding. I was in the first tube and she was on the second in back of me; I held her by her legs on each side of me because we were told to do that.
As we were slid down the hill, I remember maybe halfway, my cousin plopping out of her tube and us still sliding down because I was still in mine. I looked back at her almost in a panic and reached out to her to get her onto my tube somehow. In my mind, I was so intensely intent on keeping her safe. I was thinking to myself that if she just held on a little longer we would stop soon at the bottom. All the while I saw her face scrunching up in pain as her shirt and jacket was being lifted upward, exposing her back to all that hardened snow. I wanted so badly to rid her of what she was going through and to do something to help her.
In retrospect, what I know now was that I should’ve and could’ve just so easily let go of her so that she could’ve stopped sliding and been left to walk down eventually by herself. What I doing was literally dragging her all the way down and exacerbating her pain. It didn’t even occur to me to just let her go. I got so wrapped up in what was happening to her that I made it so much worse for her by trying too hard to do something for her.
What I learned from this is how sometimes the easier option is the one we often overlook because we are so busy looking to ‘do’ something instead of letting things be. We want to resolve things instead of letting things resolve themselves. The scenario of her stopping by herself in the middle of the hill, if I had let her go, was so distant to me and probably scared me because I didn’t know what would happen to her. That’s why I held on so tightly.
These scenarios of letting people just be is so foreign to us because of our fearful minds. Just because we were there in the beginning, our minds don’t give us the other option of being totally out of the picture for the middle and ending. In this way, it’s almost as if it is happening to us, so it’s hard to distinguish and separate ourselves.
For the overly empathetic in us, we want to be the savior, we want to take away the hurt, we want to be able to do something about it instead of letting someone suffer on their own. We don’t see the bigger picture because we are so close up.
That memory really serves to me that we don’t need to be so attached (literally and figuratively) to help someone. A little distance can do all the wonders. And that people don’t need our “profound” efforts in the way that we sometimes might think they do. If I had known how to be more compassionately detached, instead of being too easily permeated by my cousin’s pain and frightened by was happening and thus blindsided and overwhelmed, I could’ve came to the resolution more quickly – that if I had just let her go, I wouldn’t have spent all those seconds trying so hard to mend the situation and buffer her pain all the while actually inflicting even more pain by dragging her on. By holding on to her, I was also really just holding on to my fear. Often times, to let go is the best you can do for yourself and for others.