Life’s Biggest Lesson

Learning to let go

Photo by CDC on Unsplash

From the time we, as souls, inhabit a human body at birth, we are learning to let go. At first, it is just baby steps. No pun intended. We have just left what many religions consider heaven to be trapped in a limited physical form. Is it any wonder why babies cry all the time?

As that infant grows, it becomes more independent. It learns to hold its own bottle. It learns to crawl. It learns to let go of the safety of all fours in order to walk. It learns to let go of bottle feeding in order to eat the necessary sustenance to grow. All of you parents out there know these steps weren’t easy ones for your child. It took your encouragement for them to succeed.

Letting go gets more challenging as we continue to age. The teen years are chock full of examples of this. We begin to develop our singular way of looking at the world. We are experiencing certain freedoms for the first time in this life. We become more globally aware; our geographical boundaries expand as we learn to drive. We begin to understand what it means to become a coworker in a structured environment. We begin to truly grasp what love means. None of this would be possible without letting go to a degree the safety net our parents built for us.

And then adulthood slaps us in the face.

The wake-up call that makes us realize we must get our shit together. And once again, we must let go. Let go of most of our preconceived notions about how we are just going to live the perfect life. We come to understand for the first time we must build that life.

Now the choices get harder. We begin to really question our life. Do we want a life filled with love? Are we willing to sacrifice such a love to pursue a career choice? Can we have both? Do I want children? I’m ready to be a good parent? Often, the choices we arrive at are because of letting go of others. Now, now comes the real art of learning to let go. The very hardest thing in life is letting go of those we love. I’m not talking about breakups or divorces.

I’m talking about all those preconceived notions of how you imagined your life would turn out. You know, all those fairytale stories you’ve told yourself since you were a child.

I’m just guessing here, but I would bet money on the fact that at least 75% of adults on this planet are in or have been in an occupation they had not planned or wished for. They all had to learn to let go of past desires or dreams. The easy stuff.

Then there is the messy stuff. Love. The strongest desire everyone that has ever lived has experienced or wished to experience. Talk about having to learn to let go. To truly experience and give in to love, one must learn to put their egos aside, be open to any possibility, and be able to recognize it when it comes knocking on your door. No easy tasks. But they are necessary ones if you truly want to experience all that love has to offer.

Now that we have gotten this far, the road to learning to let go gets significantly harder. Raising a child or children is the advanced course for learning to let go. In the beginning, we have this cute, innocent baby that we instantly love. Why is that? How could we love someone instantly? Chances are very high we have shared past incarnations with all our family members. Throughout our lives, we meet people we have soul connections with. They are generally in our tight circle of family and friends.

Sorry. Got sidetracked there. Back to children. As our children age, we experience heart-wrenching episodes of letting go. The first time we as parents have a relative babysit so we can have a night out. And spend most of the night worrying if our child is okay. Thankfully, that process gets easier as our wisdom grows. When we realize that our parents know far more about parenting than we do.

And then there is that first day of school. When we get that first inkling that we are responsible for setting the stage for the making of a life. When we realize not only our child’s future but ours as well are about to go on an amazing journey. A journey filled with love, gratitude, fear, and hope. One where we become battle-tested. Ready to defend our child at the drop of hat.

A journey that will be constantly providing lessons of learning to let go.

We teach them to ride a bike. Knowing the entire time while our child’s world expands, ours becomes more worrisome. Forcing us to learn to let go if we are going to stay sane. This never stops, no matter their age. Their first heartbreak. Their first solo drive. The hope that their “I do” love will be everything ours is. The births of our grandchildren start the lessons all over again.

All of these prepare us for the hardest lesson of letting go that life will throw at us. The loss of your partner in all this crazy mess. The one that stood by your side through thick and thin, fought the battles with you, provided comfort in trying times, was always there to tell you, “Everything will be okay.” The love of your life.

Nine months ago, I was put to this test when the woman I have spent nearly my whole adult life passed. Up until recently, I was failing miserably. I want to point out that all the advice you may receive at a time like this is utterly meaningless. The best conversations I have had regarding my situation were with friends that have had similar experiences. Their advice was simply don’t fight it. The pain and grief become more manageable, but even years later, in any moment, it can hit you like a ton of bricks.

My wife died from dementia. I knew within 6 months of her death it was imminent. Each night when I helped her to bed, I would tell her it was okay to go. It was best for her. Not for me. I’m trying to type this through tears right now. Still, I am slowly getting better. I am learning to let go. The body she momentarily inhabited is gone now. But not her love for me. Or mine for her. That’s forever and something I will never have to learn to let go of.

©2022 Joe Merkle All rights reserved.

Thanks for reading.

I want to thank Ravyne Hawke from KTHT publication for providing this wonderful prompt that inspired this essay. And I also want to thank all the editors of KTHT for their dedication Diana C., Spyder, and jules.

The editors at Know Thyself Heal Thyself are having some fun with this Round Robin prompt. Below are the rules for engagement with this prompt

The Prompt: When my spirit is free…I

The Rules

  1. Use the prompt to write a poem or personal essay.
  2. *(Tag) Mention at least (3) three of your favorite writers (here at KTHT or elsewhere on Medium) and ask them to participate. Each of those writers will then mention at least (3) three more, and so on.
  3. You may submit your story to KTHT or to any publication that allows prompts from other publications.
  4. Regardless of where you submit your piece, You MUST include a link back to this page and (Tag) mention one or all of the KTHT editors — Diana C., Spyder, jules, Ravyne Hawke

Writers I look forward to seeing what they come up with… Margie Willis, David Rudder, K. Barrett, William J Spirdione, Joseph Lieungh, Monoreena Acharjee Majumdar, Amy Christie… Have fun.

List the prompt and these rules at the end of your poem or essay so that those you’ve (tagged) mentioned will know the rules.




𝘈𝘶𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘯𝘵𝘪𝘤𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘷𝘶𝘭𝘯𝘦𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘪𝘭𝘪𝘵𝘺, 𝘢𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘦𝘴𝘴 & 𝘨𝘳𝘰𝘸𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘳𝘰𝘶𝘨𝘩 𝘴𝘵𝘰𝘳𝘺𝘵𝘦𝘭𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨, 𝘴𝘩𝘢𝘳𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘰𝘧 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘦𝘹𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘪𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘦𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘬𝘯𝘰𝘸𝘭𝘦𝘥𝘨𝘦 𝘰𝘯 𝘴𝘱𝘪𝘳𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘢𝘭 𝘮𝘢𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘴.

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Joe Merkle

Joe Merkle

The meanderings of a multifarious writer

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