A Lesson in Letting Go of “You”

September 12, 2014, was meant to be one of the most beautiful days of my life. I woke up on an island surrounded by a gaggle of family and friends, my soon-to-be wife lying next to me. Sun streamed into the cabin, and the day’s festivities were upon us. It was our wedding day. And all we had to do was execute a ceremony, and we’d be married. 

It was the picture-perfect wedding, the kind that gets picked up by wedding magazines around the world (it did). We had beautiful photos, the kind that go viral (they did—to the tune of 100,000 shares on one photo). And everything was utterly…flawless.

Except for me.

I was a wreck.

This wasn’t cold feet around marriage or commitment. I came from a family with still-married parents. Much of my life has not been clouded or shrouded by divorce. In fact, many of my friends are still married after 10, 15, 20, and even 30 years.

So it wasn’t about the wedding itself. But something felt…off.

Now, four years later, I look at that photo that went viral. I see the me that used to be. And I see how uncomfortable I seem. How out of my skin, how disembodied I look. I look stunning, like a bride to be. Glow intact. And yet, the photo looks like I have exited my skin and am orbiting the earth miles above myself. 

Lights on, nobody home.

But that is how I lived my life then. Follow the “steps,” whatever they may be, to the letter. One foot in front of the other. Admittedly? I actually hadn’t thought about what steps I truly wanted to take or with whom. I was going through the motions of what I thought love should look like, rather than diving into the clarity of what I personally wanted in my life when it came to love.

I had missed the dance that could be life, and instead, I was simply chugging along.

I had been conditioned that this was normal, to be drifting or coasting through life. To not take personal ownership for my dreams and goals.

The next four years after the “perfect wedding” were curious. Our perfect life unraveled as we relocated away from our network of friends and loved ones, suffered painful losses personally and professionally, and found ourselves moving for a third time in two years. 

One morning, I woke up and attempted to write a bio about who I was and why I was here. And I just…couldn’t. I had no idea where my values lay. I wasn’t even sure what I valued in myself anymore. I was empty. Because I had been pouring myself into a void.

Sobbing into my pillow, I realized I had turned my back on my desires, and dug into the shoulds and shouldn’ts that had been fed to me over decades. I had found the “perfect on paper” person for me, well-heeled and well-educated. Good-looking, and with a stable career. And I had left myself out of the equation. I had married someone for what I thought I should marry. 

It would take me another whole year to actually be ready to express my desires. Another whole year of digging my heels into my life, and trying to find which way was up.

 Finally, I left.

And it was the hardest thing I have ever done.

Because…despite it being the right thing? Letting go of an “us,” a mystical conjoining of two people, no matter how important, hurts. It burns. A divorce is one of the most public displays of failure, and for a recovering perfectionist, having your love life on display for the masses as it burns to the ground isn’t easy.

Divorce is one of the most difficult processes, no matter how right it is. In all the wrongness that was my marriage, the separation opened up so much that was right. I won’t say I am proud that I had to uncouple from my wife. I’m not. It’s deeply painful.

But, in the uncoupling, I learned the most important lesson. 

To let go.

Let go of the expectations others had thrust on me. 
Let go of the “steps” I thought I was supposed to follow.
Allow the facade I’d crafted to melt away, and dig into me.

And, most importantly? In all the pain and grief that followed, I found an ability to suck the juice out of life. Find what feeds my soul. And grab life by the hands…and dance with her.

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About the Author | Makenna Held

Makenna Held is an author, entrepreneur, & leadership coach for high-achieving humans looking to expand their capacity to lead–personally, in their communities, and careers. A globe-trotting nomad, she finds herself most often drawn to Macon, GA and the South of France. You'll often find her cooking up a storm in the former summer home of Julia Child, where she runs the Courageous Cooking School.

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