Letting Go: Reclaiming My Write to Be

A notebook, pen and several wads of crumpled paper

Today, I felt like myself for the first time in over two weeks.

I didn’t wake up feeling like myself. I woke up with the sense of dread that I had been feeling for the last 15+ days welling up inside me, knotting my stomach, making it hard to think and harder to feel, waking me up earlier than I should be awake and making me tired far too early.

But, in therapy today, I came to a realization, one that I have needed for a long time.

When I was young, I loved to write.

And I wrote for myself.

For me, writing was my place to be.

Writing was a way for me to create the me that I wanted to be, because no one was ever going to read the silly words of a little girl.

At some point along the way, maybe when I won my first creative writing contest, maybe when I started getting good grades on essays, maybe in college and graduate school, writing became a way to earn recognition. It became less about myself, my identity, my words, my stories, and more about my worth.

I began to write for others.

Today, part of my professional life is writing for others. I love that type of writing. It is important. It is a way for me to use my voice, the skills I have, and the knowledge I’ve gained to speak to others that are not in close proximity.

I also keep this blog and am active on social media. I love that type of writing too. It allows me to connect and express myself, honestly and authentically. It feels like a place to be seen and heard.

But, today, I also decided to reclaim my right to write for myself, to have my own space and place to let things out and let them go.

So I wrote, in a notebook, with (two) pen(s) (the first one ran out of ink mid-page).

And then I did something that was freeing.

I ripped out the page.

I crumpled it up.

I threw it away.

I struggled with the act of ripping out the page.

For one, I did not write on the back side of the page and I hate wasting blank paper.

Additionally, the words felt important, a reflection on lessons I’ve learned today, which were important.

I spent time on those words. My future self might need those words. My children might want to hold on to me through those words.

Or, they might want to hold on to me through my presence.

Perhaps those words, re-reading them, holding on to them, predicting how my present self could counsel my future self instead of just letting my present self be, could be released.

So, I did it.

I ripped out the page.

I crumpled it up.

I threw it away.

I could literally feel the freedom in every moment, from the ripping of the page, to the crumpling of it in my hands to its placement in the recycling bin.

I will still write this blog. I will still write the academic pieces that are part of my professional life. I will still write for others.

But I will now also write for myself, perhaps to keep, perhaps to let go, but mostly, to be.

I am moving towards freedom.

It is not a linear path.

But it is in forward motion today.

I am letting go.

Walking freely and forward and in love.

And in doing so, I am returning to the home that I have longed for so much.

One Breath, One Step, One Moment

"and breathe" written in purple script against a green leafy background

Whatever is so is what’s good enough in this moment.

Breath by breath.

Step by step.

Moment by moment.

Let go of what is not in my control.

But don’t drop things and run in panic.

I am doing the best I can in this moment.

Everyone else is too.

So many people are trying so hard.

As an individual, I can only hold, impact, take on, so much.

And it’s all so much.

It’s such an exhausting time.

Breath by breath.

Step by step.

Moment by moment.

The Space Between

word gratitude in script with golden sunset in background

This week was extremely hard for me.

I kept going and going and going despite all the signs that I was doing too much.

But I was wise today.

I made space for the people that would tell me that I needed to stop.

And, at the end of the day, with the call where there was no set purpose, I listened.

When my mother died, I frantically tried to reestablish normalcy as quickly as possible. I went back to school the Monday after she passed. I did not miss a single day of school because of her death. I worked as hard as I could, laser focused on my goal of becoming valedictorian so I could honor her in my speech.

And I have always done this. Doing more because the grief seems both more and less bearable when I am overachieving. More bearable because I can avoid it. Less bearable because it is never resolved. There is never space to just be.

This year, although I know better, I still continued to push myself beyond my limits.

I know I was trying to prove myself this week because, although I know better, I became deeply attached to the actions of others.

And that, as it inevitably does, made me doubt myself.

But, in conversation with my friend Tyrone today, I was reminded that the lives, choices, and actions of others are both out of my locus of control and not in response to me.

And that shift opened the space I so desperately needed.

It was a reminder to focus on what I could control and let go of those things that are not my load to bear.

I am grateful for the chiseled cracks in my armor etched by my community today. Questions about joy, concerns about my health and well-being, reminders that I am important not for any thing that I do, but because of who I am. Reminders that I have to prioritize myself and my health because all the things will get done or they won’t, but I am not replaceable to those who love me.

I know all these things.

But the space reminds me to feel them.

This week was extremely hard for me, but it is over, and I am still here.

This weekend, I will rest and regroup.

And try again on Monday.

Gratitude in Grief – 100 days and 26 years

three bunches of flowers in front of two grave markers

I just want to pause to tell my community thank you.

It was an incredibly long day.

There was much emotion.

It was my daughter’s 100th day of kindergarten. The 100th day celebration was new to me when my son had it 9 years ago (and actually had it in both kindergarten and 1st grade, in Chinese and then in English, but I digress), but this time, we were prepared. In spite of 100 days of distance learning, her outstanding teacher put together a beautiful at-home celebration package including a Korean-English 100 days crown & a silicone 100 days bracelet. We added 100 go stones for our girl to count. She had a great day.

It was the 26th anniversary of my mom’s death today. Time was suspended 26 years ago, as my mom passed on a Friday when there was no school, giving me a full weekend of weird liminality before I went back to my normal life (I really don’t know what happened that weekend, where I slept, what I did). The day, I remember, but I remember its emptiness, rather than any fullness. I remember myself trying to record the memories of those moments in my mind because I knew I wouldn’t be the same after.

Today, however, was a day like many others — full of meetings: some I attended, some I led, some I engaged in, as if I was my whole self, today, which I am never really fully on this day of the year. Sometimes I pretend, like I did today, because my schedule is full and I could not avoid the normalcy. In better years (perhaps not in global pandemics), I give myself more grace and space. Today, my schedule was full, but in more moments than not, my heart was empty. I will likely not record any memories of today except that it is the 100 days celebration of my last baby and it fell on the anniversary of my mother’s death.

What I am grateful for, however, is the space to speak my truth, and the openness to receive love of those who walk alongside me in love and in grief.

This morning, already exhausted, I posted on Twitter about the emotions of today. I immediately received many messages of love and solidarity. Throughout the day, friends texted and messaged me to check on me, offering to talk if I needed anything. My husband ordered me food although I did not feel like eating. My children made me laugh. In one of my many meetings, I reconnected with a former credential student who it was a joy to hear from again. I got to participate in a community chat that reminded me to reclaim my leadership even in moments of vulnerability.

There are sparks of joy in the sorrow.

February 3 is never easy for me.

It is always heavy, and usually hard.

But it reminds me of the deep roots that cannot be breached by death, roots of love and of ancestry, of strength of character and survival, of freedom and faith, of community and support.

So I end today sad, as is to be expected, but grounded in gratitude, and buoyed by love. My mother’s love, my family’s love, my community’s love.