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Release Me

A Mother's Lesson on Letting Go

By Isabel Gillies, New York Times bestselling author of Happens Every Day

As purple crocuses push through the earth and kids start to wear windbreakers instead of parkas, it feels like everyone on earth gets a new beginning. It's exciting, and makes you want to breath deeper, smile more freely, stay a little longer. But shaking off winter can also be hard. A dark January day may allow for deeper thought and healing.

When the father of my children chose to leave our marriage for a different life, it was fall. What was happening outside matched the changes taking place under my roof. Leaves cascaded from branches, sweeping things away, confusing everything. We had spent the summer together. We had just plunked down on beach towels; we had just eaten dirty carrots from the garden; we had just slept in our bed with the window wide open. I held on, grabbing the thick, green grass of summer, and fought to stay in the sun with him. But there was nothing I could do.

When he was really gone, winter set in, and I was left clutching blades of grass that had ripped off in my hands. I dressed my kids in layers of sweaters and fleece, not allowing them to feel how cold it really was. I made broth and hot toast. We took naps. Somewhere, their dad was surviving the winter on his own. And as much as I wanted to hope that he would make his way back to us, I knew deep down he wouldn't. I had to let go.

I've never made myself say goodbye to my old life forever. I simply turned it into something else. Letting go is really just accepting that something has to be different — useful in a new way than it was previously.

Many of us have a hard time accepting difference and change. We fight it, but sometimes (really, most of the time), fighting it is a useless endeavor. The challenge is to understand that change can be strengthening — ultimately making us smarter and cooler people.

Sometimes, the things I thought I let go of, or transformed, remain inside and remind me of a season I thought was past. It's like seeing a little patch of snow next to a gathering of daffodils. You just have to look at the snow and know that, once it melts and sinks into the earth, it will feed those pretty yellow flowers.

BUY NOW: Happens Every Day: An All-Too-True Story, $15

  • Gillies' memoir is now available in paperback on Amazon.com

    Courtesy of Scribner
Release Me
A Mother's Lesson on Letting Go
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