And Why Exercising that Choice Matters
People may think of giving up as surrendering, relinquishing responsibility, admitting defeat.
Giving up on something or someone might simply be deciding your time is no longer worth the hassle of dealing with said person, thing, or issue. Ultimately coming to recognize that your space within the universe is valuable, precious and limited.
You are beginning to make informed choices to surrender what no longer works. The last couple of years have catapulted this mindset into action.
Giving Up Control
I am on the other side of having less years left than lived. And with all that is going on, I seem to be contemplating this reality a great deal lately. Not just because of my age but because of the state of the world which quietly and consistently haunts my daily existence.
As an artist, I see and feel things intensely. So the idea of giving up on something does not come without trepidation. And because I am a realist, I understand the need to come to terms with what is not working. Denial only causes me pain and internal suffering.
Being in control is one area I have chosen to surrender. I admit defeat and I am not ashamed about it either.
As humans there is little we control outside of our own bodies and minds. And even that is being called into question as of late. The only control in my purview are personal responses to any given situation or person. Do I want to rant, rave, stomp my feet, make myself physically and emotionally sick? Or do I want to quietly move through the banter and seek other solutions?
I am choosing to carefully select my battles with the knowledge I can control little else.
Lessons in Surrendering
As a parent of a daughter who suffered years of substance use, I understand viscerally and intimately what loss of control really means. My personal and parental ego led me to believe I alone could make her stop sabotaging her life.
No parent has complete control over their children, unless they choose to lock them in a cage or they live in some parental fantasy world.
The more I attempted to manipulate my daughter’s life during this time, the more distance I created between her reality and mine. My reality was to swoop in and save her. Her reality, she was not consciously looking to be saved.
My daughter’s existence involved surrendering her emotional, psychological and physical pain to chemicals that would alleviate her suffering. Giving up those vehicles often seemed out of reach.
When she was in a period of forced recovery, she often acquiesced her own needs in favor of helping others. Which simply served as another numbing agent in the addiction cycle and avoidance of her own self care.
As my daughter grew weary of attempting to control her anguish through substance use, she began the slow and formidable path of admitting defeat.
This stage is a harrowing one for addicts, because they do not know how (or do not care) to function without the crutch of drugs and/or alcohol. They are stuck in the illusion that freedom is already theirs. They are free to disengage from reality, from the oppressive mess their world was/is without the fixes on which they have come to rely.
As my daughter labored along her journey toward a healthier kind of freedom, she taught me the importance of giving up my parental need to control. In its place, I exercised compassion, love and acted as a sounding board. Surrendering my need to direct the narrative and to just listen.
Surrendering the Fallacy: With Age Comes Wisdom
I have given up the idea that because I am of a certain age and have a lifetime of experiences, I know more than those younger than me.
The only wisdom people possess revolve around their own personal experiences and subjective observances. Experiences that are never and can never be the same for any one person.
So we can spout off about, “Well, when I was your age, I did this and this and that and that…blah, blah, blah”.
Because the world is changing rapidly, there are few experiences that will mirror those of a 60 year old and a 25 year old.
Sure there may be generalities, but often those feel condescending and disrespectful to the recipient. Not to mention devaluing their own lived experiences.
My daughter’s situation is a perfect example. I used to rattle off advice to her about my own teenage years (1970’s) and how our experiences were similar. I got through it and so would she. Ill advised and disrespectful on my part. In addition, I was devaluing her individualism. Not to mention, I did not suffer from substance use.
When we impart personal wisdom, our delivery and tone is what will render that advice acceptable to the recipient. Being humble in our approach, surrendering our ego is how our words and actions will resonate.
I have an innate love of learning and know damn well my knowledge is limited at best. The more I learn, the more I realize what I do not know. I keep this thought close when the urge to impart wisdom emerges.
Giving up on the Notion of Knowledge As Power
My education has taught me that seeking knowledge is indeed a kind of power. A power that cannot be taken away.
Although, what knowledge we gain can be overshadowed. We see this played out every single day with the massive amounts of misinformation being spewed into the universe.
Knowledge can be used against us to further personal gains and agendas. Education itself is being undermined by extreme views, the religious right and a select few who feel they know what is best for everyone. Educators and Scientists are seen as master manipulators, groomers, quacks, wolves in sheeps clothing, etc.
People are having difficulty keeping up with the lightning fast speed of how and where knowledge is procured. Parsing out fact and fiction seems to be too much work. So people resort to what they know and refuse to budge. Their ego has trapped them as they fear change, disregarding anything new or different as crazy or unfounded.
On the other hand, being open to the fact that life is one giant learning opportunity that never ends is a power unto itself. Learning has got to be fluid as new information strikes us from all directions, rendering us dizzy.
The internet has transformed access to knowledge for everyone, the good, the bad and the ugly. Seeking what is fact versus fiction or mere opinion is a full time endeavor.
Moderation is necessary to keep our sanity somewhat in check.
Making the Choice
When we finally make the choice to give something up we are giving ourselves some space and more importantly, value. There is so much freedom in letting someone or something go. Everyone and everything involved benefits from this act of surrender. The initial discomfort and disorientation is part of the process. Feel it, live in it, but then surrender it.
My experience along with my age has led me to a place where I make rational choices (most of the time) as to how I will express my rants and raves. I choose to respond to the universe by creating art. This has been and continues as my strategy to save me from myself and the insanity that exists everywhere.
Crafting words into purposeful paragraphs and journaling to streamline my subconscious and conscious thoughts are another savior. In addition, writing provides a digestible framework that the general public can grab onto.
Words and visual images connect us all in ways we are often unaware. At least until faced with the beauty and poignancy presented when we most need them.
Image: Natural Effusion, acrylic on canvas 16″ x 20″
This acrylic painting depicts the natural process of letting go, surrendering the excess.
I like to use minimal hues in my work so the basic elements of texture, shape, movement, value, pattern can be felt without the distraction of too much color. I favor the method of dripping paint because I am fascinated with how and where the paint flows naturally. Sometimes I will move the canvas around to manipulate the drips to some extent.
In this piece several hues were wet and dripping together forming interesting alliances. A kind of vulnerability we see in our own lives when we let things go, allowing new connections to occur naturally.