Sunday, June 28, 2009
Just Let Go
For my summer job, I work with words, spending my time writing just to have someone come along and either scrap it or hack it to pieces. That’s how it goes.
Today, for instance, I wrote two articles for a project that my co-worker is compiling; finally it came time for her to look over my work. She scooted her chair over to me and started revving up the motor on her 'chainsaw'. We managed to cut a 550 word essay down to 300, and a 433 word essay down to 320.
Anyone who writes for leisure knows that writing is an extension of yourself; just like your nose, your ears, or fingers, it’s an appendage not a product. Or, in another analogy, writing is akin to smearing your heart on paper.
I like my writing in general; it’s like a child—I've labored to get it out and given it life. I was used to having my work scrutinized in college when I was a writing major and when I interned at a newspaper, so it's not that I don't think there isn't room for improvement; it's just that I don't want anyone mutilating it.
I won’t lie—it hurts sometimes to see the words fall away; it's like watching my hair drifting down to the floor after someone has cut it off. In general, I'm fairly easy to convince to hit the delete button, the backspace. But some of the words I insist remain—they are there for a purpose. Fitting the right words—I mean the right words, the ones that are the best of the millions we have in our language-- is sometimes not an easy task; yet when I find that right word, it falls into place like the thump of a tumbler. After all, a 'look' doesn’t connotate a 'glance or a stare.' Have you ever considered the different connotations of stomach, gut, tummy, abdomen, and belly? All carry a different feel or meaning. You wouldn't say that a pregnant woman has a swollen gut. Nor would you say that the obese man needs to lose weight off his tummy. There are just different words for different occassions.
So while my writing is and always will be a part of me, my new job has made me realize the importance of separating myself from my work, to remove offense, but not to remove my pride in my work. I’ve learned how to write for the business as a service, rather than latching so tightly to my writing as my child.
But a deeper lesson that I've learned, as I've watched the paper drop into the trashcan, or dragged the document into the trash bin, or watched my entire essay dissolve under the delete button, is that letting go is what life is all about. Parents raise a child only to let him go to college or to marriage. You make friends merely to let them go when life moves them on; you make money just to let it go to the restaurants and bills; and we have burdens that we're supposed to just let go to God.
I've never been good at letting go. Even small things are difficult for me to release; I’ve never been able to hula hoop, because I won’t let go of the ring.
But God knew that the first step of any great thing is letting go. He let go of His Son to come save us. Love is letting go.
I’ve always been intrigued by the quotation that my parents always told me: “If you love something let it go. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it isn’t and never was.” (Or, as my dad modified it, “If it comes back it’s yours, if it doesn’t—hunt it down and kill it!”) I think this loving/letting go combination springs from the idea of imprisonment, from the idea of realizing the significance of freedom. When we cling to anything too tightly, it is bound to choke, to perish, fade, or in the least, despair.
Letting go—it seems so easy, but is so hard sometimes. You’ve got to love it before you can let it go, and you have to let it go if you love it.