We’ve had the experience of letting go a lot this summer. We’ve had to let go of our expectations and plans…let go of our mapped out summer goals for Dorothy’s teenage son…let go of aging parents, as Dorothy’s mom and dad near end of life…and with all of the above, let go of time together enjoying the warm weather, weekend trips away, biking, hiking, kayaking and the luxury of relaxation. The letting go and the holding on has been a delicate balance for the two of us. At times, we do it in similar ways but we also do it differently. And in our differences we continue to practice holding the relationship together in the midst.
I, Kelli, am speaking for Dorothy since she is currently in California with her brother moving their parents into assisted living and hospice, due to their declining health. Dorothy has been traveling back and forth monthly over the past five months supporting her parents. At the same time, she is juggling a son, still at home, a daughter now living on her own, a partner, me, and a demanding job. I think that sums it up. It’s a lot to hold onto and a lot to let go of, for her.
My experience of holding on and letting go has been a challenging balancing act, too. My family is not front and center right now. I’m on the outside, looking in and participating as a support person. I have influence in the decisions being made but I am not the one making the decisions. My letting go has centered around letting go of the decisions that both directly and indirectly impact me and allowing the outcomes to unfold, without losing myself in all of it.
How do I feel? It’s simple and it’s complex. To borrow an apt quote from another, and one that well describes me professionally and personally, as a writer, a therapist, and a partner: “The past, the present, and the future walked into a bar. It was tense.”~ Unknown author.
When the past intersects with the present and future hopes and expectations loom in the distance, life can become tangled. And if you think dealing with your family is difficult; try navigating others’ families; their habits, their patterns, and their systems. For me, I do it coming and going…in work, at home, and in writing. And the truth is…I chose this. Letting go for me has been a lifelong lesson of learning when to insert influence and guidance, to others, and to myself, and when to let go, walk away and let the line play out…a phrase I’m borrowing from Dorothy, who reminds me of this frequently. With all my good intentions to help family and organizational systems along, I have to remember what is mine to do and what is not.
With all the current changes and transitions, I’ve had successes and failures in my efforts to remain calm and balanced. Work, family members health and circumstances, have taken center stage versus Dorothy and my needs and wants. Day by day, I remain tenacious and persistent. A family trait that I’ve had to learn to express in new ways, mainly the letting go part.
Dorothy and Kelli speak
I, Kelli, am once again speaking for the two of us. Although I, Kelli, can truly only speak for myself. Letting go has proven to be a step-by-step process for me. I’ve had some anxious and lonely days and nights traversing all the family and work obligations and demands these past months…contributing more with co-parenting, taking care of the household, and allowing the fallouts and uneasy situations to pass. I’ve tried to be fully present when Dorothy and I have time to recreate and relax together. I’ve tried to lean into the things that bring me joy and learn to be grateful in those moments. I’ve tried to enjoy time alone and time with friends.
I’ve missed having an easier flow this summer. I would’ve preferred a different “plan.” I wanted more quality time with Dorothy and less stress for both of us. I fear that the sunny days will end and the rainy, gray fall will come too soon limiting outdoor activities and weekend travels.
In addition, I’ve had my own obligations to attend to and complete. The past two months have been spent working non-stop revising and editing my novel manuscript to submit to a writer/editor for review. I’ve needed to find creative writing space amidst daily responsibilities and concerns. Overall, I think I did well but it was a challenge to create that time and space for myself.
As for Dorothy, based on our conversations and interactions, I know her balancing act of holding on and letting go, layered with the grief and loss due to her parents’ decline, has proved to be overwhelming and unmanageable at times.
Our Relationship speaks
Kelli and Dorothy are practicing and learning how to hold on to what is sacred in their relationship while letting go of control and expectations. They know that letting go doesn’t mean letting go of everything, losing control, having no expectations, and falling into chaos. They know the relationship needs expectations, structure, intentions, and commitments. However, during periods of change and transition, Dorothy and Kelli have to continuously revisit and revise their expectations. Their core values remain the same but the details and the paths are evolving with every new challenge and opportunity.
Dorothy and Kelli come apart and together through it all. They know enough about each other to anticipate responses and reactions and allow for differences. They reach for compassion and understanding, knowing that they each have their own unique perceptions of situations. They don’t always see eye to eye. Arguing and conflicts rear up and stubbornness threatens to unhinge them at times.
Ultimately, Dorothy and Kelli are committed to leaning in to love and trust. They take care of their relationship. They practice self-care and find ways to care for each other and they acknowledge the validity of each of their experiences.
The lesson plan is filled with challenges, trials, failures, successes, and most of all love…and the journey continues!
Kelli Williamson holds a Master of Arts degree in Marriage, Family, and Child Counseling from The School of Leadership and Education at the University of San Diego. Kelli has extensive experience working with couples, children and families. She has worked in private practice and held leadership positions in non-profit organizations directing counseling services, supervising staff and interns, and providing training in child and family therapy. In addition, she consults with non-profit agencies providing organizational development and leadership training.
Dorothy (Bosteder) Emerson graduated from the University of California at Davis with a degree in Economics. She is a Senior Product Manager in the banking industry and has served on the board of directors for non-profit agencies serving women and children. Dorothy has expertise in building relationships by facilitating communication and collaboration while navigating complex systems. Dorothy is also the mother of two teenagers and she offers clarity and focus on listening to and following one’s heart as a parent.
Dorothy and Kelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.