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The Alchemy of Letting Go

The pilot’s voice sounded light-hearted as he announced, “Please fasten your seat belts. We’ve been advised there will be some turbulence on our descent into Houston.” Less than a minute later the plane jerked to the left, then to the right, then dropped just enough in altitude to make my stomach lurch. Bracing myself, with clenched hands around the arm rests and eyes squeezed shut, I tried to breathe away my panic. Suddenly a young boy’s voice filled the air.

“Papi! Velocidad máxima! Velocidad máxima!” ("Daddy! Maximum speed! Maximum speed!")

Over and over he repeated the same words in his excited, little-boy voice. Despite the bumpy ride I opened my eyes and smiled. The plane seemed to speed up even more, yet I found myself unclenching my hands and grinning as simultaneously the turbulence disappeared, the boy shouted "Wheeeeee!" and the wheels and runway met in a perfect landing.

On the return flight home I came across these words in the novel The Muralist, by B.A. Shapiro: “It all becomes possible when your preconceptions are put away…It’s when you’re not looking, when it comes looking for you.” Out of nowhere a long-held apprehension had been transformed by a child’s mantra of delight. As the plane touched down, I whispered “Wheeeeee!”

Letting go turns the leaden weight of habit into the liberating gold of lightness, a lasting sense felt deep in the body that is part relief, part joy, and part exhilaration. And yes, that’s me in the photo, letting go in 1957. My smile is wide as I write this. Maybe letting go is also part remembering…


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