Two and a half years ago, I was stuck in a transition that was taking far too long to unfold and it didn’t feel good at all.
I was full of angst and had been for months. I had reached what I knew was the end of my career in non-profit, and yet my plans to quit and start my own business had fallen through. My husband’s new job hadn’t worked out the way he’d hoped and he was back to working as a substitute teacher. Our income wasn’t stable enough for me to make the change I’d hoped for, and yet I’d dreamed of it for a long, long time and was confident I was being called to something new and couldn’t let it go.
I was standing in my room at ALIA Summer Institute holding my favourite silver necklace. I’d come to the institute for something – either the inspiration that would help me re-engage in the work I’d once loved, or some sign that I should take the leap into the new work despite the financial insecurity it would cause.
The thin chain on the necklace I was holding was completely tangled – wrapped around the triple spiral pendant. I struggled with it for awhile – tugging, unwinding, trying to pinch the chain between my fingernails to grasp it enough to untie the knots. It wasn’t working. Determined though, I would not give up the struggle.
And then the necklace slipped from my fingers and dropped to the floor. There it lay at my feet, perfectly untangled. Perfectly ready to be worn as it was made to be worn.
I took a deep breath. The metaphor hit me instantly. Let it drop, give up the struggle, and that which is tangled becomes untangled.
Something inside me shifted in that moment as I stood there looking at that necklace. I knew I needed to let go of the struggle and trust that my situation would be untangled. I was hanging on by my fingernails, trying to force the change rather than trusting that the right thing would emerge when the timing was right.
That week at ALIA changed my life. It felt like a homecoming to a place I’d never been. I was surrounded by my tribe – the people I had been longing to meet who were doing the kind of work I longed to do. I took deep dives into conversations that made me weep. I opened my heart to people I knew would become lifelong friends. I was raw and open and ready to be changed.
That week, I practiced letting go. I surrendered the outcome, the timing, and the direction. I released my grip and trusted that God would untangle the future.
I went home from ALIA, returned to my work, and waited. Every day, I made a conscious decision to trust. A month later, things shifted again and finally clarity arrived. I was asked to teach a course that would at least offer some financial stability in my early years of self-employment, and I had the strong sense that this was the open door I was looking for. The necklace was finally untangling.
In the two and a half years of self-employment since, I’ve had to let go of a lot of figurative necklaces. There have been many times when I’ve found myself once again flooded with angst over the lack of financial stability. And yet, each time I let go of the necklace and give up the illusion that I am in control, things have worked out in their own timing. Despite my worries, I’ve always been able to pay my bills and feed my family.
Now I’m finally in a place where I have more work than I need and I’ve had to turn down a few clients I’d really love to work with. It’s taken a lot of time and a lot of trust to get to this place. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights, and I’ve worried more than I should have. Unfortunately, I haven’t given up all of those very human tendencies – I know that there will be more mistakes and more sleepless nights in the future.
In all of this, though, I keep relearning an important lesson.
Let go of the necklace. Quit trying to control the outcome. Trust. Surrender.
Perhaps you are in the position I was two and a half years ago, hanging onto that necklace that represents your future. Perhaps you’re full of angst and your fingernails are nearly bleeding because you’re hanging on so tightly to the outcome. You want clarity desperately and you want it NOW. You’ve struggled and you’ve agonized, and still the necklace remains tied up in knots.
It may seem counter-intuitive, but the future will unfold the way it’s supposed to only if you loosen your grip and let go. You can’t force a flower to bloom before its time. You can’t pry a butterfly out of the cocoon before it has fully formed.
You can only let go, trust the Divine, and take whatever small step is clear on the path in front of you.
Surrender may be the hardest thing you’ll ever do, but in the end, it will be worth it.