This Is What Letting Go Feels Like

I’ve always been a really sentimental person.  That’s a bit of a nicer way of saying I struggle with letting go.

I tend to attach meaning and value to even the smallest of things: a message written on a paper napkin; some free New Year’s necklaces handed out on a great date; the multiple copies of Wuthering Heights that my Dad has gifted to me over the years (Dad sometimes forgets what books he has or hasn’t bought me so for a while I was the proud owner of multiple copies of various classics).

This is especially true for music and oddly enough, television and movies.  I can sometimes go a bit overboard with music, in the sense that once I have found a song or an album that I really connect to I can happily play it on repeat for months.

The Garden State soundtrack instantly brings me back to the summer I was home from New Zealand.  I had just moved back after a year and a half away, and was dating someone who was incredibly sweet and lovely.  He had introduced me to the soundtrack, and it followed me through our summer together of evening swims at the beach, and drives out to Gatineau Park for hikes.

U2’s City of Lights reminds me of the weeks leading up to Christmas of 2004 and some really great conversations I had with my good friend Jan, while we were in New Zealand.

The Art of Noise’s The Seduction of Claude Debussy makes me think of Christmas of 2006 and a bit into the New Year of 2007, when my second Northwestern Ontario winter started to get to me, when I had the album on heavy rotation.

A few year’s back, perhaps my favourite musician of all time, Patrick Watson released his album Love Songs for Robots.  While it was released in the spring of 2015 I think I didn’t really get around to giving it a listen until December of that year.  By that point, I had been lucky enough to finally see Patrick Watson live at CityFolk, with my friend Cliff and we were set to venture off a little further into Quebec to see him headline his own show about a week before Christmas.  December of 2015 was a time when there was a bit of a reprieve from all of the madness that had been happening.  Dad was finally beginning to enjoy what we would later discover was a short lived recovery; it was a super mild December with no snow (while I love snow, I remember that year I didn’t mind too much the fact that we had had none of it, as I was walking and hour to and from work and the clear sidewalks made the walk that much easier); I was feeling good in my skin and things were generally looking up.

By the time Love Songs for Robots was on high rotation, I met Ian and was really enjoying the time we were spending together as we got to know one another-the whole excitement of a new relationship is one of the nicer things in life I love.

All around, good things were happening.  And I was listening to the album non-stop.  And loving it.

A few months later, around April of 2016, Dad’s health began to turn.  My then job was really starting to wear on me.  I was likely coming into full burnout by that point, despite the short reprieve during the Christmas season which seemed to indicate life was going to be okay again.

The combination of stress at work, and the anxiety and fear I was experiencing with regards to Dad’s health took a pretty big piece out of me.  By early May of that same year, a friend had passed from cancer.  We were never very close, but Laura was such a beautiful and sweet soul that I was especially touched by her death.  I had been quietly following her various posts on Facebook throughout her journey and reading the blog that she had been writing.  And then she was gone.

Self-care was, as it had always been: pretty non-existent, and it was around that time when I stopped doing a lot of the things I loved.   One of the things I love most is music and how I feel when I listen to it.

Love Songs for Robots, as with all of my other music went on the shelf and I stopped listening.

I stopped listening for a variety of reasons, but perhaps the main reason was that listening to music that had enveloped such an amazing period (a period that seemed to be over) hurt.  A lot.  It was painful to go back to something that marked such a positive time, when at the moment, it seemed like everything was collapsing.

Fast-forward to earlier this year when I was really feeling the effects of burnout and the rest of the world appeared to dissolve in my Mom’s own health issues, and the shift in my relationship with Ian and Love Songs for Robots elicited even more hurt and pain.  Mostly because I was so desperately holding onto certain things that at the time I couldn’t let go of.  And I was associating those things with that album.  Love Songs for Robots reminded me of everything that had changed.  Of everything that was different.  Of everything I thought I had lost.

Something happened somewhere in the last several months.  I was able to put Love Songs for Robots on again, and I didn’t melt into a pool of tears.  In listening to it, I was surprised that it didn’t elicit feelings of longing and ache.  In re-discovering it, I was able to listen to it and enjoy it for what it is: really good music.  There was nothing, and no one attached to the album.

2017 has been a really interesting year.  Because I have come to appreciate  that there are lessons in everything, I am hesitant to call 2017 a total dumpster fire.  It has been a year of some really tough lessons and experiences, but I know I have come out far stronger than I ever imagined I would.

Despite my need to hold onto things, 2017 started off with a purge of items-specifically books-that I felt the need to let go of.  The purge theme has continued on, steadily for the majority of the year, with my consistent de-cluttering.  I’ve carried things around with me for ages.  I’ve dragged them from one end of the province to the other and back again, and I’ve brought them with me for the 3 moves I have made since being back in the Ottawa/Gatineau area.

This year, even though I didn’t set out for it to be, and I don’t think I even realized it at the time, has been a year of letting go.  Some stuff has been harder to release than others, but there has been a change.

I realize too, in re-discovering Love Songs for Robots, that I have let go of a lot of emotional baggage.

I’ve been working really diligently on the concept of letting go, for months now.  Sometimes, as Ian points out, I have a tendency of getting too much in my head.  A lot of the time, I don’t have the perspective to appreciate just how far I have come and how much progress I have made.

It’s in the small moments then, where, without much forethought or regard I put on a piece of music and can completely immerse myself in the beauty of it, without feeling the tugs of holding on, where I see how capable I am and how much I’ve grown.

Well done Olivia.

With Love,

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Olivia Shaw

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