The moving finger writes,
and having writ
Moves on. Nor all your piety
Can lure it back to cancel
half a line,
Nor all your tears wash
out a word of it.
I kept this framed poem in my room at university. The words helped me to let go of things that needed letting go—bad grades, big mistakes, over-indulgences.
Now I’m an older suburban mom, and my moving finger has written a lot. Most lines I wouldn’t choose to cancel. I want to cling to memories of the fresh way my children smelled when they came in from playing in the rain, the sound of my son’s toddler laugh, and the way the sun lit up my daughter’s blond hair when she ran across the park behind our house. I want to stop time and cling to all those joyful things. But I have to let go. The moving finger insists upon it.
Letting go is an acquired, and necessary, skill. I foster it in my son during his baseball games. He’s a pitcher, and if a batter hits a grand slam off one of his pitches, he has to let it go. If not, the rest of the game (and any hope of a pleasant atmosphere in the car on the ride home) is ruined. He has to learn from the experience—which pitches to throw, or not throw, to which batters—and let go.
Everyone who knows me well knows that I idolize Roger Federer, professional tennis player. In my opinion, he is the greatest tennis player in history, and he owes his success to his outstanding skill AND his ability to let go. Never count Federer out of a match. If he misses a shot, he doesn’t dwell on the mistake. He learns from it, lets it go and moves on to success.
We like to cling to things, don’t we? We cling to cherished possessions. That’s fine, unless our house begins to look like an episode of Hoarders. We cling to our children. That’s fine, unless we smother them and prevent them from learning to manage their own lives. We cling to our mistakes. That’s fine, unless we get mired in believing that a mistake defines us and forget to learn the lesson and move on.
Letting go leads to success. We can follow the example of Nelson Mandela who let go of resentments about his years in prison. Without bitterness to stumble over, he moved forward to inspire us to seek justice and peace.
“The best pitchers have a short-term memory and a bullet–proof confidence.“ —Greg Maddux