This post originally appeared on elephantjournal.com
I selected a delicate teacup from the collection displayed on Joy’s kitchen countertop.
Joy is a woman I call a friend, therapist, and guide. She poured two cups of hot, green tea. We sat down in a pair of window-facing, sunlit chairs in her living room.
Joy listened as I spilled my fresh, tear-stained stories:
“My dream isn’t working out. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. My head hurts. My heart aches.”
But once unburdened, my warrior-self rose back up, sword in hand:
“I will do whatever is necessary to sustain this dream. I will shape it through all its life stages. I will do anything to hold on. Whatever. It. Takes.”
My eyes, now dry, gleamed as I sought confirmation from Joy. She smiled and said gently:
“Keri, it’s time to let it go. This dream doesn’t belong to you anymore.”
My body reeled as if I’d been struck. In a way, I was: struck by the truth.
I believe that inside every human being awaits an infinite number of creative seeds. They are possibilities, potentialities. If planted and tended, they can unfold into something concrete and visible in the world—a book, a song, a piece of art, or like mine was, a business. They can also be intangible, like the creation of a conversation that flows just as we’ve imagined.
Creation is why we are here on this planet. Creation is the contract we have with our soul. As a society, we should and do usher in one another’s new life chapters with rituals, celebrations, parties, food, and congratulations.
But every birthed idea, every undertaking, every fresh experience, must someday die.
And when it comes to how to deal with that death, society is overwhelmingly silent. We don’t know what to do or say.
We don’t want to bring it up or shed too much light on it. No one pats us on the back or brings us a cake when we announce our dream’s demise.
Joy did understand the whole of my situation. She’d been present at my dream’s birth and witnessed its first shallow breaths. So, I allowed her words of truth to drop down into my body. I sighed heavily. More tears rolled.
Surprisingly, they did not taste like sadness. They tasted like relief. An overwhelming sense of freedom washed over me like a tide, carrying me into a wet, messy, playful laughter.
Leaving her house that day, I knew I had an opportunity to regain much of what I’d lost: First, my voice, which I’d lost literally several times and metaphorically for months.
Then, my free time, currently spent either pacing around my garden or sitting frozen on the couch for hours. After that my health, given I was eating mostly rice and drinking a lot of red wine.
Next, my contentment, which I had traded for constant worry. Finally, my relationships. I still cringe remembering that while I was fighting for my dream, I neglected to call my mom on Mother’s Day.
Yes, I had planted the seed. But the time had come for us to part ways in peace.
Looking back, it is easy to see how right Joy’s guidance was. Looking back, I can also see the fear that drove me to hang on so long. It was a fear of facing the world with failure dragging behind me. The fear of the shame I felt certain would follow. The fear that whispers in our ear that we are nothing if not our earthly manifestations.
This is not a unique story for me. I’m often overcome with an urge to plant a wild seed in the earth’s rich soil. Many times before, I have announced: “This is it! Wait till you see what I’ve planted now!”
And more than a few times, I’ve had to walk away and let a dream die. These deaths are often braided with grief, denial, resistance, and sometimes passionate anger. However, I have been lucky to always find “Joys” in my life, willing to say to me, “This dream is no longer yours. Come home now.”
Moving through these cycles, I’ve learned lessons and grown wiser. I’ve learned that the courage required to let go is as great or greater than the initial courage needed to plant. I’ve discovered the critical importance of drawing my self-worth and validity from within myself, not from the things I create. I can sit patiently and mindfully now in the void between death and new life, the space where I find myself yet again. And in this void, I feel magic brewing.
All of those endings and seeds I left behind to the earth, I was not so sure I would never see them again. I believe they are not dead in truth, but that they stir inside me, joined together at the roots, incubating in each other’s juices. They are interweaving, blending, and regenerating without any direction from me. They are seeking commonalities—commonalities that my human ego could never have recognized.
They are forging a master seed.
I can’t say what it might grow into or how long it may live. All I know for sure is that someday, I will plant it with the wide eyes of a first-time planter. I have always believed that life is about birthing ideas. And now I know, it is about releasing them, too.