The Danger Of Holding On
One of my guilty (okay, so I don’t really feel guilty about it but it seems like I should) summer pleasures is catching a few minutes of television during the day. Last week, I saw the last few segments of the show, My 600-Pound Life. In this episode, a super-morbidly obese woman was in the hospital and being considered for bariatric surgery. The surgeon was reticent, both because of the patient’s extreme size and her refusal to attempt to walk.
It was the latter issue that grabbed my attention.
There were several scenes shown that all followed the same pattern:
“You need to walk. It’s critical for your health and recovery.”
“I can’t walk. I just can’t do it. I’m not feeling well.”
“I just don’t feel well.”
“I’m going to get some people here to help you get up.”
After the nurses or EMTs were summoned, they would surround her and using the sheet, would prop her into a sitting position and then slowly slide her legs off the bed until her feet were on the floor.
“I can’t! I can’t! Get me back up!” she cried at every attempt, even before her weight was fully on her feet.
Over the many months that these scenes span, you see her health decline as the frustration of her son and her doctor continue to rise.
Meanwhile, the featured woman is holding on to her conviction that she cannot walk, holding on to the weight encasing and imprisoning her and holding on to her identity as helpless.
Just down the street from me, a new sign appeared last week advertising a soon-to-be-constructed storage facility. Although I should know better, I was shocked to see one in my area, which is mainly populated with large (and in the cases of the neighborhoods built in the last 15 years, huge) homes, most of which have basements because of the topography. There are few apartments and not many military personal, since it is not located near any of the bases.
In other words, there should not be much of a need for additional storage. But apparently, there is. The storage company’s research must have indicated that these families living in 2,500+ square foot homes need even more space to hold their belongings.
And I wonder how many of those storage units end up like my ex-in-law’s – rarely opened, never inventoried and filled with ever-decaying detritus even as they write a monthly check so that they can hold on to their belongings. Paying rent simply to avoid letting go.
I’m reading a book right now that features a woman who struggles with infertility. My heart ached for her as her hopes and grief grew with each successive miscarriage. I was elated when one pregnancy finally resulted in a healthy baby. Now, I thought, she has what she wants and get busy loving her child and reconnecting with her husband.
But at least so far, it’s not that simple. The woman has trouble appreciating what she has because of all that she has lost. Her attention and energy is devoted to the babies that didn’t make it rather than the one who did. And her grasp on the past is pushing away those who occupy her present.
There is always a cost for holding on.
The choice to keep one thing – an object, a belief, an emotion – always comes at the expense of something else.
It’s scary to let go.
We fear the loss more than we anticipate the freedom of space.
We surround our choice with justifications, clouding our judgement and defending our decision.
We identify with our collections, worrying that by paring them done, we somehow cut off a bit of ourselves.
But there is always a cost for holding on.
Grasping one thing means forgoing another.
It’s scary to let go. But sometimes that opens us up to reach for something better.
The woman in the show finally let go of her belief that she couldn’t walk. And those first few steps, supported by a walker and several attendants, were magical to watch. Her face filled not only with a smile, but with hope and confidence. She released the anchor and set sail on a new life.