“Letting go” is a concept that takes different forms for different people or even for the same person at different times in one’s life. Some are universally understood, at least in terms of concept: the first time your child goes to school, or away to camp or college, or the first solo drive in the family car (for oneself or one’s child) are all classic examples.
I have realized that one of the biggest challenges for me is when my children are traveling very far from home and I don’t have any way to reach them. Perhaps I’m spoiled by the accessibility that texting and emailing provide. There is at least a superficial sense of being able to be in touch, if not to guide, or protect.
When our older daughter spent a term in Chileand Argentina, most of the time we knew where she was staying, and how to contact her. There was the family she was staying with, and the directors of the program. We didn’t have to be in touch that frequently; knowing that I could should I chose to made all the difference. And I could send an email whenever I felt the need to let her know she was in my thoughts.
Then there was the week where she was traveling and doing a home stay where there was no internet available or cell phone service. It was like she had entered a telecommunication tunnel from which she would emerge the following week. At least I knew the parameters of the time and when to expect contact. There were only a few difficult moments when I had to trust the gods of travel and it was only later that I learned how delicate a political situation she had been thrown into. However inadvertently, I was angry about the unnecessary risk that she endured, even though she herself was not as upset and managed quite gracefully in her nearly fluent Spanish.
This time, with our younger daughter inSouth Africa, we did not have the name of a contact person, nor was she traveling with any kind of group. So, although we received an email upon her arrival inCape Town, we began to get uneasy when we did not hear anything for more than a week. We knew that she had moved from the hostel she initially landed in to the Volunteer House where she would spend three months. After eight days we left a message at the Volunteer House.
It was another two days before we received a cheerful email from her. She apologized for being out of touch; a four day tour had come together very quickly and she had no internet during that time. Then she listed the events of the past week: she had taught a kindergarten class with another volunteer to kids who spoke no English, she had been hugged by, and ridden an elephant, been hugged by and ridden an ostrich, bungee jumped off the highest commercial bungee jumping bridge in the world (which we later figured out was 700 feet), climbed through a cave that had a passage so narrow it was difficult to squeeze through, and met 15 volunteers from various parts of the world and traveled with them on a little bus to these places.
Well all right then. That pretty much took my breath away, and along with it, any lingering concern or nagging worry. Well, maybe not all of my concern, but she was clearly in charge and loving where she was and what she was doing. If she could make a leap of 700 feet, surely I could manage a small jump of faith to remain confident that the distance was just a state of mind, and we could be as close as our hearts would allow. I would just have to talk myself through any questions that arose, and consider it my personal form of letting go.
On to the next tale!