Reaching for our toes in yoga class, the teacher says, “Try to let go and reach further. Just let go!” In life too, she says, we should also try to just let things go.
My instructor says she was mad about something that happened a few days ago between her and her husband. She tells us, “I’m just going to let it go. There is no point in staying angry just to make him suffer!” We laugh.
But sometimes letting go it not easy! We can tell ourselves, “Just let go!” till we are blue in the face but sometimes we just can’t do it. After class, I go talk to the instructor. I say that in my marriage when I can’t let something go, I find it helpful to write my husband a letter. She asks smiling, “But do you ever send the letter?” I say, yes. Maybe I don’t give him the first draft-I look it over and cross out and change some things so that the letter is loving and nice but still expresses what I am hurt about.
I got the letter idea from Thich Nhat Hahn’s book The Art of Communication. He calls these letters “Peace Treaties.” The basic form is: “Dear___, I love you but yesterday you did/said___ and now I am suffering. Please help me not suffer. Love, __”. Also, Hahn says that in writing the letter to try not to blame or shame the other person and use loving speech.
When I first started writing these letters my husband would say, halfway joking, “Great, hate mail!” He looked at me kind of funny and was probably thinking, “Why are we writing letters, can’t we just talk?” Yes, we can talk. But sometimes I want to write a letter! Writing a letter helps me slow down so I can say everything I need to say in the way I want to say it. Also, the other person can read and absorb the words at his or her own pace. Sometimes we talk about it afterward and sometimes my husband writes me a letter back.
“Don’t go to bed angry” is common marriage advice. Maybe it comes from the Bible since the Bible says not to let the sun set if you are still angry or hurt. Thich Nhat Hahn says do not be angry longer than 24 hours. I think this 24-hour rule is good advice. It seems to me, if you let bad feelings sit there, it can create a kind of poison. Poison that can make you feel bad when you are cooking, at work, and just going about your day. It can even be there when you kiss your spouse. Who wants to give/receive a poisonous kiss anyway? The only way to really ‘let it go’ is to neutralize the poison with loving communication.
Sometimes we want to toughen up and pretend something does not bother us. I know if I am hurt and angry about something 24 hours later then I really need to say something about it. This toughness, when we say, “I’m not hurt!” when we really are hurt is really just our pride talking. In true love, we have to put this pride aside and open up our heart to the other person.
Instead of saying, “Just let it go!” we can instead say, “Just write a love letter!” If it bothers you enough to write it down it is worth talking about. Loving communication is always worth the effort. One might worry about getting into an argument and making the situation worse but if you stand firm in really trying to communicate with mindfulness, deep listening, and love you will always move the relationship in a positive direction. These type of love letters are true love letters. Because you know what? True love takes work. Like reaching for your toes in yoga, we sometimes have to reach in relationships beyond our pride and comfort zone. In the moment, reaching feels good and bad at the same time, but mostly it feels good and makes you keep feeling good the rest of the day. The reach is what will make your love grow.