Letting Go

I had just taken out a couple of dying elderberry bushes when I injured my knee for the second time in two months. I had tripped on a limb y-joint and I heard the “pop” when  my knee corkscrewed as I went down. For a split second, I was afraid I’d seriously damaged it this time. But when I tested it, limping to the house for an ice bag, it didn’t seem quite so bad as that nauseating popping sound might have suggested.

Still, I realized I needed to take a moment to contemplate what was going on. So I sat on a step with the pack on my knee and did just that. I immediately connected the injury to the telephone conversation I’d had right before going out to do the pruning. My longtime astrologer and dear friend, Sally McDonald, had called to give me details about the cancer she was having surgery for in a few days. The cancer had been a surprise to her. She was still in shock. So was I. And I was afraid for my friend.

Sally was not the first among those dear to me to be dealing with life threatening illness. My husband had been managing life with metastasized prostate cancer for two and a half years. My youngest sister’s hepatitis C had reactivated six months earlier, after a six-year remission following the birth of her son and a liver transplant. While I was ridiculously healthy, those around me were not, and when friends asked me how I seemed to be managing so well, I talked about how I  didn’t believe in death, how grateful I was for every day with my loved ones . . . and how living with their illnesses was a little like living with a persistent and constant slight fever.

I hobbled inside to see what Louise Hay had to say about knee problems. I had a good deal of faith in my own ability to sort out the energetic reasons for problems, but Louise Hay was always a good place to start when it came to physical maladies. Louise related knee problems to fear, inflexibility, stubborn ego and pride. Fear? You bet. Inflexibility? Stubborn ego and pride? Those three were, no doubt, there. I was human, after all. But I wanted to dig deeper.

So I thought about the elderberry bushes. We had been living in our beautiful home for eighteen years and the elderberry bushes had already been mature when we moved in. I had planned to do just a bit of pruning that day, but there was so much dead wood in two or three of them that I ended up removing those completely. It was time to let them go. I knew I needed to do the same thing with one of the lilac bushes. The blue spruce next to it and lilac bush in front of it had edged it right into oblivion.  And a year earlier, I’d hired a friend to take down two trees that were struggling. While there was so much vibrant life in my yard, not everything was making it. Like all mature yards, some things were past their prime and dying.

I realized that a part of me was resisting it. I was resisting the departure of bushes and trees that had been friends for years and I was also resisting the illnesses of those I loved, fearing that they might depart, too. I was trying to hold back time and change. That was where the inflexibility was coming in. Despite my deep spiritual understanding that everything and everyone survives what we think of as death, a part of me was stubbornly hanging on to some point in time in the past, a point in time when bushes and people were younger and healthier.

Of course, at some level, I was clinging to some past version of myself, too. At sixty, I found it curious that I was now likely in the last quarter of my life–if I was lucky. How could so much time have passed? There was so much left for me to be and do.

I realized I needed to let go at a deeper and more profound level than I ever had. I knew that love lived on, that it was the most enduring thing in the universe, that one instant of love for anyone or anything reverberated on and on into infinity. I’d experienced it and I needed to trust it now. And while I’d practiced and taught the art of making death the aly for many years, I needed to trust the very cycle of life and death at a more profound level, too. There comes a time when life and death look back at you when you look in the mirror each morning and I had come around to that very point in this life–as I, no doubt, had come around in life after life before this one. 

Ice, elevation, ibupropin–and a great massage therapist–got the knee back on track. I got my mind, spirit, and emotions back on track, too. I contemplated the divine paradox: none of us are getting out of here alive and all of us are getting out of here alive. I might as well let go and ride the wave of this life.

Three weeks passed. And then I was in a thrift store and came upon a set of gorgeous, never used, Mikasa china: eight plates, twelve bowls, and twelve bread plates. I gaped. And I thought about the china I was using every day at home. My grandmother had purchased it as a wedding present–forty-one years ago. I had left the troubled marriage in 1979. How I had managed to end up with the china, when so much else had been lost, was a long standing mystery. My second husband had been cheerfully eating off that china our entire marriage. It was time to let it go.

As I loaded my cart with the treasure, it occurred to me that this find might not have come to me if I hadn’t heeded the message about letting go and trusting the cycle of life and death. I had wanted to divest myself of that china from another life for some time and my opportunity to do so was presenting itself almost effortlessly.  As soon as I had gotten the message in more profound areas of my life, I was open to it in other, more mundane areas.

Apparently, all I’d had to do was let go.


Copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall


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18 Responses to “Letting Go”

  1. Rosemary Carstens Says:

    What a beautiful discussion of your philosophy, Melanie, and the lessons we simply MUST embrace to get the most out of our time here. I’m a great resister, but ultimately try hard to remind myself that the person who learns to wholeheartedly embrace change will do better, especially in our older years (as you say, our last quarter of life–thanks for reminding me–NOT! haha). I often find myself filled with anxiety about those I love and their health, or mine. It’s a challenge to let go and let be after I’ve done all that I can. But among the choices we have, meeting that challenge is the most freeing choice of all.

  2. Melanie Mulhall Says:


    You put it beautifully. Letting go and letting be is a very freeing thing. We can surf life or we can argue that those big waves are obstacles. It really is a choice–though not always an easy one.


  3. Margaret Pevec Says:

    I especially liked the idea that you have been at this juncture (at the last quarter of your life) many times before…although I too believe in reincarnation, that is a new thought for me. It’s continually amazing how brand new every life experience seems, yet we’ve gone through this again and again.

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      I can only hope I’ve made it this long is at least some of my other lives! Do our learnings from life experiences carry over from one life to another? That might be at the heart of the issue about life experiences seeming new, even if we’ve gone through them before, in other lives. I have an opinion or two on that, but I’d love to hear yours.

      Thanks for your comment.


  4. Mandy Says:

    Enjoyed reading your story. I am surprised at how often I bump and bruise myself when my mind is wandering on an issue and I’m not really paying attention to what it is I’m doing. Unlike you I don’t think I stop and really consider the issue on my mind though … mmmh … sounds like more advice. I suspect this would also be good advice for those times when I’m grumpy with my kids and I know it’s not something they’ve done.

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      It is helpful to be in the present moment, isn’t it?! I am actually most likely to bump or bruise myself if I am annoyed with something or someone than at any other moment of mind wandering. More than once, the trip has caused me to catch myself in the act of negative thinking. It has been helpful, actually–though sometimes painful.

      Thanks for your comment.


  5. Kathy Kaiser Says:

    I really appreciate how you stopped and took the time to analyze what happened with your knee. And I loved your conclusion about how hard it is to let go, even of bushes and trees. This is a lesson I try to learn everyday, and so I thank you for reinforcing that lesson.

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      I cannot say that I always take the time to analyze a problem as I did then. In fact, it could be argued that I wouldn’t have had the second injury if I had taken the time to analyze the situation with the first injury. But the telephone call from my sick friend and my trip were just too close together in time to ignore that day.

      Like life itself, letting go can be difficult, uncomfortable, and inconvenient–but necessary and healthy if we wish to stay mentally, emotionally, spiritually . . . and physically . . . healthy.

      Thanks for your comment.


  6. Cindy Morris Says:

    Like you, Melanie, I learn so much from my garden. Right now I am looking at a very old lilac bush that is infested with some critter that would require major chemicals to quell. Maybe the lilac is just telling me the time for it to go. Maybe it is time to let go of all kinds of things in my life that require life-saving measures beyond what I am willing to do.
    Every day I bless my garden for all that it teaches me.
    And where woudl we be without Louise Hay?

    Cindy Morris, msw
    Priestess Entrepreneur

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      Your garden is wild and voluptuous and wonderful–just like you!

      It is interesting how everything in life informs us if we allow it too. But the plant people are particularly willing to teach us a thing or two if we will let them. Like you, I’m grateful and like you, I bless the plant people wherever I find them.

      I hope my readers will wander on over to your website: http://www.successpriestess.blogspot.com

      Thanks for your comment.


  7. Laurel Kallenbach Says:

    This struck a nerve with me because our front yard has many gorgeous trees–with one problem: they’re growing into each other. While this is great for shading the house and my home office from summer sun, I’m beginning to feel like Sleeping Beauty, tucked away in a castle (okay, my house is NOT a castle!) covered by overgrowth.

    The result: I can no longer look out my office window and see anything but leaves and pine boughs. This view is by no means the worst I can imagine–in fact, it’s quite lovely, but perhaps I need to widen my view, both literally and metaphorically.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      Our yards are very different in their mature years than in their youth–just like us–aren’t they? Like you, I have been faced with overgrowth. Last year I took down two trees on the east side of my house. One was certainly overgrown, but also dying off a little at a time. The other had been hacked away from the driveway and just needed to go. I did widen my view when I took them out (with the help of a dear friend who had a chain saw, I might add). Later I created a new bed near the site of one of the stumps. This year I have butterfly bushes and rose of sharon blooming in it.

      Thanks for your comment.


  8. Drea Says:


    You have such an incredible aptitude for gleaning insight from even the smallest experiences. This post really resonated for me. It recently occurred to me that we sometimes hold on just for the sake of holding on. Weight is comfortable. Letting go is scary, but why? I’ve never had a bad experience from letting go. Yet it’s so natural to hold on. What a paradox.

    I’m impressed by your functional outlook on your loved ones’ illnesses. I think it takes dedication to avoid pitfalls like pity (for them or yourself), feeling like a victim, apathy, etc. The concept alone–“sickness”–holds so much weight. I had a functional illness for a year or so, and found that I was so much less motivated when I identified with being “sick” than when I was a normal person operating within unique physical constraints. I can only imagine the potential for stress, worry, etc. when your loved ones are operating under heavy health constraints.

    By the way–I seriously thought you were in your 40s when I met you last year. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working! And thanks for commenting on my blog :).


    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      I’m not always so insightful, but when the Universe gives me the sledgehammer (in this case, a second knee injury), I have learned to pay attention. I might have taken better note after the first injury! Life does seem to provide so many teachings if we just pay attention.

      I love your insight about what happened when you were less identified with being “sick.” I believe that I am a fundamentally person for a lot of reasons (I cook my own food, get enough sleep, exercise, think good thoughts, etc.), not the least of them being that I don’t believe in sickness. Not believing in it makes me not committed to it. Not being committed to it but, rather, being committed to health, makes me much more likely to be well.

      At least to some extent, I must attribute this attitude to having grown up poor. We simply couldn’t afford doctors, so we couldn’t afford to get sick. Yes, I had the usual childhood illnesses, but I seemed to have been programmed to stay healthy.

      As an adult, I take note of lagging energy and/or a feeling of being slightly off. Then I do something about it before I become ill. It doesn’t always work, but it works most of the time. When I do get sick, I apply the same approach as I did to the injury. There is almost always a learning there.

      As for your blog, I highly recommend that my readers make their way to http://www.businesspundit.com. Drea’s posts on that site are the best. The site is informative, upbeat, and irreverent. I love it!

      Thanks for your comment.


  9. Margaret Pevec Says:

    I definitely think learnings and experiences carry over from life to life. I think that is the best explanation for child prodigies and people with incredible success in a particular field at an early age. And, if we knew what was going on at a conscious level, we wouldn’t get the lessons we need. But, somewhere inside we know.

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:


      You have an interesting take on this. It certainly offers an explanation for child prodigies and the like. I agree that we don’t seem to know what is going on at a conscious level, though my experience–both with my own life and those with whom I have done shamanic/spiritual work–is that we can access some of our past lives and/or some of the important lessons from them. Whether or not we do that (spontaneously or through shamanic methods), I agree that we do seem to carry understandings deep inside.

      Thanks again for your insights!


  10. Susan M Gonynor Says:

    That was a beautiful story! I tripped and fell today and scraped both my knees and bruised one. My first thought tonight was to look up Louise Hays knees interpretation! This was tagged and I’m glad I read it! Thank you

    • Melanie Mulhall Says:

      Susan, Louise Hay’s interpretations are always a good place to start. But also allow your intuition to guide you to what might be going on with you, personally. Thanks for your comment!

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