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The art of letting go is an ongoing learning process

Birthday No. 81 arrives this month. Actress Bette Davis said, “Getting old ain’t for sissies.” She was right.

There is much work to be done — the work of letting go. Letting go of the old and familiar is not a simple task, and yet, if you think about it, letting go is really nothing new. We’ve had experience in letting go from the moment we were born.

When I look at my own life, I see I let go of my parents and created a family of my own. I birthed children and they moved away. I buried my parents. I buried my husband. I have said goodbye to dear friends. I have finished one job and started another. I have left a familiar city and relocated to a new one. I have often started in one direction and ended up someplace better. Now that body parts have begun to wear out, I repair or replace the ones I can and adjust to the limitations of the others.

I see I’ve had practice in letting go, and yet, I sometimes balk. I wonder if I’m up to the task. I remember one very dark moment when I thought “I can’t go on.” Then I remember those wise words from Rabbi Steve Leder, “When you must, you can.” I must. I can. I want to.

Whatever I have accumulated I will leave behind. It is what I take with me that make me rich — long-time relationships that have given my life meaning, the surprise and joy in the discovery of new friendships in my later years, and gratitude for the blessings I receive from men and women who invite me to walk a part of their journey with them.

Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Contact her at