What the forest teaches us about letting go
When I first “lost” Millie in the forest, I panicked. I turned my back for a second, and then she was gone. I know, I know. These things only take a second. I wish I could say that was the only time, but it wasn’t. There were some hiccups as Millie got used to being with me off-leash. But over time, whenever Millie left my sight, she’d get quicker about returning, and I panicked less that she would never return. I was learning what it meant to be letting go.
After the first panic episode, I had two choices: keep her on a leash that way, I know where she is at all times, or allow both of us to enjoy the freedom and trust in our training and bond.
I knew that if I wanted to enjoy the freedom of the forest, there would be some growing pains at the beginning. So, I decided to deal with the initial mild panic attacks and have faith in our training. We will both learn and adjust. And we did. I learned to let go, and Millie learned to check in often. Because it’s Winter and the stream is shallow in certain areas, Millie will cross and walk along the other side. When she first did that, I felt that panic again. I felt she was too far. What if she encounters danger? What if she takes off? What if I lose her forever? What if, what if. But I remained [mostly] calm. Even though she is 11 months old, I trust her. I trust our training.
I don’t want nor need Millie to be constantly at my side. I prefer it when she’s not. After all, I want to enjoy the forest too, and I can’t if I’m always tripping over her.
Seeing her searching for sticks, going off trail or wading in the stream brings me greater joy than having her always by my side. I love witnessing her boldness, silliness and curiosity. Traits I wouldn’t get to witness had I let fear keep her leashed to me. So even when she makes questionable decisions, I don’t interfere (unless it jeopardizes her safety). Instead, I watch how it plays out. Mostly, it ends up with me chuckling and wondering how I got so lucky to have her.
I want to give Millie room to learn and the freedom to be who she is.
Yesterday when Millie crossed the shallow stream and walked parallel to me, I was calm. I’m used to it now. But it made me reflect on how hard it is to let go initially. And when you love someone or something, it is even more challenging. So many what if’s cross your mind. What if something happens to them? What if something happens to me? What if I’m making a mistake?
Letting go is one of the most loving things you can do for others. It tells them, “I love you and trust you so much that I am letting you figure it out for yourself.” When you let someone go, you allow them to live on their terms. And if you’re a know-it-all like me, it can be challenging when you feel someone is about to make questionable choices. I always think I know what’s best. But I must constantly remind myself that the most beautiful and authentic life is one where everyone can choose their own choices and paths. Parents, friends, siblings, and dogs, will cross the stream, walk in the opposite direction or leave our sight altogether. And even though our hearts may constrict and we may want to call them back, we must remember that growth is not meant to be comfortable. And everyone is growing.
Everyone will learn to trust a little more. In themselves, the Universe, in love. To love someone is not to cling to them. It’s letting them go so that they may learn who they are, what they want, and that no matter what, they know where to find you if they ever want to return for a visit.