The light was orange and fading, the air a little muggy with the fresh water pooling at the bottom of plants. My hair was short, my feet didn’t touch the ground, and I held a half full Pepsi can in between my legs. The diesel pickup was roaring beautifully as we drove, acres and acres of potatoes spread out before us, the plants’ flowers blooming in a beautiful carpet next to the gravel road.
This is a memory that I have etched in my brain from when I was a little girl. I was with my dad, driving around the farm in the summertime as he went to check fields. He always likes to do that, drive around and look at things as if the plants won’t grow without careful supervision.
And if there’s one thing about this memory, and my childhood in general, that I can say it is this: the music. Although I don’t really play an instrument (I did play the flute for four years but haven’t touched it in a long time), music is a huge part of my life. Almost every memory I have of growing up is attached to music, this one included.
In this particular memory I believe that my dad was playing “Faithfully” by Journey as we drove. My parents did a great job of having us listen to all different kinds of music growing up, and as a result I’ve got a pretty wide range of tastes in music. But 80’s rock definitely had it’s place in our house, just because that’s what my parents listened to as they met and dated.
But the last couple of days, one song that I grew up listening to has been particularly sticking out in my mind. In fact, my mind has been racing with so many thoughts tonight that I’m not certain if I’ll be able to get anything across, but hopefully I’ll get some of it out.
The song is “Hold On Loosely” by .38 Special. The lyrics of this song have always captivated me, but just the other day the central idea hit me like a brick wall:
Just hold on loosely
But don’t let go
If you cling too tightly
You’re gonna loose control
As if to hit home to me some more, I was reading a book the other day and I read something almost identical to these lyrics. The author said something close to, “When we cling too tightly to things we, and everybody around us, become too uptight.” As all of these experiences came together, I had a stunning revelation.
I cling too tightly.
Upon further reflection, because believe me this revelation needed some intense personal reflection, I was able to analyze it more fully. It’s not people that I cling to, oddly enough, it’s ideas. Feelings. I miss old friends that I needed to have leave my life simply because of the feelings associated with them, the times we shared.
I could probably write a novel of everything that I cling too tightly to. I cling to emotional things because I think that if I do, then maybe they’ll stay, maybe I’ll keep them safe and they can just be mine and nobody else’s. But I’ve realized that when you have this mentality, whatever it be that you’re clinging to, it quickly turns to poison. And something that once brought you all the happiness in the world is now eating away all of that joy.
I will share a very personal example of this observation. There is somebody I’m trying hard to move past simply because months of hopes have been turned over to a bitter reality, and those same hopes are clinging fiercely to the walls of my mind and no matter how hard I try I can’t brush them off. And now hopes that once brought me, you guessed it, hope and happiness are just bitter reminders.
I love what the song says about still holding on, and never letting go. It isn’t that we hold onto nothing, keep nothing in our hearts, and just breeze past the world. A) is that even possible? and B) it’s not healthy. We need things to hold on to, we need love and happiness and families and faith and favorite songs and books and whatever else it is that we tend to cling to. But when we get to a point where we seem to have created this perfect place, this place where all of these things we cling to exist, that’s when the possibility of poison creeps in.
My writing is another example of this. I am the only writer in my family. And when you come from a large family like I do, having something that is just yours is really, really neat. I have always been really grateful for the fact that writing is my hobby and passion and ambition and nobody else’s. My siblings have similar things in their lives and I’m grateful and happy that they have things that bring them similar joy.
But I’ve noticed that when I cling too tightly to the notion of writing, bad things happen. The “I’m a writer and not you so get outta here and don’t you dare steal my passion” mentality always leaves me with zero creative juice. The fear that things that are special to me might get taken away possibly comes from being on the younger end of 10 children. Don’t even get me started on the time my older brothers broke my little doll wagon by sitting on it and pulling each other around the house. That one still hurts.
The point is that even though there are millions of writers out there, I am a writer, too. I have that talent, too, and though I may not be where I want to be with it I have a piece of this talent that nobody else has. And with it, I can create beautiful things as long as I let myself and stop worrying that something might go wrong with it. I can’t hoard my talent for fear that it will go away, in other words. Because, honestly, the times when I’ve felt the least like a writer are the times when I tried to hoard my abilities.
And this same thing goes with all of the things we find ourselves clinging too tightly to. The minute that we start clinging too tightly is the moment that we have the least control, the moment that we start to lose what we fear losing. So I guess the answer, interestingly enough, comes from a 1980’s rock song:
So hold on loosely
But don’t let go