Letting Go: What I Learned From Elizabeth Taylor

I’m working on letting go. I’ve been working on letting go for several months, actually. And probably – in recurring cycles – for several years. But letting go is hard. In part, because it feels so counter productive for accomplishing all the things I want to do. Which, I guess, is why I keep coming back to it.

I’m writing a novel. And a play. and this blog. I’m building my CultSTATUS brand with a website and Facebook page. I’m curating exclusive events in the Cultural Arts. I’m building a network of creative sponsors and contacts. I work a full time job. I make the daily effort to manage my Lupus and my overall health. I try to have a life. And every once in a while, there are those rare moments when I don’t just try to have a life, I actually manage to have one! I spend time with girlfriends and extended family and my husband. Oh dear lord, I Forgot About My Husband!!!! No, I didn’t really forget my Salomon. But there are those days when I worry that I’ve placed him last on my never ending list of To-Do’s. Please tell me y’all have a never ending To-Do list too. ‘Cause it can get really crazy in my head sometimes. Like, talking to myself in the bathroom for half an hour in my Bronx girl voice while the hubby contemplates breaking down the door to save me from intruders, only it’s just ‘lil old Me Myself & I in there. Yea, I’m a little crazy some days.

But every time I let go, it comes back to me ten fold. My sanity included! When I stop trying to fix, force, control, and pin down everything… It all falls into place. And then I feel boundless! ‘Boundless’ is my new word for the day, FYI. I used it in passing while I was on the phone with my dad earlier and it stuck with me. I didn’t plan it or strategically guide the conversation so I could use it in a sentence. Yes, I have done that before. And so have you – don’t lie! But seriously. When I haphazardly said the word ‘boundless’ today, it was the most inspired I’ve felt in a long time. I felt like I really am a novelist, business woman, entrepreneur. I’m reminded of a joke about a dog named Jett… Then again, never mind. Jett is a great dog, I’m sure, but a joke about a dog could never compete with the sheer genius of that one word. Let’s say it together. Boundless!

The bottom line is this: letting go makes room for more. And I’ve got so much more to give.

*Note* I’ve been fine tuning this post for most of the day. Crafting my Opus, if you will. That’s right, I said ‘Opus’. Opus is tomorrow’s word for the day. What? Anyway, (said in my Bronx girl voice) I got to the line above, in what had to be my fifth read through, and suddenly thought to myself ‘That’s funny. I said give…’

Now, like I said, I’ve been working on letting go for a long time. So, separate from all the spiritual and religious implications, there is personal value to be found in this process. And there’s nothing wrong with that. But it has to be acknowledged that today is Ash Wednesday (the start of the season of Lent) and this Holy Day among many Christians – myself included – is all about letting go on an even deeper level.

The purists would say it’s all about mortality. And the purists would be right. Sorta.

But there are a few images that come to mind when I think of Ash Wednesday, and the one that rabbit-in-my-mind ‘hops’ out at me the most is from a promotional poster for Elizabeth Taylor’s 1973 movie Ash Wednesday. I know. Elizabeth Taylor films don’t exactly scream piety or repentance. I mean, just look at the poster for yourself.

Poster - Ash Wednesday (1973)_02

Not a smudge of ash to be found on her gorgeous little forehead. And let’s not even talk about that string of pearls she’s so blithely toying with. My materialistic heart is beyond green with envy. Still, it’s dear old Liz that taught me the most about Ash Wednesday and the power of letting go. If you haven’t seen the movie, here’s a brief summary from Roger Ebert. Better yet, rent it on Netflix and see it for yourself. It’s not exactly an Oscar worthy performance, but it’s one of my true love’s as movies go, if only for it’s train wreck cheese fest of glamour and melodrama. Think Mahogany and The Way We Were.

The basic storyline though develops into the tragic conclusion that Elizabeth’s character never learns how to let go. Her husband is having an affair. She is aging. She doesn’t feel attractive anymore. So she decides to fix things. She has a face lift along with several other cosmetic procedures. She goes to a private resort to “get away from it all”. She has an affair to rebuild her self esteem. She sits and waits endlessly for her philandering husband to show up so she can make him jealous/ win him back. And in the end, she doesn’t even get the chance to confront him the way she’d planned because he arrives and immediately dumps her. He hardly even notices the changes in her physical appearance! When I tell you it’s tragic y’all. I mean it’s bad. Downright cringe-worthy in fact. But it’s like a train wreck that I can’t stop watching because I see the humanity in it. Separate from all the moral implications of her affair, and the “rightness” or “wrongness” of her choice to have plastic surgery. I really just want to give her a hug and tell her that she’s doing these things for all the wrong reasons. All the fixing, forcing, controlling, and literally pinning [her face] won’t make things right, because it’s already broken. She needs to just let go. And maybe if she let go of the diamonds and pearls [or maybe just the philandering husband] she could see that. The material things aren’t “wrong”, and who among us hasn’t held on to someone or something much longer than we should have, all in the name of “fixing” it? But it rarely ever works. And that’s what Elizabeth Taylor taught me about the importance of Ash Wednesday. It’s all about acceptance. Acceptance of the good, the bad, the passing of time, the aging, and even death (of relationships and people). Letting go. And the oozing glamour didn’t hurt either!

P.s. Liz’s birthday was this past Thursday, February 27, 2014. She would have been 82 years old!

P.p.s. BOUNDLESS!!!

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