How To Be Free: Release the stories that are holding you back from embracing what you love

Jul 20, 2010 by

How To Be Free: Release the stories that are holding you back from embracing what you love

When we adopted our oldest son from Kazakhstan in 2001, he was just a few months shy of his 4th birthday. He had spent all of his days since birth in the orphanage, and in those years he had never owned a thing. Not a book. Not a toy. Not even a stitch of clothing. Everything that he touched was communal property. The best coats, pants, socks, and shoes were claimed by those children who woke up early enough to grab them first. And toys were rare commodities that were fought over during the day and then put away, out of reach in cabinets at night.

One day when we came to visit him in the orphanage, we saw that he had something clutched tightly in his palm. His hand was squeezed so tightly around it, his knuckles were white. When we asked if we could see what he had, he shook his head “No” and shoved his hand deep into his pocket. What treasure, we wondered, did he have hidden away in his palm? What precious toy had he managed to remove from his living quarters? What did he have that was so important to him that he could not imagine relinquishing?

As the hour of visitation wore on, and he began to relax, and he saw that he could trust us, he came up to us and slowly uncurled his small fingers to reveal the hidden treasure: the one thing he could call his own. We leaned in closely and we saw it.

My heart sank and my eyes filled with tears. This was the treasure: a tiny piece of jagged plastic: a fragment of a broken toy that he had salvaged from the trash and sneaked out of the room. But it was his. It did not matter that it had no use. That no one else needed or wanted it. It had value for him, because he could call it his own.

When I look back on this sad moment in my son’s life, before he came to know what is truly valuable in life, and I think about how much we are like my son in the way we preserve and tuck away broken, jagged moments of our life. The way we hold them close, and call them our own, even when they serve us no real purpose.

I am not talking about the significant traumas in our lives: the things that need to be pieced together and made whole again. I am talking about the scraps. The stuff that serves no real purpose except to give your ego something to hold onto and call its own. The story of person who cut you off in traffic. The way you are the only person who refills the paper in the copy machine at work. The person who didn’t hold the door for you or the person who didn’t say “thank you” when you held the door for them. The petty offenses and the minor gripes that consume so much time and space, but in the end add up to nothing. The stuff that seems significant while you are holding on to it, but that once you let it go you realize that it was really never anything significant about it to begin with.

And why let it go? Because it is freeing. We’ll find there is so much more space in our lives for the significant, the meaningful, the powerful, when we let go of these little scraps of stories that we believe to be so important.

Little sandy hand

When our son was able to release the piece of plastic in his hand that he thought might be the only thing he could ever call his own, he was ultimately able to use that hand to reach out and take the hands of his parents, who would lead him home to his family. His life became larger. His heart and his spirit grew by leaps and bounds.

When we are able to release the scraps of stories we are holding on to, we are able to reach out and embrace the bigger stuff we have coming to us: love, happiness, passion, fulfillment.

What little scrap might you be holding on to? It’s time to release the stories that are holding you back. Open your heart and let it go, so that your heart may be led to what you truly love and what truly nurtures you.

Lauren Rosenfeld is coauthor of Your To Be List

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  1. Parker Vollmer

    Absolutely gorgeous piece of expression. Thank you. Such a good reminder that when we let go, we grow, and in that growth, the gift that we receive really do match more accurately to the new space we are in. Good stuff! Love!

  2. Cheryl


    Great article! It touched my heart! Thank you! <3


  3. Lisa Powell


    This is so beautifully written. I have tears in my eyes. Nothing more empowering then learning to let go. I needed this today, thank you. Your son has been blessed beyond measure, he has you.