The Beauty of Letting Go

Friday came and went, and my world didn't fall apart.

For the last eight years, on the first Friday in February, I have put on a fundraising drive for the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women campaign. It's a cause that I have cared about since being introduced to it twelve years ago in Washington DC.

I have a condition called restrictive cardiomyopathy, which means my heart doesn't function normally and causes symptoms of congestive heart failure. After living with the diagnosis for almost a decade, I decided to do something with it, and I began advocating on behalf of the AHA. In my first year of joining their grassroots committee, You're the Cure, they invited me to the Capitol to speak with my congressmen. It was there that I learned the staggering statistic that heart disease is the number one killer of women, affecting one woman every 80 seconds.


And I met women from all across the country whose stories were similar to mine: when we visited our doctors with concerning symptoms, they ignored our complaints, told us it was nothing to be worried about, or misdiagnosed what turned out to be a serious heart-related problem. I had found a tribe of women to whom I could relate and understand. They gave me support like no others could, and I immersed myself in their love.

So in solidarity, each year I have donned my red clothing, pinned on the Red Dress as a symbol of the cause, and spoken out to raise awareness and funds. In addition, I have been back to DC twice and traveled to my state lobby days to speak with local legislators about prevention and research measures.

And when I began teaching, I organized a day for the staff to wear red at school, in coordination with the National Wear Red Day, brought in a spread of heart-healthy snacks, distributed fliers and educational materials about heart disease and stroke, and asked my colleagues to donate to the cause.

But this year, I chose to let it go.

Due to my progressive, chronic illness I had already given up traveling for advocacy. That was the first to go. However, even after I filed for disability retirement, I continued to show up at the school each February to carry on the fundraising tradition. Each year I needed more assistance (thanks, Mom!) and more energy to make the event happen.

So this year I asked myself, What if you don't do it? Will it be the end of the world?

We often feel an obligation to do something just because we've always done it. It is a tendency born out of a sense of duty, loyalty, or avoiding conflict. We may believe that we are the only person who can do it, or the only one who can do it right. 

What would happen if you released your hold on that commitment? What if you let others take up the responsibility?

I found that I can still advocate for and give money to the AHA, but it doesn't have to look the same as it always has. I can allow someone else to take my burden and the world will keep spinning, leaving more space for beauty.

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Some doorways from this week:

  • I finally took the plunge and started a family tree on Ancestry.com. I was amazed at the stories I found for my husband's ancestors just by looking at census and marriage records!
  • I attended the annual Cat/Griz basketball game this weekend, a fierce, long-standing rivalry with the two state universities. I smiled with joy as I witnessed both team's fans sit side by side peacefully while cheering on their players.
  • I was surfing on the radio looking for an upbeat tune and thinking, "I wish I could hear that one song about joy (by For King and Country.)" Then suddenly, it came on the station I just as I was about to switch channels. I felt that it was a tiny answered prayer meant to lift my spirits.

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