Following is the full transcript of author Jill Sherer Murray’s TEDx Talk titled “The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go at TEDxWilmingtonWomen conference.
In this talk, Jill recounts her story of love, loss and new life, and shares the 5 Steps she took to change what didn’t work and make welcome what she desired in her life and relationships.
Listen to the MP3 audio version here: The Unstoppable Power of Letting Go by Jill Sherer Murray at TEDxWilmingtonWomen
Jill Sherer Murray – Author & Speaker
Letting go can make you unstoppable. I know because I let go of a relationship and reclaimed my life.
And I know that letting go can create the best of change for each and every one of you. Let me tell you a story.
When I was 41, the death of a relationship showed me how to truly let go of what wasn’t working.
See, up until that time, I didn’t really think about the future. I kind of lived my life like a dog – moment to moment. I chased balls, I ate whatever I could find on the ground. And life was good.
I had a great job, great friends, a great apartment, a great actual dog, and a great boyfriend. Well, sort of.
See, Hector didn’t have any skin in the game, and I felt that. He danced around the very idea of marriage, and after 12 years, we didn’t even live together. Still, he gave me hope. Well, sometimes.
More like living in a situation that had no hope just felt normal. Don’t get me wrong. I stayed because Hector was a good looking, smart, reliable, and sensitive guy who cared, and while our relationship wasn’t perfect, it worked in theory.
Until a wake-up call from a friend changed everything.
So my realtor friend called to tell me about a condo coming up for sale in my Chicago neighborhood. She knew that I was looking for Hector to commit and thought, ”Well, maybe this could inspire a little forward motion.” Still, my first inclination was to say, “We’re not ready. Not yet.”
Haha, “Not yet.” That was Hector’s favorite catchphrase.
I would say, ”I want to get married.”
He’d say, ”Not yet.”
I’d say, ”Let’s live together.”
”Not yet” was a hair I couldn’t get out of my eye and a bad song I couldn’t get out of my head. So you could imagine my surprise when he said “Sure” to meeting me at the condo at noon.
Now, I arrived early and eager. But Hector? Haha, well that was another story. 12:15 came. 12:30. 12:45. 1:00 pm. No Hector.
Eventually, he called, something had come up. So we agreed to reconvene at three, but Hector was a no-show again. It was in that moment that I decided, after 12 years, it was time to let go.
See, I had to let go of Hector and of the idea of marrying him or anybody because at 41, my options were scary. I could either stay with a man who couldn’t commit, but was great on all the holidays and birthdays, or I could break up with him and be alone.
Not that letting go of a good man I truly loved was easy. No, no. I had to survive the consequences of my epiphany, and that’s when the pain stage kicked in. “You and Hector won’t be together forever. You won’t be his person. In fact, he’ll probably meet somebody else fast, marry her, and she’ll be his person. And then you’re going to have to live with the fact that you made a mistake.”
I ugly cried, ate a lot of pizza, listened to a lot of Joni Mitchell.
And then, when I couldn’t rub my eyes anymore without hitting bone or imagine Hector in a wedding photo with another woman, probably in a size-6 dress, I brushed myself off.
See, I let go of the fear that I would grow old and die alone, that my friends would use me as a cautionary tale, that it was too late for me.
No, no. In that moment, I had to finally admit what I really wanted, which was more. You see, Hector not showing up, that was a gift, and that it gave me freedom because let’s face it, I’d been chasing that ball for 12 years. No, no. It was time to move on, even if I risked rejection.
So I made a plan, one that got clearer with every step. Of course, Hector had an excuse for his no-show. But by then, it didn’t matter. I told him it was over. I quit my job, I hugged my friends, I sold my beautiful condo in the same neighborhood that delivered me that life-changing epiphany.
I let go of everything to start a whole new life in New Hope, Pennsylvania. To which he said, ”Don’t go, we’ll get married.”
To which I said, ”You had 12 years.”
To which he said, ”I’ll come visit.”
To which I said, ”Not yet.”
Was it hard? Ha ha, you bet.
Was it worth it? Within a year of leaving, I met my husband Dan online. I knew when he showed up for our first date, in the most wrinkled shirt I have ever seen, with a rain hat to keep me dry walking from the restaurant to the car, that this was my guy.
You see, umbrellas were for people who wanted distance. Too heavy a wind, you know, turned them inside out, and even the best of them only lasted so long.
But a rain hat, you know, the kind with a string, and you tie it under your chin. Now, that’s personal.
And after four dates, it turned to love. Finally, I understood why I had to wait so long. Dan was handsome and wise and soulful and kind, and he made me feel like I could do and be anything. We could.
And we got married a year later.
When I turned 50, Hector died of cancer. And as you can imagine, I grieved for a very long time. But his death reaffirmed for me the promise I made to myself when I was 41: that I would never take time for granted again. Instead, I would use it to let go, to create space for the things I really wanted and for what mattered most.
Here are five ways to let go I know work because I still use them every single day.
- LET GO OF TAKING THINGS PERSONALLY
One. Let go of taking things personally. I spent a lot of time wondering why Hector didn’t love me enough to marry me until I realized that his inability to commit had less to do with me and more to do with his duty to his family.
Now, I’m not saying that was not a hard pill to swallow, but there was a lot of peace in knowing that it was his issue and not some defect in me. If people aren’t giving you what you want, or if they’re just behaving badly, most times, that’s their problem, not yours.
- LET GO OF WHAT OTHER PEOPLE THINK
Two. Let go of what other people think. So after my husband and I dated for a couple of months, I took him home to meet my parents.
”He’s very good-looking,” my mother said.
”You know, Ted Bundy is very good looking.”
Now, I could’ve let this influence my actions, could have let my imagination run wild with thoughts of my new beau stabbing me while I slept.
But instead, I just chalked it up to my mother. There is a rule in business that states: Whenever you are putting something out there, 10% of people will hate it, 80% will be indifferent, and 10% will be your raving fans.
And raving fans are awesome, but if somebody’s not a raving fan, let that be okay too.
- LET GO OF TRYING TO BE SOMETHING YOU’RE NOT
Three. Let go of trying to be something you’re not.
Now, I have this crazy big personality that I actually call “the Big.” Some people really like the Big. Some people are fascinated by it, kind of the way they are fascinated by jugglers. And others just run away.
But it’s who I am. I have tried to turn down the current on the Big, but hard as I try, there it is. There are some things we just can’t change about ourselves, and that’s a good thing.
- LET GO OF THE NEED TO BE PERFECT
Four. Let go of the need to be perfect. Many years ago, I wrote a column for Shape Magazine, and I got a lot of mail from readers, including a very sad letter from this teenage girl asking for my advice on how to improve herself after her absolutely horrid boyfriend had her strip down so he could critique her body.
This is a true story.
I said, ”Dump him immediately, and never let anybody make you feel bad about yourself again.”
But we all know that feeling the need for perfection is not just about our weight. It’s also about keeping the house clean and the dogs groomed and the kids healthy and the bosses happy and all the balls in the air. It’s even about keeping our youth intact.
And yet, who wants to be friends with someone who’s perfect? Think about that.
- LET GO OF ”NOT YET.”
And lastly, five – my favorite! Let go of ”Not yet.” You know, when I left Chicago, my life was pretty good, it just wasn’t good enough.
If there is something you want to do, make a plan and act, but don’t wait. I still grieve for Hector, you know, it just comes in waves now. But it’s the phone call I can’t make that reminds me to make every day count.
And I encourage you all to do the same. Whatever that is, I say, ”Let go for it.”
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