Holding On

“We give thanks for the invention of the handle. Without it there would be many things we couldn’t hold on to. As for the things we can’t hold on to anyway, let us gracefully accept their ungraspable nature and celebrate all things elusive, fleeting, and intangible. They mystify us and make us receptive to truth and beauty.”

— Michael Leunig

Make a list of things you can hold on to–or try to hold on to.

Make a list of things you can’t hold on to.


  1. Fran Stekoll says

    I can hold on to: my faith, my honor, my integrity, my soul, my memories, my pictures, my collections, my knowledge, my family, my friends, my pets, my voice, one day at a time.
    I can’t hold on to: my eyesight, my teeth, my wrinkles, my mind, my children, my money, my future, my heart, my memory, my clothes, my ability to drive, my
    independence, my agility, my strength, tomorrow.

  2. Marinda Misra says

    Hi everyone,
    So I’m new at this, and instead of writing a list I wrote something that came to me from the prompt. I hope that is ok.

    * * *

    His hand tightened around her finger, tiny little digits attached to a tiny little hand. She smiled and instinctively held him a little closer, feeling his soft, warm skin against hers. His eyes where half closed and half open, upset about the light but seemingly pleased to be able to see her face. He yawned, she smiled, and his eyes shut all the way knowing that he was still encompassed by the one who would love him forever. Her heart fluttered, and light seemed to be radiating from her, making everything beautiful.

    A loud beep awoke her. It was 9:30am – seven months into her hell. Into her husband’s hell. She knew that to get back on track with sleeping she needed to start waking up at 7am, but she couldn’t see the point. She couldn’t see the point of much anymore. It wasn’t because she wasn’t looking for the point, she was simply blind to it. She rolled over and saw her husband was already up, gone running no doubt – the one moment he could get to himself every day while she slept.

    She closed her eyes, trying to go back, trying to escape to that moment seven months ago when all had been bright and hopeful. When she could feel hope – when she could feel love. When she could feel anything.

    A cry came from the other room – and she wanted to hide. His smile still warmed her heart a little if the stars aligned, but usually she couldn’t stand to look at him, making it equally repulsing to look at herself. The shame, the hurt – this was not how it was suppose to be. It was suppose to be like those first few moments one tiny lifetime ago. When he had a mother who would love him forever.

    • says

      Dear Marinda, Welcome to the Roadmap Blog. Your response to the prompt is fine just as it is–your piece was haunting and made me want to read more. What caused this family’s hell? How did things go from hopeful and beautiful to devastating? There are so many things not answered in this piece–and that creates a great sense of suspense. I wanted to turn the page and read more. I hope you keep coming back and post more. Your voice and your stories are welcome here.

    • Barbara Keller says

      I’m crying and I think it’s perfect as it, the unstated is clear to my heart. I spent most of my working life with families who felt like this. People working so hard to take care of children who were disabled or dying. Great job.

    • Ilana says

      Miranda- It’s just beautiful. One thing I love about this community is that we are each invited to respond to the prompt with whatever it evokes in us. I, too, am curious about what caused this hell but even if you never tell me your real point definitely came through. I could feel the sorrow in your cadence as well as the beautiful imagery. Welcome to our community. I look forward to your future posts. IM

    • Ana says

      Marinda, Like everyone else I had similar questions. I read it a few times, and each time I felt like someone was gripping my heart, but I don’t know all the reasons why. And I don’t need to know. Hope you find time for yourself to expand this beautiful painful piece. Welcome.

    • Polly says

      This is so well written. I’m very impressed, and looking forward to reading more from you also. You definitely capture the essence of wanting and fully intending to hold on to something forever, but for the moment at least, being unable to. I’m intrigued. Thank you.

  3. Dianne Brown says

    I can hold on to my sense of honor and integrity for others and for myself. I can hold on to my sense of humor and the right to laugh, head thrown back, mouth wide open and charging the atmosphere with loud and potent atoms of mirth. I hold on to my search for beauty in the ordinary, my belief in a universe that is benevolent and the restorative elixier of dog-kisses.

    I find that I cannot hold on to the agility factor that I once had, all the teeth I used to have, the same waist size as before 50, or the phone number I just looked up until I got to the phone. I cannot hold on to the physical touch of my mother’s hand to comfort or encourage me–but I can hold on to that memory. I con’t hold on to this list forever, so I send it now.

    • Dianne Brown says

      Oh yes, one other thing aside, does anyone know how I can post my photo in the little box with a white, faceless shape? I have a Mac if that makes a difference–and sometimes it does. Thanks to anyone who can help me with that one. –Dianne

    • Ilana says

      Dianne- I love the hope and sweetness in your piece. The image of throwing your head back laughing made me smile. Something I’m struggling with a little lately. Thank you. IM

      • Dianne Brown says

        Thanks Ilana, I find I am always hoping for a response from you. I feel your tenderness, and I send you a million smiles and deep belly laughs.

    • says

      Dianne, I loved your response to this post. It was funny and poignant and true. I related wholly to forgetting the phone number and so much else you wrote. Everything in fact. Thanks for helping us kick off this week’s writing with such a strong, vivid piece.

    • Ana says

      Love all the images in this piece, Dianne. Another reading I can relate to, especially the waiste size/50 year old thing. I’m bumping up against that age in 7 days. My favorite “loud and potent atoms of mirth”. That’s just awesome.

  4. Ilana says

    This week’s prompt hit me hard. A million questions started buzzing in my head; what should I hold onto? What shouldn’t I hold onto? What am I helpless to put down? What should I try harder to put down? These last few days have been very dark and painful for me. My daughter got her ears pierced and for the last few weeks she’s been borrowing earnings from me. I have neither worn nor purchased earrings for over twenty years so almost all of my jewelry is appropriate for her age and all of it is from my past. A few pieces were gifts from my abuser. That connection to the past has been so painful for me. I didn’t think about it as we have sorted through my jewelry box each day to choose what she was going to borrow next. But clearly sorting through the past in this strangely intimate way has taken its toll on me. This morning I let all of it go. I destroyed the bracelet that Andrew gave me and handed the rest over to my in-laws asking them to store it for me.

    As I read this prompt, I felt like a kite stuck in a tree. The wind is whipping me back and forth but I am stuck to the tree. It doesn’t matter that I have no control because I do not know what I would choose if I did. Would I hold onto my place on tree or let it go and fly wherever the wind would take me? I don’t know. I am lost and confused and scared. I just knew that I had to get these thoughts out and share them with this community. I will post an actual response to the prompt when I have had some time to work on it. Thank you for letting me ease this burden by sharing it with all of you. Really, thank you. IM

    • says

      I was very touched by the idea of passing that jewelry on to your daughter–who does not have any negative associations with it. I think it’s powerful to give those small items a new, untainted life…it’s just one more way that the trauma you experienced is not being passed on to the next generation. In fact, your act is a powerful symbol of exactly that.

      • Adrienne Drake says

        I absolutely love, love, love and admire your honesty! How about this. Twenty years is way too long not to have a new pair of earrings, girl! Go out and buy yourself the most beautiful earrings you can afford. Even better, also get your daughter a pair, either matching or similar, that you can wear together. Celebrate your strengh and courage and all the love you are passing on to the next generation.

        • Ilana says

          Adrienne- I cannot tell you how much your response means to me. I have often posted here, anxious about what people would think. But this is only the second time I have thrown such raw pain up on the page out of a desperate need to express it in a safe place. Both times it was made clear to me that I am safe here. Thank you so much. IM

      • Ilana says

        Thank you, Laura. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Before I surrendered my jewelry boxes to my mother-in-law I gave my daughter a beautiful pair of earrings with a sad history. I told her that I had to give the others to Nana but these were now hers. Her face lit up and I know she will cherish them as her mother’s earrings, innocent of the hurt they have endured for me. Thank you so much for your support. IM

    • Ana says

      Oh Ilana, the courage and strength you exhibited in this piece tells me you may not be as stuck in that tree as you think. Or perhaps in sharing all this, you may have help that kite release itself. Either way, thank you for sharing so honestly.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, I’m happy you wrote what you did here. It’s helpful to me as I understand feeling lost, confused, and scared. I live there a lot these days. Sharing repurposed or new jewellry with your daughter is a special thing. Something like that would’ve touched me deeply as a daughter, no matter what age. I look forward to whatever you post next. Take care.

    • Hazel says

      “Letting go,” no matter what it is we are letting go of, is always scary. The jewelry is really only a metaphor for other things in our lives. Jewelry holds memories as you have so eloquently stated in your piece. It is like entering a time machine every time you open the jewelry box. Every piece no matter how “cheap” or how “valuable” has a story. When you give away that box it is starting a new life with another person. New attachments will be made to it and the pieces it contains. It will begin anew, new attachments will be made to it, a new time machine will begin ticking. It is not so easy to go back over those events for you as you do not have the markers anymore, you have a new way of keeping time.

    • Polly says

      This is powerful. As everyone else commented, I love that you’re sharing your jewelry with your daughter, even though it sounds really difficult. Likewise with putting the rest away for safe keeping. Destroying the bracelet also must have been a powerful step to take. (I just ripped a bunch of my brother’s old comic books last night. There was a veritable ocean of superman, spiderman, and star wars fragments everywhere. What a release, but I’m nowhere near being done.) You are moving forward in your healing, and that is so important. Cheering for you!

    • Dianne Brown says

      Ilana, I keep looking for your response. But there were so many responses to this. I really felt so deeply what you were saying . . . I wrote several comments and deleted them because none of them were the hug I wanted to give you. Your writing is really strong and vivid, I love how you always give rise to my emotions, that’s good writing.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you to everyone who responded to my cry. I really needed the support and have read and reread these comments. I have not had the strength to respond to each one separately but please believe that you all are getting me through a difficult time right now. I have come to count on this community and it has never failed me. Thank you. IM

  5. Hazel says

    I can hold onto . . .
    . . .my keyboard and keep writing. I can hold onto my memories, all of them, the good the bad and the ugly. I can hold onto my pictures, the ones in my mind and the ones in my albums. I can hold onto life, until I choose not to. I can hold onto my husband’s hand, which he offers to help me. I can hold onto the knowledge that I am smart and be amazed at how many things I know. I can hold onto hope of a painless day. I can hold onto my sense of humor. I can hold onto the beauty of my daughter. I can hold onto the warmth of sunshine.

    I can’t hold up/onto “my end of the stick”. I can’t hold onto my independence. I can’t hold on to bitterness and resentment. I can’t hold onto my vegetable garden because I can’t hang onto the hoe handle long enough to take care of it. I can’t hold onto all the things I know, especially the things passed down to me from my elders, from a different time; I must share them with others. I can’t hold onto the pain in this body. I can’t hold God responsible; I had choices.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Hazel, This is so poignant and haunting, my eyes welled with tears as I read. It’s beautiful, sad, and hopeful too. I’m glad you continue writing–as it gives you joy, reveals your eloquence and is a means of sharing your lifetime knowledge. I appreciate and learn from your posts each week and I’m so happy you’re here. Humour sure helps a lot when we can access it on the most challenging days or even hours. Thank you for sharing this.

    • Ilana says

      Hazel- I’m with Terry. I love the way you have intermingled bitter and sweet. This is beautifully sad and hopeful at the same time. Well done. IM

    • Ana says

      I’m with everyone, how you juxtaposed things was beautifully done. Thank you for sharing so boldly. I was completely blown away by “I can’t hold God responsible”. I don’t know anybody who has ever said that, or would admit that. This truly opened my mind to something different. Thank you.

      • Hazel says

        Thank you so much for your comments. I find validation that I am still alive and have something to share with others when I read them. I am ever so grateful.
        Hazel ?;)

  6. Barbara Keller says

    I don’t seem able to hold on to any of the people I’ve loved. They slip away. They call. They send cards. Sometimes they make a quick visit, but they go and it seems sort of normal. I can’t hold on to youth or strength or speed or clarity. While I could hold on to bitterness, I keep trying not to. I can hold on to music. It’s in my head and I recognize it and love it as much as I ever did a half century ago. And tastes, so far I still recognize and love the flavors I always did, hot curry sauce is still great all over most meat and vegetables. Eggplant parmigiana is still worth cooking. Chocolate is still irresistable. Benedictine still tastes wonderful.

    I can’t hold on to joy, it washes in, and out, but I think that’s it’s nature. As far as I can tell, I’m right on track. I can hold on to the things I’m supposed to, and I can’t hold on to the things no one can hold on to. Except some people seem to keep their people better than I do.

    • Laura Davis says

      Beautifully said Barbara….you capture the joys and losses of age–and the pleasures that last eternally.

    • Ana says

      “I can hold on to music. It’s in my head and I recognize it and love it as much as I ever did a half century ago.” ME TOO!! I wish sometimes I can hold on to the people I love, but I know they have to leave. Funny thing is, it hurts when I hold on, so it is better not to?? Thought provoking piece, Barbara.

    • Hazel says

      Thank you for sharing.
      That is one of the greatest things about this forum . . . the sharing of feelings and thoughts, to know you are not the only one. Your last line certainly resonates with me, ” Except some people seem to keep their people better than I do.”

      Thank you again for validation.
      Hazel ?;)

      • Barbara Keller says

        So wonderful to hear from you all. It takes me awhile to get back to see the comments. I am going to surgery this morning. Trimming my palette and throat in hopes I will be breath better as I sleep. Not such a big deal, though it’s supposed to be painful, but still, going alone and anesthesia, not fun. But these kind, sincere comments are moving and encouraging. Thanks to you people all over the map who read and liked my piece and took the time to say so. Thank you.

  7. Adrienne Drake says

    I can hold onto the sound the wind makes as it passes through the leaves, or the energizing voice of waves crashing on the rocks, the silent twinkling of the stars, or my little dog’s look of complete innocence. I can hold on to memories of love given and love received, of love lost and the dreams of love yet to be unveiled. I can hold onto the memories of a childhood spent combing the sand or surfing the waves, or venturing fearlessly into the ocean in my 12 foot bright yellow sailboat I christened, to my brother’s abject horrer and shame, “Chicken of the Sea.” What I hold onto most tightly is my resilience against all odds and my intense grattitude for the presence of grace in my life.

    What I cannot hold onto is fear and anger. Oh, how I try. How I love to stick my tongue into the quiet dark pockets of my gums where each tooth of my childhood was pitilessly extracted, one by one, silently, relentlessly as the years unfolded, leaving me powerless to chew and digest great portions of a bountiful life.

    “Dream on,” I say to myself. “Nobody has it all. And besides, my challenges made me strong.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not done living. I know there is plenty left out there for me. As my dad always used to say, “May we ripen more than we rot.” (These words, too, are something I hold onto.)

    This I know for sure: The things I choose to hold onto are what save me.

    • Laura Davis says

      I loved your dad’s line: “May we ripen more than we rot.” That is priceless and I will carry it away with me. Thanks for sharing your wisdom–and his–with us.

    • Talia says

      Dear Adrienne,
      The “Chicken of the Sea” phrase was priceless. I started laughing out loud for so long and so hard my dog woke up from a nap and wanted to know what the commotion was all about. Thanks!!

    • Ana says

      I loved this…I can almost see your brother’s face. Priceless. Lots of strength here, this empowering for me. Thank you!

    • Hazel says

      ” Don’t get me wrong, I am not done living.” Way to go Adrienne! What a nice strong statement. And your closing statement, “The things I choose to hold onto are what save me.”, is the way I feel to.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Ilana says

      Adrienne- This is so great. I love the light hearted spirit of the things you hold onto. (So needed that 😉 ) The images you invoke in the things you cannot hold onto are haunting and descriptive. Awesome piece! IM

      • Adrienne Drake says

        Thanks to everyone who has replied. It certainly gives one a feeling of community knowing that what we have all been through can help others to heal….it is such a journey, and all of you are incredibly sensitive and thoughtful. Ilana, just want to say that your piece starting “Beginnings are difficult” was beyond incredible. That, and the amazing dialogue that followed were truly helpful, making me feel I belonged a little bit more to “the family of man” or should I say “woman.” 😉

  8. Laura Davis says

    I can hold on to humor. I can hold on to my breath. I can hold on to life as long as it lasts. I can hold on to each moment and then relinquish it for the next one. I can hold on to resilience and courage and the urge within me to grow and to learn and to evolve as a human being–as long as I have it. I can hold on to my curiosity and my love of nature. I can hold on to eating well as exercise and caring for my body–until I can’t anymore.

    I can’t hold on to my mother. I can’t hold on to who she used to be or what she could do last week or last month or last year. I can’t hold on to the personality she used to have and what she used to be capable of. I can’t hold on to each loss as she slips away; instead I have to make my heart bigger and feel the grief without abandoning her. I can’t hold on to my agenda for how she should be living or what she should be doing. I can’t hold on to her as someone can nurture me instead of the other way around. I can’t hold on to being her daughter because now she needs me to mother her. I can’t hold on to her brain cells or my own because they are fading a little bit more day by day. I’m just a few decades behind her.

    • Ilana says

      Thank you for posting, Laura- I love it when you are a part of our community in this way. It feels strange to comment on “the teacher’s” work but I will say that I enjoyed it and felt I saw a new perspective. Thank you for sharing. IM

    • Ana says

      Thank you for sharing this, Laura. This felt like a continuation of your Moving Mom piece…and also a homage. Strangely, as a motherless daughter, I really appreciate when you write about this relationship. I suppose through your words I can imagine the possibilitites of what could’ve been. I love it when the teacher teaches, but I also love it when I can see how the teacher is still teachable. I guess life never does stop teaching us, does it. Thank you.

      • Laura Davis says

        Thanks Ana. There’s always a new learning edge for all of us. That’s one thing most teachers are committed to–continued learning. And then turning around and passing it on to their students.

      • Hazel says

        Thank you Laura for sharing your writing. I can totally relate to what you are saying as we are losing mother-in-law in the same way. It is so difficult but it is easier when you know you are not alone in that situation. I remember when my father was into the last stages of Alzheimer’s and he seldom knew who we were or even said anything that made sense. He love jelly-beans and nuts and I had brought him some. We were standing at the kitchen counter and he was shelling a peanut. As he worked at it I said to him, “I love you Daddy.” and he replied, “I love you to.” That was the last meaningful sentence I heard him speak. I will never forget that.

        • says

          And Hazel, thanks for sharing that moment here with me. We’re still aways away from that–I have to appreciate her as she is now…because it’s only downhill from here.

    • Polly says

      Laura, this piece touched me. I liked reading your perspective on the things you can hold on to. As for the other part, my mamère (my mom’s mom) had pretty advanced alzheimers by the time I came along and I never got to know her as her sharp, capable self. She passed away when I was 9. That said, through stories I have heard about her and although this might sound strange, through dreams I have had with her present, I have always felt a deep connection to her.

      I hope you are able to cherish your priceless time with your mother and just remember that she is still in there. It sounds like she’s lucky to have you. Thank you so much for sharing.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Laura, what can I say? Your reverence and quiet deferral to the ebb and flow of life’s seasons or cycles inspires me. It deftly ignited my own passions (for fun, travel, learning, nature and self-care) and then created a necessary sadness. Beautiful.

  9. sonya m says

    I hold onto my writing talent, my cat when I’m sad, a good book, positive memories, friendships…

    I cannot hold onto…my tears, a smile, reinforcements for a better life, my own healing

  10. Kristin says

    no matter how hard i try, i cant hold onto you. at times i do, but most i cant. those times when i cant, i feel i need you the most. but you are gone, removed, far away. i sit here longing to just hold your hand, but i cant. when i need you the most, youre not around. i cant place all the blame on you though, because at times when i can feel you wanting to hold on to me, i am your mirror, gone, removed, far away. i seem to make myself that way. i cant be held, though i want to and at this moment, i cant hold you, but i want to.

  11. Talia says

    Holding on to:
    Courage Wisdom
    Respect / Valuing yourself
    Love – whether or not it is returned
    Joy – it will strengthen your heart
    Perseverance, diligence – you can pretend you’re like a stream of water and keep washing down difficulties, going over or around obstacles.

    A smile – keep holding onto smiles, your own and remembering other people’s. You can hold on to smiles that are not facial too: your dogs’ smiles which come as tail wagging.

    Hope – it is holding on to hope and optimism toward the future that keep us young and fresh.

    Things which you cannot hold on to:

    Relationships – they are organic and go through developmental life cycles. There are beginnings, middles and endings, and transitions.

    Beauty – Your own is fleeting, and shifts. Beauty, whether people or objects, is ephemeral. If you try to keep it, it alters. The best way I have found to keep it is to enjoy it while it is there, and hold onto to it in your heart.

    Worldly wealth – money comes and goes. True wealth are the treasures you store up in your heart.

    Wild things – like birds. Truly wild things are free, and it is their lovely freedom which makes them fascinating. If you lock up a bird in a cage, something in it’s spirit dies. It is best to enjoy wild things as wild; and let your own heart learn a lesson of freedom.

  12. Cheri Coleman says

    The list of things I can hold on to is best described below:

    On my own…
    Means I can make choices that are
    Best for me
    On my own…
    Means living life on my terms
    Inviting people into my life
    That will treat me with kindness and love
    And challenge me to be stronger
    On my own…
    Allows me to create my own happiness
    With myself and someone special
    On my own…
    Means I am trusting my intuition
    Making a difference
    And taking chances
    On my own…

    The list of things I can’t hold on to is best described as follows:

    I thought I wanted you back…
    I walked away for a reason
    Years of tears and angry words no more
    I thought I wanted you back…
    I lost who I was when I was with you
    No longer full of life, always sad and lost
    I thought I knew what love was
    Soul mates forever, or so I thought
    I thought I wanted you back…
    With you I have learned what love is NOT
    Love is NOT anger, Love is NOT control, Love is NOT jealous
    I thought I wanted you back…
    In the process of finding myself
    I have learned what love is
    Love IS kind, Love IS patient, Love IS Hopeful
    And most of all, TRUE Love endures forever
    I DESERVE to be happy, I DESERVE to be ME, and I DESERVE to be loved the way God intended
    I thought I wanted you back…
    Through this journey called life, I am accepting myself exactly where I am
    God is by my side pushing me forward
    I now accept my new found freedom
    I NO longer want you back…

    • Laura Davis says

      Hi Cheri,

      Welcome to the Roadmap Blog and congratulations on making your first post. It’s wonderful to have your strong, determined voice joining the chorus here. I hope to see your work here often in the coming weeks and months. P.S. Your post got posted in last week’s replies, so I just moved it here for you…you can check back to read responses throughout the week.

    • Polly says

      Cheri, this piece grabbed my attention. It feels like a spoken word piece, raw and exuding strength. Thanks for posting.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Cheri, this resonates so strongly with me. I love the recurring echo of “I thought I wanted you back…” and the change at the end. I’ll be coming back to reread this again. It’s so rich. Thanks so much.

  13. Ilana says

    To Hold On or To Let Go?

    I want to let go of all of the horrible things my parents and my brothers taught me; It was my lot in life, my fault. I deserved to be abused and mistreated. My body was a thing that belonged to them as my family. Andrew could strip it naked for his own amusement, fondle it, force things into it, twist the limbs in directions they were not meant to go… anything he wanted to do. If it hurt or felt bad to me then I was making a big deal out of nothing. Besides, it was my bad, my wrong. “What did you do to set him off?” and “Don’t tell anyone. It’s nobody’s business what goes on in our family.” My father could tell Andrew that they were taking me to a specialist because I wasn’t growing right, before he bothered telling me. Even as an adult my body still belonged to them. My mother could ask invasive questions about my sex life with my husband or when and how many times a day I eliminated solid waste. Even at 37 and a mother, myself, she still owned my body enough to put her fingers between my legs as she pointed out that she thought my pants were too tight “Your womanhood is showing.” It makes me sick to think about it. I want to wrap it up in a nice neat little bundle and toss it off some bridge, get it away from me. I don’t want to let it hurt me anymore. It still hurts me and I don’t know how to make it stop.

    I wish I knew how to let go of it. It still follows me around every single day. Sometimes it feels like I would give anything to let go of all those painful memories. If it did cost me everything, if I let go of what I want to hold on to, it might still be worth it. I’d give up the sweet memories of making chocolate sodas with my mother, the road trips when we drove cross country just us girls, listening to books on tape and when we went to Shakespeare plays together. The road trips with my father when we listened to all kinds of music and analyzed the lyrics to discover what they meant to us. There are good memories of Andrew too. I can’t share them, though, because it is too painful to even remember they existed.* Should I let it all go? Do I need it? Would I be losing some priceless treasure if I purchased my freedom from the pain with these memories? I don’t know. Like the kite that is stuck in the tree, whipped violently back and forth by the wind; it doesn’t matter that I do not know what I want because even if I did, I am powerless to make the choice. I do not know how to make the purchase. I do not know how to let it all go.

    What if I let go of the physical things? All the earrings I still have in the wooden jewelry box my father gave me when I was five, the Jewish star and the wedding ring that were once my grandmother’s. The photographs, the letters my mother sent me when I was in college. What if I let go of all of it, threw it all away? Would that purchase me my freedom? Would that ease the pain? Would that let me grow to trust myself and not believe that I am always wrong, always at fault and always ashamed? And if it did would it be worth it?

    What if I let go of my family? The hardest question of all. What if I give up on them, turned away and never speak to them again? These past 18 months their absence from my life has been a balm. The few times I’ve spoken to my parents have thrown me completely off kilter. The result was a desperate need to hurt myself. Thankfully, I called a suicide hotline instead. They a deadly poison to me, literally. Maybe I should let them go more permanently. But if I did, could I bear that loss? I don’t know.
    So this week’s prompt leaves me with more questions than answers. Maybe that’s the way it is supposed to be. I’m scared, I’m confused and I’m so so sad. But maybe that’s just the way I’m supposed to feel right now. Someday I’ll know what to hold onto and what to let go. For now, I guess, my job is to survive to make it to that day; survive and find ways to flourish in the safer parts of my world. To find joy in my children’s innocent love and faith in me. To find peace in the understanding smile of a sister-survivor who’s been where I am now and assures me that I will be alright. To find beauty in all the parts of my world that do make sense to me.

    I guess that’s what they mean when they say “Take it one day at a time.” I hate that phrase because it’s so hard and it sounds so easy. It’s the advice that people give when there’s nothing else to say. Unfortunately, though, it’s true. And right now, it seems, it’s the only thing I can do.

    *Those of you who have been reading my posts may have noticed the omission of my younger brother, Matty. He was just too painful to write about. Matt recently made it clear that he is furious with me for how I have dealt with my parents. My response was to tell him that my relationship with my parents are none of his concern. I believe this is the end of my relationship with Matty, Matt, whatever his name is. I am of no consequence to him now. It was just too painful to speak of him in this piece.

    • says

      The raw pain wafting off the page in this piece was so palpable. And I understood every bit of it. Every bit. I can also say that with almost 30 years of healing under my belt, I remember feeling the way you feel, and I don’t feel that way anymore. I want to give you the hope that things are not as impossible or black-and-white as they seem right now. I believe that someday you will make yourself large enough to hold the complexity of the good and the bad that were both parts of your childhood. It’s not a question of either or. Someday you will embrace them both. Not because you’re happy they happened. But because they made you who you are. A strong capable healed survivor. I remember being absolutely certain I would never speak to my mother again, or all the members of her side of the family, and now I am happily caring for her and her old age. I am reconnected in ways I never thought possible. You just never know. It’s not over till it’s over. Though I don’t know if I could be where I am today if I hadn’t completely let go when I needed to. It’s not that I’m predicting the outcome in your case, just saying you can’t know from where you sit now what the ultimate outcome will be…only what you need to do now to care for yourself and to tend to your healing step by step by step.

    • Polly says

      This is so powerful as always. I don’t have answers but I know that they will come to you in time. I think you’re showing a lot more strength than you realize. Family can be so complicated, especially when abuse is thrown into the mix. You’re so brave to have acknowledged it with them at all. You’ll get there – to wherever it is that is right for you. Thanks for sharing this.

    • Terry Gibson says

      Ilana, as I read this at 3:30 a.m. I am hearing a bing bing bing bing going off in my head. Your raw emotion encompasses so much of what I have felt or experienced in one form or another. So many questions and few answers. I feel tortured by my non relationships with some family but I also know that even speaking to them ignites my inclination to self-harm. I am always enraged by their condescending attitudes, sickly-sweet insincerity, inappropriate comments, and deliberate mention of perpetrator names and traumatic stories just to see my distress. When I even think of these encounters, my need for self-care stops it cold.

      You’ve transformed so much, Ilana. I am so proud of you and in awe of how powerful you really are. Doing all of this while loving, guiding and worrying about young children. .. Please continue allowing me to support and nurture you in return. (Hope this makes sense. I’m sleepy now.)

  14. Ana says

    Make a list of things you can hold on to–or try to hold on to:

    My Breath: There are days when I think my breath is endless. It’s one of the most natural things I do, and I try to hold on to it. Or perhaps I try to hold on to the idea of never letting it go.

    Lucien: When I kiss him, I take a moment, close my eyes and smell his hair. I know his scent, at times I don’t have to kiss him to recall it. I try to hold on to his precious life…perhaps the same way I try to hold on to my breath.

    Photographs: I can hold on to photographs (ones that bring good memories, ones that show me in a different light in my life, and ones that remind of me of the wreckage too). Each one still teaches me something. Some I’ve used in an art therapy exercise, thereby transforming them, enabling me to hold on to them in a different way.

    Words: I can hold your words. With intention, good ears, clear mind and sight, in a humane vessel; I can hold your words. It’s my gift to me and others, being present and holding a container of truth. I remember what it’s like to not have that container. There no need for that anymore.

    Make a list of things you can’t hold on to:

    My Breath: I know I can’t, and meditation partly teaches me to find a place where I don’t hold on to my breath. If I want to die one day with grace and dignity, I can’t.

    Lucien: Like me, he is impermanent. If I hold on, I only bring suffering to us both. I can’t hold on, it doesn’t mean I can’t love him.

    My past/story: I can’t hold on to this anymore. I appreciate the lessons, but I can’t. It’s getting in the way of who I want to see myself as. All my senses remember; I know it’s no longer serving me; I can’t hold on to it, and I can’t let go. I don’t know if I know how, and fear I won’t have anything to replace it with. It’s a vicious cycle.

    Nature: It’s too big. At times it brings me to tears when I see its enormity, it’s suffering too. I can’t hold on to it as it never belonged to me to begin with. It’s its own owner…master.

    Laughter: At times it appears like a thick fog. Other times it disapears like vaport. I’m glad I can’t hold on to it, if it were permanent it would hurt.

    • says

      Ana, I especially liked the way you circled back around to some of the same topics both times. In fact, I love the diversity of all the answers to this prompt so far this week–and it’s only Wednesday night!

    • Ilana says

      Beautiful, Ana- I also loved the way you put some things on both lists. It kind of made me snap to attention and realize that there is good and bad in everything. Nicely done. IM

  15. Diana says

    Moments to Hold

    The tour bus is alive with chatter. Ten families comprise our group and we are anxious to meet and finalize the adoptions of our daughters. We spent the last 48 hours in Beijing touring the Great Wall, Forbidden City and trying to get over jet lag. Having flown into Nanjing earlier, we are on our way to the Office of Civil Affairs. Our daughters are making a 3 hour bus ride from Gaoyou Social Welfare Institute, one of the many orphanages housing primarily healthy baby girls.
    Inside, the Civil Affairs office is cold and uniform with polished pea green vinyl tile floors and faux-oak paneled walls. Behind monstrous executive desks, sit three jaded bureaucrats with documents and red ink poised for signing. We mill about nervous as a girl waiting for a prom date. We make small talk and pace to alleviate our anxiety.
    Without warning the excitement escalates. The babies have arrived. As babies are placed with waiting parents, the talking gives way to crying. Parents cry then babies cry; parents sooth the babies and the babies cry louder.
    I look around anxiously for my daughter. Will I recognize her? The picture in the referral packet was months old. I look around me. All of the families have gotten their daughter. Where is my daughter? I scrutinize each baby to make sure each family has the right child. A young girl with a sweat round face approaches me and says “Gao, AnFang. Gao, AnFang.” I nod and reach for my daughter. Yes. Gao, AnFang that is my daughter’s name. Wrapping my arms around her, I grapple to find the solidity of flesh and bone beneath the dense quilted snow suit. The bald head of the referral photo has grown thick, course, bristly hair. I take in the odor of baby pee. “Wo shir ni da MaMa”, I whisper in her ear. “I am your mother”. I clutch her tight as we finish the official documents and take the photo for the adoption certificate.
    With the provincial work completed, we board the bus. Our next stop is a large department store, Carrfour, to buy baby supplies. Carrfour is a supersize department store with anything the urban human could possibly need. With three levels, it makes Super Target look like a five and dime.
    Unable to read the signs for ask for assistance, we meander the isles looking for what we need; diapers, formula, clothes, baby bottles and snacks. My husband pushes the cart and I hold LuLu next me, trying not to lose my grip over all the padding. As we roam the isles, well-meaning ladies motion to the cart’s seat. I pleasantly smile and nod. They move on having given me one last quizzical look. I know they must think “Silly Westerner. Doesn’t she know the baby can sit in the cart?” I am unable to tell them that I know that, but after 2 years of paperwork, 6 months of waiting for a referral and a trip across an ocean and bridging a culture, I simply can’t bear to put her down.
    I hold those moments near. I hold them near as my baby is fully in her tween years. I hold them near when I watch her sleep and I can still see the baby in the sparrow wing arch of her eyebrows and in the fullness of her cheek where it meets her jaw. I hold them near when she is full of piss and vinegar and giving me noting but sass. I hold them near as I watch her dance. Lifting and extending into postures of grace and showing elegance that could only be in born. I hold them near as the moments of purest joy of my life. I hold them near because I am her mother.

    • beverly Boyd says

      “2 months of paperwork, 6 months of waiting for a referral and a tri across an ocean and bridging a culture” somehow makes nine months watching my belly grow and the sometimes uncomfortable pains and kicking seem like a walk in the park.
      Thank you for sharing this beautifully told story of your experience!

    • Terry Gibson says

      Diana, this story is so incredible! Many times I thought of doing just what you did. As a throwaway kid from Western culture, I need to say how awesome people are who adopt. I was too old at 16 or 17 for anyone to care but, the brief times when I WAs noticed, I blossomed. Thanks for sharing this story. When adoptions escape the horror stories I’ve read about, I’m always filled with joy. I love the detail and love gems like “the sparrow wing arch of her eyebrows ….”

  16. says

    I just assigned this week’s prompt in my Thursday night and Friday morning feedback classes as our opening prompt, and so just wrote it again. And I’m going to encourage my students, many of whom have never posted here before to put their work up here as well. Here’s a ten minute writing practice on each, right from my notebook:

    I hold on to the beauty of music and the sound of harmonies. I hold on to the power of my vocal cords and the way they vibrate in song. I hold to my right to take great pleasure in something I’m not particularly good at.

    I hold on to so many assumptions about life that are rooted in the incredibly random privilege of my birth. I am an able bodied white person born in an aspiring to be middle class family in the United States of America. I try to shake off these assumptions, but my privilege is so woven into every bit of me, I will never weed it all out.

    I hold on to my belief that the purpose of life is to grow and to evolve and that growing as a person is more important than making money, making things, being important, or achieving any other kind of status in the world.

    I hold on to the humbling and amazing knowledge that a piece of passionate work that flowed out of me has influenced hundreds of thousands of people. Maybe millions. That I was a force for good and for breaking silence and that my courage made the way for many, many people to find their own. Usually, I cannot really take this in because it is too big and too much for my small “s” self to absorb. But there is something deeply satisfying about knowing that the work I did, which is a direct extension of who I am, has truly made a difference in this world.

    I hold on to the certain knowledge that there is very little I know for sure and the older I get, the more sure of this I am and the less I think I know.

    I hold on to my love for food, of tastes and flavors and cooking and the pleasure that food can bring. For a year once, when I had cancer, there was no pleasure in food at all; food was the enemy and I could not force myself to eat it. Now I will never take that pleasure for granted; I know it can go away, but I savor it every day and try to eat with as much awareness as I can.

    I hold on to gratitude whenever I can because it is the antidote to narcissism and depression and anxiety and the muddy river of feelings that can sometimes send me reeling.

    I hold on to my joy in being a teacher and in the deep satisfaction and awe and wonder I feel on a regular basis sitting in a circle of writers and having them pour their hearts and minds and creativity out on the page.

    I hold on to the belief that if I keep working at it, I can learn to love the way I think love should be. That with enough practice and humility and awareness and acknowledging that I was wrong and that I’m sorry, that I will learn to really be present with another human being, with my spouse, the way I always wished I could be. I hold on to the hope that it is still possible for me to heal that broken part of me that never really learned that special intimate kind of love.

    I cannot hold onto my son who is almost 20. I can’t hold on to him as if he were still a small boy who lived under my graces and basked in the light of my being. I cannot hold onto my wish that he were different—that he was the kind of child who called home every Sunday at 10 AM because he wanted to check in with his family, because he wanted to check in with me. I have to let go of being on the “A” list of his hit parade. I have to let go of being significant or important or even on his radar screen. I have to let go of my wish that we would be close the way we used to be, that he would text me about his day or fill me in on his worries and concerns. I have to let go of holding him to some standard of relating to his family that will only translate as guilt and entanglement.

    I cannot hold on to my daughter as she forges into her own separate, independent self. She is living under our roof still, and so I am graced with witnessing her blossom from across the room or inside the car or through observation, but I know it will be soon that she will fly far, far away, and it’s clear to all of us who know her, that she will not be looking back, at least not for a long, long time.

    I cannot hold on to being a mother the way I’ve been a mother for the past 20 years. I have to shed that mothering cloak and find a new way to be their mother. I cannot hold on to who they used to be or who I wish they were. I cannot hold on to my agenda for their lives or my desire to spare them from pain.

    I cannot hold on to the erroneous assumption that I will live a long life. I was writing to a woman who came to Bali with me last year—a woman who has been diagnosed with cancer since then—and I said to her that one of the gifts of cancer—and I do see it as a gift—is that I can no longer take my life for granted. I know that at any moment life could turn upside down and everything could be taken away or changed in an instant. I now live with death as a friend on my shoulder; I no longer can hold on to the assumption that my future will extend out infinitely. I don’t know. You don’t know. None of us know.

    I cannot hold onto the identities I have shed in the past. I cannot hold on to anything really because everything is impermanent. I can hold on to change. That’s just about the only damn thing.

    • Hazel says

      Laura, change is not a damn thing if you hold it’s hand and go with the flow. You may not like where it is going at the moment, but in the next moment it could be Ecstasy! Hang on and enjoy the ride!

      Really like this well written piece. As a mother I can relate, as shingles sufferer, I wish/hope for a “cure” akin to chemo for cancer, anything to stop it, even for a while.

      Thank you for sharing.

    • Ana says

      I just loved each one of these sections. It didn’t matter that I didn’t know some of the experiences first hand. The feelings were what captured me, I identified with them all. AND I particularly appreciated the incredibly profound level of strength and assertiveness in each piece. Wow, they just hit me like a rock, and affirmed many things for me. Thanks for sharing this, Laura.

    • Dianne Brown says

      Laura, this was so beautiful and passionate and well said. I am thinking that this week’s prompt really drew from the deepest parts of all of us. Thanks for that and for this that you have shared.

  17. Polly says

    “Hold on – hold on to yourself, for this is gonna hurt like hell.” – Sarah McLachlan

    So I’ll make the above my starting point. I am trying my damnedest to hold on to myself these days. I’m trying to maintain my identity and my strength when few things feel real and the ground feels as though at any moment it could fall out from under me. That’s not to say that everything is terrible, but so many moments feel terrifying. I made a point of saying last week however that I would challenge myself to write about something other than the effects of being in this emergency stage since I discovered my actual history. So, here goes.

    As of tonight, I’m an auntie again. My sister’s labour was difficult and unbelievably long and ultimately she had a c-section, and tonight she gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. Both mom and baby are doing extremely well. I am holding on to that miracle with all the gratitude that exists in me. I’m holding on to new life, new hope and fresh beginnings. And now I have an excuse to fly across the country once more so I can meet this precious little guy.

    I can hold on to plans, though fleeting. I can collect stress and anxiety, fear and anger, like stamps. Who in their right mind would complacently accept those terms though? I hope to hold on to my work and my home and most importantly, the ones I love. My dogs. I hope to hold on to my marriage. I will.

    And still, if I were to draw out my life on a map, I have absolutely no clue where I would place myself. My self. That is exactly where I am on this journey – it’s why I started doing the work in the first place. In my life at this point, it becomes the ultimate question: Where am I? Who am I? I didn’t think existential crises happened at 32.

    I can’t hold on to time. The older I get, the faster it spins. Sometimes I want to slow it down. I think the real test though is whether I’m able to appreciate all the little moments that comprise a period of time. Appreciate the glances, smiles, and conversations. Appreciate the hugs and the tears. I’m in the middle of a Canadian winter and when I stop complaining about the cold, I can be grateful for the crisp, cool air and the crunch of snow under my boots. That and I can dream of summer.

    I can’t hold on to anything being permanent, but I can love just about everything while it lasts. I just have to remind myself that that is what I need to do. Even pain subsides over time.

    I can hold onto the love. That and memories are all that most of us leave behind.

    • Ilana says

      Polly- I think this is a lovely piece but the part that spoke to me, perhaps because of what I am struggling with, myself, is this “I made a point of saying last week however that I would challenge myself to write about something other than the effects of being in this emergency stage since I discovered my actual history.” I applaud you for your willingness and courage to put the effort into looking around the pain to see the rest of your life as well. I have found that so difficult and admire your success in doing it for this piece. Thank you for the inspiration. Thank you for taking a place on my shoulder as one of the sister-survivors I can rely on in tough times. IM

      • Polly says

        Thanks Ilana. I find it easier to write from that darker place because that’s where I’ve been spending a lot of my time (still am), and because it’s automatically so gripping by its very nature, so by contrast this was a challenge and something I wanted to try. I think once I reach a point where I can write about the day to day stuff as well as the I do from the darker side, I’ll be more satisfied. I always love reading what you have to say.

        I’m honoured to be one of the fortunate ones with a place on your shoulder. That’s a great visual and it’s one I use myself. I thought I was the only one.

        Thank you so much.

  18. Gail says

    Only recently, I’ve realized that I can no longer hold onto my life-long anger at my mother. After all, she’s been dead these past ten years, so I haven’t had her impossible idiosyncrasies bugging me anew for some time now. As I write and rewrite the many memories that orbit around her larger-than-life personality, I suspect I am gradually losing my grip on the little bits I do know about her, and I will never be able to cling to the edge, even for a moment, of that great crater of unknowns that are now eternally beyond my grasp. With each story I write, I understand that she did the best she could, and I finally see that I cannot hold onto my resentment forever.

    • says

      Dear Gail, welcome to the Roadmap Blog. It’s great to see you up here (or is “out here”) in this virtual space! I love what you wrote here because I can relate so well, especially the “great crater of unknowns that are now eternally beyond my grasp,” and the last line, “With each story I write, I understand that she did the best she could, and I finally see that I cannot hold on to my resentment forever.” I love the nod you give to writing as a transformative and healing force in our lives. And the fact that it’s taken ten years…well, that’s and important piece of the puzzle, too. We can, nor should we, try to force ourselves to resolve the most complex relationships in our lives–and mother/daughter definitely fits into that category. I hope to see you “up here” again in cyberspace.

  19. Eve says

    I can hold on to my pain, but it’s gonna hurt.
    I can hold on to my rage, but it’s gonna burn.
    I can hold on to my past, but it is gonna haunt.
    I can hold on to my bitterness, but it’s gonna spoil.
    I can hold on to my hate, but it’s gonna harm.
    I can hold on to my jealousy, but it’s gonna cause my bird to fly.
    I can try to hold on to my babies, but they’re growing too fast.
    I can try to hold on to my friends, but they are fleeting.
    I can try to hold on to my family, but they are hard to find.
    I can try to hold on to my career, but my spirit knows it’s time to move on.
    I can try to hold on to the brat in me, but it’s going to push others away.
    I can not hold on to my health, I continue to live in this unhealthy way.
    I can not hold on to my peace, I continue to let this unrest take hold.
    I can not hold on to my patients, I just have to watch them die.
    I can not hold on to the health of others, it is up to each of us.
    I can not hold on to this medical system, it is going to kill me.
    I can not tell the TRUTH, it is a conflict of interest.

    I can not tell people there’s a way to cure their cancer, they just don’t want to hear it…

    • says

      Eve, I especially loved these lines, “I can hold on to my pain, but it’s gonna hurt.
      I can hold on to my rage, but it’s gonna burn.
      I can hold on to my past, but it is gonna haunt.
      I can hold on to my bitterness, but it’s gonna spoil.
      I can hold on to my hate, but it’s gonna harm.”

      You nailed the choices we all have to make every day. Thank you.

  20. Janet says

    I can hold onto the awareness that my father molested me from the age of three to the age of nine, when it helps me to understand something that is happening now. Like how I feel four years old when I hear a story on the news about a child being abused. It helps to know why my heart and mind flips to three or four years old. I can’t hold onto the pain, resentment, anger, rage, and bitterness. I breathe them in, along with the knowledge that I am not the only one who feels this way, and I blow them out, picturing a brilliant rainbow of light going out around the world to heal all of the hearts that carry the same pain. Then, I can hold onto the love and joy that fills my heart. Then, I can hold onto the real me.

    • says

      Hi Janet, Welcome to the Roadmap Blog. I love the way you described the way you do and don’t hold on to your painful history–how it serves you and how it hinders and how you carefully pick your way through those multiple levels of awareness. I hope you keep coming back. It’s wonderful to have your voice join the chorus here.

  21. Terry Gibson says

    I cannot hold on to old humiliations. I cannot let them seep into present-day interactions with people like my friends and colleagues.

    When I write out these feelings and thoughts, out of necessity only, they startle me by their power. They frighten me by their power. I cower and writhe at the credibility I give their power.

    In an instant yesterday, I victimized myself due to that power. My defences were down and I was overwhelmed with an onslaught of subconscious memories. A fresh welt stinging. Creaking bed. Stepfather taunting me. Feeling crippled by class. Strange men having sex with me while I clung—hovering between life and death—high in a corner where ceiling met wall.

    I cannot hold on to that critical voice with the tongue of a scalpel. In it is a deadly intention to beat me down bone-by-bone and mash my guts into a bloody mess.

    I cannot hold on to other people’s pain. It lives deeply within me in a special space, a secluded cove, where I can sit sometimes on the shore. In my mindful breathing, I allow my love and deep respects to envelop me. I send healing thoughts and good energy to all who matter.

    I cannot hold on to all I have and will witness today, tomorrow or next week. Simply put, my body cannot manage it. In all aspects of my physical and emotional being, I must let it move through me and wash over me.

    I cannot hold on to stewing in it and allowing it to drag me backwards and down.

    I can hold on to crying, making room for an implosion, the depressive crumple inward, for this keeps and kept me safe for crucial hours last night.

    I can hold on to keeping my hands busy writing, especially when they are itching and aching to self-harm.

    I can hold on to fighting the old habits, visceral and so compelling in an emotional crisis.

    I cannot hold on to emotions so intense I am sashaying bare foot along the edge of a razor.

    I cannot hold on to neglecting myself, to becoming lax with my self-care. I know this but sometimes forget, or get so caught up in my busy-ness that I hear a low whirring in my head, a clamouring for attention that will only shut up when I fall sick.

    I can hold on to the nebulous scrap of self-restraint I found last night. I can fuel and nurture my body so I have the energy to fight against fear and panic. In crisis or not, I can keep up the writing habit in lieu of risky, damaging behaviours.

    I can hold on to the continuous flow of my words. Those syllables and sentences can cripple or free, but what mattered most last night was the act of pouring them out. Writing held me captive and safe into daybreak when exhaustion halted my self-berating, cold.

    I can hold on to knowing that I always try my best. I really do and often over-think issues in an effort to do so.

    I can hold on to the fact that God knows every spark of light and love that embodies my spirit.

    I can hold on to the belief that I will have help to reveal that through my eyes and actions, especially when my words falter.

  22. Sangeeta S. says

    I can hold onto myself, my faith, my honor, my loyalty. I can’t hold onto other people’s self, faith, honor, loyalty. I can breathe and release. I can spin around in circles and hold my breath. I can wait for the clock to strike “3” and then turn.
    What I can’t do is allow it to strike 18, once that happens, I’m doomed.

    Now, for the next part..
    I can hold onto things forever; I can reverse course and let them go before they even got a chance; I can use time to reverse the effects of the past, I can wait until things naturally release..
    I can’t use yesterday as an excuse for tomorrow..or neveryear; I can hold tight to the past and then release it like a bird..

    I went to an art gallery today..unexpectedly; didn’t know what I was looking for but found it..
    Now I wait for tomorrow and release; I can’t wait for tomorrow’s release..

    Hold onto hope; it’ll be there..

    • says

      Sangeeta, I loved this. Especially the lines, “I can’t use yesterday as an excuse for tomorrow..or neveryear; I can hold tight to the past and then release it like a bird.”

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