Letting it Go v. Giving Up

It’s a thin line, a shiver of a difference, but it changes the road you are on from a long hard climb up a scree-strewn path to a road you have chosen, maybe not for its easy travel, but because you are willing to walk where it takes you.

It’s the difference between Giving Up and Letting Go.

Whether it’s a decision made in your studio, your buzzing mind, your hollow heart or a closed-in hospital room, giving up is coming face to face with who you are and how much you can give. It’s often unwilling, exhausted, and the only idea you have left. And sometimes it’s made out of fear, anger and retribution. You give up when your effort is no longer rewarded in any way you can recognize. There are no new ideas, no breeze that feels fresh. It’s a feeling of churned up dirt. It may be laced with a feeling unworthiness and emptiness. But not the good kind.

Letting go feels different. Letting go may be shaded by sorrow, but it is lit by strength. Letting go comes from self-knowledge and the ability to give up control, give up expectations of how much you can steer the outcome. You may care, but you have weighed the choices carefully, balanced your ability with how much heart you have left, and you have chosen. Deliberately.

You open your hands, your heart, and breathe in deeply when you let go. You choose. You know it may hurt, but you also know that you are not going to carry that burden any further. Letting go feels open.

Giving up and letting go can both be uncomfortable, but giving up tastes like ashes and letting go is a long cool drink in the desert. You may still have a long way to walk in the hot sun, but you know where you are going.

-Quinn McDonald is a creativity coach and art journaler. She’s done both giving up and letting go. And letting go is done with open hands and open heart, and giving up is done with clenching fists and fear.