The clay pit: What my sister getting stuck in the muck taught me about letting go

When I was a kid, the arrival of Spring’s mucky, messy weather motivated Saturday afternoon outings to a place we lovingly referred to as:

the Death Cliffs!

(In truth, it was just a section of high muddy riverbanks near our home in southwestern Ontario and not nearly as terrifying as its moniker suggests.)

On one such outing, my brother Nicholas, my sister Meghan and our cousins Jonathan and Adam found ourselves a particularly sloppy pit of clay and took turns doing cannon balls into it.

Before long, however, Meghan found herself waist-deep in the muck — and very, very stuck.

Unfortunately, the play-clothes Meghan chose to wear that day included a pair of hand-me-down sweatpants with an elastic waistband well past its prime.

As a result, the more we attempted to pull Meghan from the mud, the more her pants would fall down.

And so every time we made headway, Meghan would feel herself losing her trousers and pull her hands away so she could hoist her pants back up.

And of course, every time she did that, she’d just sink back into the clay.

Caught between the total embarrassment of losing her pants in front of her family and being stranded in a pit of clay for all eternity, Meghan broke down into tears as we repeated our futile attempts to get her out with her dignity intact.

Eventually Meghan’s survival instincts overpowered her mortification. Accepting her fate, she stopped trying to hold her pants up while we pulled her out of the mud.

In the end, I saw way more of my sister’s bum than I would have liked, but she was finally free.

Meghan’s muddy misadventure reminded me that although it’s hard to let go, clinging to something can prevent you from moving on.

Yes, letting go of her pants was a tough decision (and Lord knows I wish there was a way out of that clay pit that didn’t involve seeing my sister with no pants on).

But in the end, letting go was the only way to free herself from being stuck.

Unfollowing an ex on Facebook may be what you need to move on from a past relationship. Letting go of the expectation that your work will be sunshine and lollipops all the time can free you from feelings of resentment and disappointment. Giving up our favourite fast food might be necessary to achieve the healthy lifestyle you want.

Whether it’s bad habits, toxic relationships, silly mistakes or even your pants, letting go can be challenging.

But it’s also often a prerequisite for meaningful growth and change.

In short, becoming who you want to be takes guts to leave behind the things that are holding you back.

Or as Lao Tzu put it, “When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.”