Feeling love, in many ways, is easy. Letting go in order to really, truly give your heart is harder.
In my novel Burning Embers, Rafe is a man who is haunted by his past. He is unable to let go of a difficult situation in which he found himself and for which he blames himself. He has carried his grief and anger and guilt around with him for years, and it has poisoned his life – leading him to seek false comfort in the arms of women who mean nothing to him. He is self-punishing; he doesn’t feel he deserves to be happy.
Then along comes Coral. Loving her is all too easy. But in order to be with Coral, he must let go of his pain; he must stop hurting himself over his past. He must let go, and move on.
It sounds simple on paper, but in truth this is the hardest thing in the world for Rafe (indeed, for anyone) to do. Because while holding on to the past is painful, it is also comforting, easy, secure. It is easier to hate oneself than to try to be compassionate and forgive one’s mistakes. Letting go is terrifying – new territory that makes Rafe vulnerable to further pain. Will he find the courage to trust Coral, and let himself be happy? Or will be punish himself – and Coral – for a past he cannot change?
In writing the character of Rafe, I did a lot of thinking about how the past can haunt us and hold us back. Here are some of the quotations I found most helpful in considering how I could guide poor, tortured Rafe from a place of darkness to one of light, love and hope.
We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us. – Joseph Campbell
When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be. – Lao Tzu
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. – Havelock Ellis
Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward. – Author Unknown
Look not at the days gone by with a forlorn heart. They were simply the dots we can now connect with our present, to help us draw the outline of a beautiful tomorrow. – Dodinsky
The obstacles of your past can become the gateways that lead to new beginnings. – Ralph Blum