Sometimes You Just Need to Let Go – Episode 423

I’m not sure that I ever mentioned this to you, but at one point in my life I wanted to be a cowboy. It wasn’t when I was 6 or 7, I was actually in my 20s. This is embarrassing but I had dreams of working on a ranch and being out in the wide open spaces and you know riding a horse and all that cowboy stuff. I actually got a job working on a ranch but that’s a whole other story, maybe I’ll tell you about that sometime…

Anyway, during my “cowboy” phase, while living in Arizona, I decided to try my hand at the rodeo. I made up my mind to try bareback bronc riding.

This is where a rider gets on a horse (or bronc) whose only desire is to buck the bronc rider off. With only one hand, the rider hangs on to a “rigging”, which is a handle, like on a suitcase, attached to a leather strap strapped around the horse. To hang on, the rider wears a glove that fits tightly into the rigging handle, secured with resin (sticky) powder. The goal is to stay on for eight seconds.

At the time I was living in an agricultural fraternity, so I had some buddies that were in the rodeo. One of the guys had a wooden sawhorse that had a rigging attached to it. I practiced for a while on this wooden sawhorse with two guys at either end bouncing it up and down while I tried to stay on. The whole thing sounds silly while I’m saying it but back then I really thought this would help me stay on a real horse. Thinking I was ready, I went to the practice arena one night and paid ten bucks for my chance to ride a wild bronc.

My legs felt like jelly as I lowered myself onto the horse which was held in a bucking chute which is a wooden enclosure with a gate out to the arena. I jammed my gloved hand into the rigging. Out in the arena, the pickup man waited on his horse. The pickup man’s job is to rescue the rider from the bronc.

I nodded my head to signal that I was ready. The chute opened. Eleven hundred pounds of horse rocketed into the arena with 130 lbs. of me attached to it.

About 3 seconds too late, I realized that I really had no business being on that horse. I was getting tossed like a rag doll in a clothes dryer.

The pickup man, seeing that I was a lost cause, rode up next to us on the right. I started to climb onto his horse. I got halfway there with one leg on when he yelled “Take your hand out of the rigging!”

In all the excitement, I had forgotten to take my left hand out of the handle of the rigging. My hand was stuck tight with resin, on the other horse, stuck in there all nice and cozy, the way it was supposed to be. Except now, it wasn’t supposed to be.

All I could do was climb back onto the bronc. After a few more bone-rattling bucks, I got my hand free, and he gleefully sent me flying off and into the ground.

After I got all the dirt out of my mouth, and with some sense pounded into me, I decided to do horses a favor and end my rodeo career right then and there. Sometimes you just need to let go.

But sometimes, caught up in the excitement (or routine) of life, it’s easy to forget that we are still holding on to things we should have let go a long time ago. Like me on that bronc, we can end up being dragged along by our emotional or physical involvement, shaken to and for by our choices, or being thrown by our physical and psychological “stuff.”

As hard as it might be, there are times when the best thing to do is let go and get off. This is how you make yourself available for a new ride. This is how you allow new (maybe better) stuff to come in.

What are some things that we might want to let go of? What’s something that needs to be released from your life, now?

· Material things you don’t use or need.

· A job that’s no longer serving you.

· A relationship that has reached its end.

· An unrealistic desire that’s distracting or getting in the way of what you really need to be doing. (Like trying to ride horses that don’t want to be ridden)

· Guilt or regret

· A tradition that’s outdated.

· A belief

· A habit

The things that people come to release are usually things like anger, resentment, judgement, guilt.

We’re all entitled to these feelings; they are normal human emotions.

The question is, how long do we want to hold on to them before they become like a ball and chain, weighing us down and keeping us from moving forward.

When I got attached to that horse in the rodeo arena, he owned me. I was at the mercy of his anger at having someone on his back that he didn’t want.

Do we really want to be owned by our anger, our resentment, our guilt? Riding our bitterness and resignation until we find ourselves in the dirt? That sounds pretty scary to me.

I can’t tell you when to let it go. How to let it go, well that might be a topic for another podcast. But the first step is to be clear that what you are holding onto is no longer serving you and might just be costing you more than you think.

That day back in 1984 when I let go of that horse, I let go of the desire to be in the rodeo. I like my bones too much. There were several new interests and desires that came after that, as well as a lot of bruises and pain. I just kept letting go when I realized they weren’t what I needed anymore. It’s never easy, but so far, it’s been a hell of a ride.


“To let go does not mean to get rid of. To let go means to let be. When we let be with compassion, things come and go on their own.”

– Jack Kornfield



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1 reply
  1. Kristina M Keane-Jensen
    Kristina M Keane-Jensen says:

    Love your Rodeo story & the metaphor of letting go. It’s a fun image to utilize when I’m “stuck” in past dynamics with my family… seeing myself in that type of Rodeo style compromising position and remembering to let go & let it be! Thanks for sharing

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