letting go, carrying on

I haven’t used this GoodsSweat3 hankie for some time (the photo below was the original product shot we took in 2015). This phrase 拿得起放得下was contributed by filmmaker Tan Pin Pin

Growing up I hear this phrase mostly in kungfu shows. The man would thump his chest and declare - 男子漢,拿得起放得下!(I’m a man! If I can take something up I can also let it go!) - meaning he is man enough to not become attached to things or people.

Instead of bravado, Pinpin had shared this phrase in the context of her creative process where editing is difficult but so necessary. Editing is a process of clarifying intent, structuring thought, realizing composition. But we can sometimes be so attached to an idea or a certain part which we struggle to let go. But all creative work demands a critical eye to edit. Sometimes the creator is too close to the work and they need someone else to provide the editing eye. 

Of course, letting go is never easy. How do we know when we have to persevere and hold on? Or when to “cut your losses”? Or when is letting go actually the kinder, wiser, or better thing to do? When I took the hankie out this morning to use, it made me pause. What is it I am carrying that I cannot let go? 

In gardening these questions are also relevant. Do you snip off a branch? Is it premature? Is the plant really dead? More water? Less? More fertilizer? Less? But unlike creative work, the plant has a life of its own! In other words, nature edits itself! It sheds leaves, flowers… and for all your best efforts, it may still die. In the wild, this cycle happens daily. So you must be prepared, as a gardener, to eventually let go.

Some of you know I have had no luck with flowering plants. Neither did J. He gave up but often looked lustfully at roadside bougainvillea. I haven’t quite given up despite having failed with the Jasmine (it had scales) and the Adenium (it had mealy bugs). I gave both to my mom.

A few weeks ago I bought this luscious Camilla. I chose it because it was already blooming and had some 30 buds! Ah, such promise. I can’t foul up so badly, can I???

Well, in the first two weeks, even the new blooms wilted and most buds stayed shut. I did think I should finally give up flowering plants altogether. But a few days ago a friend advised me that perhaps it just needed watering daily instead. Ah, so I have been torturing it! I took her advice and this week, some of its buds bloomed! Strangely, or perhaps because they were starved for a time, the blooms are not in their original, more common shade of vibrant strawberry. Instead they are in this gentle pink. What a surprise. What a beautiful surprise.


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