The other night, I organized a picnic at Millennium Park for the organization I run, Chicago Physicians for Social Responsibility. The event went well: the sandwiches from the sustainable café chain Hannah's Bretzel were very tasty, two bottles of cava I lugged from my car went down easily, we had a nice mix of physicians my age and medical students, and we all sat on blankets and folding chairs and listened to funky jazz under the evening sky.
With the stunning architecture of its stage and overhead open air acoustics, the pavilion at Millennium Park has been a truly amazing addition to Chicago. The only minor flaw is that it's hard to meet up with your friends there. The large aluminum poles lack numbers or letters, and saying something in a text like "we are sitting on a green blanket in the middle of the lawn" does not help friends locate your blanket easily. To create a way to find us, I added a few mylar balloons to the mix, and asked our attendees to look for them. Balloons are prohibited at Millennium Park, as they could get loose and fly into the overhead acoustic system, but I did not know that when I was planning the gathering. Somehow, I was able to sneak the balloons into the park, and when the physicians--who I did already know--and the students, who I had not yet met, saw the balloons, they could easily find our picnic.
After a few hours of music and socializing, the evening was ending, and we all packed up and headed home. I still had to lug a lot of things back to my car parked in the underground lot, but as we had consumed most of the food and drink I had brought with me, my load was a little lighter. I picked up my bags full of remaining paper goods, the brightly-colored table cloths I always bring to picnics, wine and water, and my folded chairs, tied the two balloons to the top of my portable cooler, and headed out across the big lawn. I glanced over at the balloons flapping the breeze a few times, and kept walking slowly, carrying my heavy load. Then, suddenly, I saw the balloons floating away. Green, blue, light and floating on a new journey, I did not mourn their loss as they made their way from my cooler up into the summer evening sky. I held my breath for second as they cleared the overhead metal acoustic system and did not become entangled in it, and watched them climb higher a little image of freedom added to the evening's mix.
In that moment, I felt that I was letting go of something.
I am not sure.
I love Rachel Maddow, but for 2 years she promised me that the publication of the Mueller Report would bring down the Trump presidency almost immediately. That did not happen, and clearly won't happen. The best change would be to elect a democrat to the White House in 2020. Was I letting go of the hope I'd had that Trump would be removed from office?
I recently made a change at work, leaving a clinic where delivering medical care was extremely challenging to work in a different clinic where things seem to go more smoothly, still within the same organization. It was a difficult but necessary change. Was I letting go of my now former position?
My 20-year-old daughter has been very independent all summer, rarely calling or texting my husband and me while working at the sleepover camp in Michigan she attended as a camper for many years. I am happy for her independence and confidence, but a little sad she does not need me as much as she has in the past . Was I letting go of her childhood?
I might be trying to let go of all three elements of my life. I hold on to feelings for a really long time, and letting go is never easy for me. But I suppose anything can happen on a lovely summer evening. And escaping balloons can hold many meanings as they climb higher into the unknown.