The Chorus: Letting Go

this is a project that has been burning a hole in my heart. we all sing our pure and shaky and earnest songs, to ourselves, our kids, our pasts. we sing because we need to hear our voices out loud, because it gets lonely sometimes, because it hurts, because the joy cannot fit in our bodies. parents are always and never alone. i want to focus on the never part. i want to hear the voices together. i want to start a chorus.

– Amy Grace


it is all born in the same place. the beauty and the sickness, the reaction and the fight against it. the miracle that blooms and the soil that holds it.

the noise and the quiet, the idea and disappointment, the hope and the fall, the floodgates and those that will never know them; a single braid, a course of veins from the heart. the opposites. the opposites at once.

the darkest people i have known have had more light than they could keep burning on their own. my brother was one of them. i am one of them, still crawling, a torch under my arm, looking for him, looking for grace in corners, under memories, in the eyes of old photographs, beneath heavy stones.

there is a rift between my words and pictures. a knife through a cloud. i can undress my soul in front of the metaphor i can hold in my hand. mirrors are trickier. the way it really looks, without the lens of feeling and hope. my kids are like looking up at the stars, and i want to take pictures of that. when it’s me, alone, it looks more like this. i almost shared another dream of a portrait, but my daughter called me out on it. she asked where this picture went. “that is REALLY letting go.” and she is right, and she is pure. i was right, and i want to be. let’s really do it.

we all tend to look down at things when we have risen up from them, or never known the depths at all. there is redemption, all light and lift, a new world at the end of the tunnel. then, yet there is the struggle, the people who are failing or flailing, the darkness to be fought, the antithesis. i call bullshit. to soar is the luck of a draw. i call back to myself at twenty nine when love was in a noose, and the shadow of violence hung over the best days, ready to break into thunder. i call back to myself at twelve, carefully plotting every move and calorie with a broken heart and wings. i call back to the night i remember almost every heavy lidded, blissful, painful, every pore full second of almost being a mother. and to the split of the world, when i saw her perfection. i call out to my future self, who will surely forget, for the thousandth time, that life is about letting our own realness overlap our now, instead of the beauty of the shows we play out. i CRY out for this mix we all are. for the broken bits of infinity and our longings for forever. fragile as the image and its negative. all parts at once, showing up, loving, hurting, trying to understand. we all see what’s above the surface in each other. where the light hits, where we place ourselves against the shadows. but we are all icebergs. we are all icebergs together.

i looked in the mirror tonight, tired and rumpled by wrestling, and a day of hard thinking and playing in a redwood cathedral. and i laughed. it was that bad. it was that much alright. it was a revelatory response. the flip side to the me who used to reign in shadows. and it felt like the night i took this picture. our before house at a very after price. with rats and termites in the walls and wood rot and cracked bones, with now missing walls and windows. with a single bedroom defined only by its mattresses on the floor, and 450 square feet of living space. we deconstruct to reconstruct, adding a layer of hope each time. and there is the gold. that every day, every hour, every person, every reaction, every breath, is a new thing. in all this simple, there is freedom. we are scaled back to our skeletons. and some moments it seems all that’s left is our love. love and little bits of truth, spilling out like sparks, catching fire. more bits, bigger bits, whole pieces and dark spells and years and aches and secrets never told. and then it is a bonfire. and soon you don’t think about the pieces you feed it. it becomes you. the truth, the humor, the mediocrity, the joy, the mistakes, the repetition, the flashes of brilliance, the grace.

so if every slash and hope and fight, every drop in the stomach and lift of the air in my chest, every single thing i wanted for someone else that i had to let go, IS really let go. my only letting go is letting it out. free is not an alone thing, free is together. if it all sits in this quiet space, at 11:07 pm, the kids safe and under this roof that may just hold for another day. with us, of us, through us all. then i will release my open hands and wait for what will come into them.

– Amy Grace


Permanent tattooed black dots on my skin. Mark me. Mold me. Control me.
Clamp me to a table. Move me. Make noise for me.
Radiate me.
I remember trying hard to pretend I didn’t exist as I lay on the cold table. My mind floating through waves. Far away from the body strapped down. I traveled so far, further than I ever did in my life during my time wearing this mask. I visited worlds both dark and light, loved and hated, tortured and caressed.
This tainted mask is long gone but the scars of the babies, the children, the mothers, the fathers, the “everyone” who are not here. I hold on to them. With dear life. I hold on to them.

– Candy Kempsey

I’ve not learned to let go. I was raised in a house where forgiveness was talked about at length–Jesus Christ died for your sins & through him you are forgiven–but the value of problem solving & the simple act of saying sorry were never practiced. If God has forgiven them, why then should they need to seek forgiveness from anyone else? I’ve been out of that house for eighteen years, but I still have issues with the notion of forgiveness, and with the deep-rooted mistruth that in order to forgive my transgressors, I have to let go of the desire for them to just say sorry. In the bible, many words were written about having to forgive those who have sinned against us, in order for us to be forgiven by God… much more so than about asking forgiveness from the person we have sinned against. I still take issue with that, but unfortunately, it has completely clouded my entire adult life; my ability to trust, my ability to forgive, and my ability to let go. As I write this, I am on day 34 of a 40-day yoga intensive where we do daily yoga, mediation, journaling, intentional eating, and group meetings… and I’ve found that “letting go,” is not my strong suit. Meditation, which in itself is the act of letting go, is the one thing that I cannot do. I find myself sitting there with stoic control of my body & my mind, not allowing either to fall into the depths of the unknown, the depths of stillness. Through these forty days of practice, I have found out two things about myself that I previously did not want to acknowledge: One, that I am unable to forgive those who have hurt me, which has led to me being hardened, untrusting, and unable to be happy for myself & for others; and Two, that I let my ego motivate everything that I do, even when I tell myself that my heart is what’s motivating me. The latter is a major enlightenment to me. My ego gets in the way of my own relationships & drives the decisions I make… god help me if I were to say sorry or admit that I’m wrong, or swallow my pride enough to just “let go,” and to not have to be right all the time! I have suddenly realized that my own inability to forgive has resulted in a wall built around the me who just wants to be listened to, and is now a fortress built of ego around a me that I can hardly see.

I have found this out, and I want to let go. I want to let go of that ego, and be aware of the dangers it presents to the people I love & the damage it has done to me. Luckily for me, I believe that nothing is set in stone & that everything is subject to change. I believe that it is not too late to let go… to let go of the past, let go of my hurt, let go of my ego, and really give myself a second chance in life by not letting those things dictate my life. In yoga I learned that “every moment is a chance for a new beginning,” and my new beginning is to just let go, to let my heart shine & allow my ego to wither away into the shadows.

– Catherine Abegg

Letting go

What we have, where we are, who we are. As if at some point, there was engraved on the stone of our hearts “Such ’till the end of time thou shallt be”

And although we know, we really really know That if we only Not always but occasionally Looked out of ourselves, our lives We might find who we’ll become

Our minds and hearts scream What if? Our souls reply If only

Uncurling the fingers one by one from The bar of comfort and warmth The bars of the prison of fear Letting go

– Zalmy Berkowitz

Light weaving binding me tightly
I grab at the tree lined heaven
begging for mercy breaking me
with crashing waves
tides pool from deep within
Moments once existed
our truth fossilized as
only memories
Each day new life appearing
Awakening from frozen tundra
Promises of better tomorrows
Beckoning me to follow
Massaging my soul
letting go.

– Megan Axelsson


You know how your best friend can be your worst enemy? To which I say hold on to the bestest in your bestie so their beasty has no were to lay it’s head. I can let those beasts go, but you? Oh no! Because sometimes letting go is a lot like holding on… selectively.

– Maryanne Gobble

sometimes the letting go is far more painful than the emotional hanging on of one more moment, day, week, year. letting go is yarn, yarn that unwinds endlessly from it sweater of warmth and safety, wrapped around our fragile being. yarn spun around senseless wanderings and mutterings, rocking in the dirt stained corners of a

polished acceptance.

sometimes i can see myself there, content without my unraveled bit of fiber to pull me back, one last knitted bit of responsibility and discipline mends the seams, but there are holes, and loose threads.

knit one, purl two…

there’s a warmth in the falling, the tumbling, the grasping and missing of roots and leaves that hold us solid, letting go of tightly woven notions of perfection, strands of earthly colored, tear stained lengths that drive us into the dark and forgiving nakedness of solitude. best tie that yarn around your wrist, tight and cutting you off like a balloon begging you to just…


sometimes the rabbit hole is just too deep.

– Martha Schuster

1743437_10152907700223357_263916049_nCancer had finally kept his darkest promise.

This happens to other people. People I feel sorry for. I pity them, even still. Even now that it is me. I can’t erase it from my heart, so it wears on my face too. If you lean in close I am positive it’s markings are there. It doesn’t dissipate, evaporate, vanish over time. It stays with you.

Watching her go. Ever so slowly. Those days were heavy yet floating. The house full of peace. Heaven was close. I was careful to place little exchanges, words, thoughts, smiles, I love you’s gingerly in my pocket, I pull them out now to marvel at them. I keep them close and secret, as if saying them out loud makes them less or pretend, and I want them to stay real and mine. But I will tell you part of the secret- because you might want to know what happens when you say goodbye forever. I told her I was ready. It had to be said- but I never really meant it. I said that she could go, that I would be ok. It wasn’t true at all. Not one bit. The second they escaped my lips and floated away from me I wanted them back.

Time moves Godlike for me now, a year feels like a day. Everyone moves on. But I am a glacier. Still here, slowly moving, recovering, and reshaping as I go. I remind myself she is gone. Still new and fresh, an emptiness, a nothingness, a void that I fill with other things. It only scratches at the surface. “Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything” (-CS LEWIS)

The safety of a home is not a place, it is a person, it is in your mother’s arms.


But can’t I? Just as her absence is like the sky, so is her presence. I see her in everything. Every periwinkled hydrangea, every kiss I deliver to my girls, every time I vacuum the living room rug. She is not in the sadness, the tears, (and there are thousands) that is not where I find her. She is in the living. In my children, in her children- in me.

– Kjrsten Madsen


Breathe deep, clear your heart, let it go, My Sweet Child. The images of the perfect woman mothering her children with the gentlest of ease. The preconceived ideas you had about the kind of children you would birth. The cycles your foremothers left you to weave in and out. Detangle those webs of useless patterns that need be left behind. The knots left to me by my own mother have been untangled and set free. The pain, the anger, the greed is no longer a burden I carry or will pass onto my own children. Delighted in their unknowing freedom is something that gives me peace and rest. The desire for my own mother is still buried deep in my heart like a tick to skin, waiting for the change but not fully able to trust in the process. I will one day let go of her, bring her to the earth with a crown of roses from her beloved garden and find sorrow in never truly letting go of my own hopes and dreams for us. But somehow I will always find solace that I will never be the kind of mother she was.

– Des Haigh


one of the hardest parts of parenting I have discovered is letting go.  letting your child make mistakes. letting them fail. letting them bear the consequences.  but its necessary. its how we learn, its how they learn. sheltering them is doing them a disservice.  and when you let go, and they soar?  its an unbelievable feeling.

– Wendy Laurel

As we all try to look ahead
Trying to focus further on
We cannot help but wonder of yesterday
Lingering for a moment
In the experience of it all

Will tomorrow be better?
The ever present question
Lying dormant in our subconscious
Woken up by memories
We try hard to capture

Will the flowers bloom
In the fields of our varied lives
We remember the seeds sowed
In the earth of our memories

We go forward always
Distracted by life
Powerful enough
But not enough

To distract us from who we are

– Tamar Haytayan Armen

physically i’m ready for this, it’s the mental aspect that has me concerned. this shift that marks a new phase that encompasses more than i first imagined. will i have the patience to guide us through this, or will i come up short and diminish the excitement and adventure of it all? while i have rarely felt more like an actual, bonafide adult, i want more than ever to cling to your childhood. will you remember the countless times you stumbled to our bed in the wee hours of the night, wedging your cold feet beneath my warm legs? what it felt like the first time you pedaled your bicycle up the drive because you relentlessly worked your little legs until they did what you commanded of them? will you promise to continue the battles waged with wooden swords and feed the imaginations too big to be contained? what will become of the years of dress-up, superpowers, raiding make-up drawers and closets? i worry that this surge into the unfamiliar will overtake these memories and habits only to replace them with fresh ones. if i had my way they would merge together seamlessly as we move together into this new chapter, but i can’t help but wonder if i’ll be alone in looking back.

– Jess Lewis
the ones on the left are his.  his and mine- side by side.i don’t really know how it happened.see… it was just a moment ago that I was walking him into his kindergarten class for the first time.and for a while there he was still my baby.he still held my hand to cross the street…”mom- can you pour my juice?”
“mom- can you untie this knot?”
“can I have a bullito for lunch?”but now…he brings me my morning coffee.
(okay- he still asks me to undo the knots)
cute mispronunciations became conversations filled with words that I have to ask him the definition of.

…and now this.  i stare at shoes that let me know that there is a young man in front of me.  that the little boy that held my hand going into that kindergarten class will holding other girls’ hands and waving as he pulls from the garage in our family car.

and all I can think “I’m not ready for that.  I’m not ready to let go…”

– Shannon Sewell
amandao-chorus-letting go

the gospel of nature is calling us
warmth in our bones; adaptation.
we ring our hands together and know there will be hell to pay in heaven for never letting go. I break too often.
spirit, fine white hair and patience, not letting go.
as long as you keep calling me by my true name.

– Amanda O’Donoughue
deb schwedhelm letting go

so many changes.
so much letting go.
a husband
a child
our home
their school
our neighborhood
our friends
life as we know it
i have a talent at letting go
one that i’m not always proud of
but this time is different
but is it really?
different than all the other moves?
or am i different?
i don’t know.
it doesn’t matter
a special piece of me will be left behind
my heart aches at the thought of letting go
yet i am filled with hope and excitement
love and trust will carry us through
they will
i know they will
we will see him soon
we know how to do this
i have taught her well
i am forever by her side
in her heart
we will keep in touch
letting go should not be a talent
it should be accepted, embraced and remembered
let go
adventure awaits you.
adventure awaits us.

– Deb Schwedhelm

From the moment we escape from the womb, we are letting go. The cord is cut and it’s the first of a lifetime of “I let go.” From the mother’s hands to take a first step, from the wave of the hand at the college doorstep, from parents’ hands to a spouse’s embrace. And the circle repeats. Children come and we are letting go again. Parents die. And we let go.

There are two ways to go through life. Holding on desperately. Afraid for all that is slipping away. Desperately trying to cling to what once was.

Or with open palms and open arms. Embracing what comes. Looking forward to new people and new ideas and new things arriving. And letting go when it’s time.

In the middle of this circle of letting go and embracing anew, I have found as I’ve gotten older, it’s not only people and places that we must let go.

Sometimes the hardest work is letting go of what I’ve internalized as all the “shoulds” and everyone else’s ideas of who I am or who I am supposed to be.

It’s hard to let go and just be.

Be whole with who you are.

Especially in the face of everyone around me not wanting to let go of who they thought I was or who they thought I should be.

It’s the most important lesson though. And not for me, which is what everyone things. That it’s all about me.


No. It’s about my daughters. And teaching them. Modeling for them this truth.

Girls, you will want to be people-pleasers and to take care of everyone before you put on your own oxygen mask. Don’t.

Let go of those ideas.

Let go of expected perfection.

Let go.

And fly.

Be you.

It’s the most important lesson of all.

And it will make that circle of life, of loving, of living, or embracing, and yes, of letting go, all the sweeter for that Truth you will carry with you and share with those around you.

The true gift of you.

– Aileen Reilly


  • Suzanne - I am taken aback once again. Reading all of them over and over like a good book I wish wouldn’t end. xoxoReplyCancel

  • honor /// motherhood with a camera | ▲WORKHOUSE▽ - […] Motherhood with a Camera is the kind of thing that encompasses you and makes you feel like you are part of something larger than any blog can hold, a sisterhood of common understanding that is shared through the rite of labor (in all its forms).  I am truly thankful to be a part of this hymn, to belt out loudly alongside others and softly sing the praises of motherhood- every bit of the joyous, incredible,  miraculous, self exposing journey that it is. […]ReplyCancel

  • Bee - Sitting here weeping…again. Maybe because my heart hurts for other people’s hurts, but maybe because I feel a part of a something bigger…I’m really not alone. XOReplyCancel

  • Erika - Once again my favorite thing to read on the Internet.ReplyCancel

  • celeste Pavlik - I have no words other than I think this is my favorite one to date. Every single image, and word on this page has moved me. Just beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Cate Wnek - Oh my, oh my, I am going to read this again and again. I am so inspired to write after seeing this wonderful collection. I wish I could have this whole post in the most beautiful book. I guess that is what I need to do, to write, and make a book for myself like this, just a tad bit as beautiful.ReplyCancel

  • Ingrid - These posts draw me visually and emotionally. I tend to immerse myself in the words and afterwards I look at the photos and read the posts again. I love this project..I think it truly opens up the heart of a mother, a father a woman a man.. and projects what they are holding inside.ReplyCancel

  • Elise Hanna - Absolutely speechless. These posts set me free. Thank you.ReplyCancel

  • candy - honored, yes. thankful.
    i will be loosing someone any minute, hour or day. I need this strength. I mostly need these words. true feelings exist and we need to shout them out.

    thank-you amy grace.ReplyCancel

  • tamar - so honoured to be part of this. thanks again Amy xReplyCancel

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