“It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all…”
Letting go is not for sissies. If anyone needs a push, or a swift kick in the rump, it’s me. Even then, I still won’t let go right away. I’ve held onto grudges like trapezes and withheld forgiveness more times in my life than I care to count, so it’s no wonder I’m not very good at it.
You have to practice something regularly to get good at it.
If you’re looking to set a date, there’s no time that’s better than another, but the end of the year is a good time to consider “letting go and forgiving”. As we make a new year’s list of resolutions, how many of us make the other list–the list of persons and history we need to forgive, let go of, and–those people from whom we should ask forgiveness?
Resolutions are easy. I mean come on–you don’t HAVE to follow through with them right? How many of those do you actually see all the way through to the end? You resolve to change, but if you don’t, then well–you stay stuck. Forgiveness is hard work because it demands your attention, and you have to see it all the way to the end. You can’t just “forgive a little bit”. Letting go of something that no longer serves you is tough, especially when you’re not sure what to grab hold of after the “letting go” part.
I don’t have any helpful hints here. There’s no exact right way. There are steps to letting go, steps to forgiveness, but the main hurdles are practice, time and commitment. You have to want it, have patience, and practice every day. Here’s my story:
I’ve been hanging on to some major anger, resentment, and hurt for the past two years. It involves one man who hurt me in a big way–how he did it and what he did aren’t important. Just know that I was very, very angry. Here’s how that affected me: I thought about him daily. Angry and vindictive thoughts about him would cloud my waking hours, would creep in to my bed at night, would come between me and being fully present for my partner, my friends, and my clients at work. I would fantasize about what I would do if I were to see him again. Anger kept me from fully being present. It had a vice-like grip on me. Anger affected my health, too. I would recall this man, and I would soothe the anger by lighting a cigarette, then three, then five. I began to notice that when I would think about him, see a photo of him, or hear about him from others, my heart rate would increase, and there would be a surge of adrenalin, like I was preparing for danger.
In my anger, I spread some poison about this man. I told a few friends who did not know him just what he had done to me, how he had hurt me, used me, played me for a fool, and took advantage of me. I’d been a good guy! He was a bad guy! I was right! He was wrong! My desires to be right and good were keeping me from being happy. My need to shout how I’d been a victim was keeping me from letting go and moving on. Even though it was to people I’m certain did not know this man, it was still gossip. I was not impeccable with my word.
What finally did it for me? Meditation. When I meditated, he kept coming up. What’s cool about meditation is that you cannot lie to yourself in that moment. What you must confront and deal with will show up. You can shove it aside, bury it deep, and feed it to the Wolves of Thinking Too Much, but it will appear again, loyally, asking for audience, demanding that you deal with it. Finally, I let go when I got sick and tired of thinking about this man all the time. That’s what did it: I just got tired of being angry at him.
Besides, I’m fairly certain he’s not thinking of me any longer. So, why not give him the same courtesy? It’s never a good idea to go through your day carrying a long-dead corpse. They are heavy, and eventually they stink and start to rot, and infect you with their stench.
Let go of the past. Someone hurt you? Okay, that happened. Let it go. Forgive that person, bury the incident, say whatever you need to say over the grave-site and move forward. Sounds easy, and yet we know it’s not.
Here’s what I did. I wrote a letter of forgiveness to him, and I also asked his forgiveness in return. I sat on it for two days before I decided it would be okay for me to email him the letter. I don’t expect a response from him, and I doubt I will get one. *You always have the option to write a letter and never send it, or burn it, or bury it…whatever it takes. You’ll know what’s best for you as soon as you start trusting yourself.
But by all means, trust yourself. That’s the first step to forgiveness–trust yourself that you’re capable. Give yourself all the time in the world you need, and then move forward. The good news is as soon as I asked for his forgiveness, and I forgave him, I felt lighter. I haven’t smoked since, and I’m pretty sure (except for writing about him here in this blog post, which totally doesn’t count) I haven’t given him another thought.
Not a bad way to end the year.