Friday, March 15, 2013
Let it go
Better magic words than, "abracadabra." Those words, and the action, can make all kids of crap disappear. The funny thing about it, I couldn't do it. I carried my fair share of emotional and psychological baggage around for 40 years. I felt like somehow, all that junk had to be resolved. I felt obligated to hold on to every bad thing that ever happened in my life. My wife even told me to let stuff go, for 20 years, and I couldn't even grasp what the heck she was talking about.
I had a very abusive grandfather. He beat my mother, aunts and uncle mercilessly. He cheated on my grandmother repeatedly. He fought with anyone who didn't have the same opinion as him. He was violently racist. He also passed on all that anger to his kids, and his grand kids. He softened up later in life, remarried after my grandmother passed. Ended up a fairly likeable guy. But.... My family refused to forgive him for anything. Really. They watched him go to his grave, waiting for some kind of apology from a man who had no idea he did anything wrong. In his mind, everything he ever did was fully justified and made perfect sense. To them, he was a monster who was intentionally withholding apologies and restitution that they deserved. Never happened. He died. Never said a word about anything from their childhood or his past. Never apologized. Never admitted any fault.
He was rough on me, too. Had some of the worst beatings I ever had by his hand, belt, stick, whatever he had. Fortunately, I didn't spend much time with him. I have plenty of traumatic memories attached to him. Add to that, parents, a brother, a difficult neighborhood, crappy schools, bad business deals, manipulative pastors, stupid friends, bad ideas and generally being human. I had decided to embrace my baggage and share it with everyone.
About 10 years ago, one of my pastors preached a sermon called, "take off the mask." He explained how we come to work or church or wherever wearing masks. We attempt to make everyone think we have it all together and our lives are great. He said we should take those masks off and be willing to be honest and real with people. Well, I decided to do it. If someone asked me how I was doing, I told them. People eventually quit asking those stupid questions. Mt attitude went downhill quick. I began resenting all the phony people and their lies. I became very sarcastic and rude. I didn't like anyone. I felt used, robbed, manipulated, scammed, hurt and miserable. My family was overjoyed with my newfound personality. They were so excited to just sit with me and hear all the stories of how wrong I had been treated and how bad everything sucked.
But, none of it was my fault. Everyone else had the issues. Everyone else refused to do the right thing. Everyone else had failed me and hurt me. Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaah! No really. I actually felt like that. I felt like the whole world owed me an apology. Hoped that one day it would all just fix itself. Everyone would realize what they did wrong, see it my way, and do the right thing.
During our 5 day marriage intensive with Joel and Kathy, I finally got woken up. Four days into it, with my wife still not fixed, we ended up in a private counseling session. I honestly thought she had to be the problem, I had done everything in my power to fix the marriage. Had to be her. But, we figured out that I couldn't smile at her. Big problem. My wife is the happiest, most wonderful person you will ever meet. And I couldn't smile at her. Kathy started pushing my buttons. She stood up, leaned over the table and told me that I could just let all that junk go. Really? Never even considered it before. Even though my wife had been telling me to let it go for 20 years, I never stopped to think about how to do it.
In my mind, here's what I saw. I was walking up a stream, water about knee deep. Just like the ones in north Georgia, where I love trout fishing. I saw myself trudging up this river, against the flow, with a huge bag on my back full of those smooth rocks from the bottom of that stream. I was walking along, staring at the rocks, picking them up and adding them to the bag. I was collecting every bad memory from my life. Every hurt and abuse. I was consciously making myself remember those bad things and holding onto them. My bag of rocks. The rocks were connected to a huge chain, like the ones you see on ship anchors. When she said, let it go, I saw myself stand up, take my eyes off the rocks, notice the chain in my hand and let go of it. I saw the bag hit the water and watched the rocks scatter back not the riverbed. I realized that I could just enjoy the walk in the water. I could pick up the rocks that caught my attention, but I could just drop them back in the water after I looked them over. I didn't have to keep them.
Sounds kinda weird, but it worked. I smiled at my wife. I laughed out loud. They thought I was kidding or messing with them at first. I had to convince them that I really got it. I really got it! Now, I can remember those things, but there's no emotion involved. I can remember something awful from my childhood, or even last week, and not get upset or angry. I am still getting used to it, not normal, but life changing. My wife likes me a lot better these days. My kids enjoy being with me more. Try it.