“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.
It’s coming on Christmas
They’re cutting down trees
They’re putting up reindeer
And singing songs of joy and peace
Oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on
I wish I had a river so long
I would teach my feet to fly
I wish I had a river I could skate away on…
I love this song. There are other Christmas songs I love, and I’ve noticed the ones I am drawn to are infused with a sense of longing and acceptance, of joy and sadness in equal parts. It’s my way. From the time I was small, there seemed to be a sense of abundance with the giving and shopping, mixed with a sense of poverty and the acknowledgment that there are those for whom the holiday is a mixed bag of coal and candy canes.
After all, Jesus was born into poverty, and stayed there his whole life, meanwhile bringing abundance and fostering change and acceptance.
How is this time of year mixed with being HIV positive? What’s the gift? What can I give? Christmas is infused (for me) with a longing, a look-back at the year, the culmination of many things done and left undone, said and left unsaid, as they all come piling together against the floodgate that is one more year’s end…and I find myself grateful and regretful, full and empty, joyful and sad, silly and serious…the mixture of emotion blended together, the look toward what I may participate in and make happen in the next twelve months–this is the meaning of it all for me…and it’s what makes me wish I had a river to skate away on. Thank you for this.
Thank you for another year of health. Thank you for another opportunity to reach out to those who are newly diagnosed with HIV, or to help connect those who have fallen out of care for a myriad of reasons with the care and counseling they so need, even though their mind and their virus try to convince them they don’t have a snow ball’s chance in hell…that they cannot teach their feet to fly, will not find that river of frozen glass to skate away on.
It’s there. Trust me. This is the time. Nothing can stop you, or me, from the birthright we are given to thrive in spite of odds and obstacles. That still, strong newborn voice within you is calling your own true name. Listen to it.
It’s coming on Christmas, the end of the year is nigh…do not go forward without acknowledging the road that’s gotten you here. Thank the journey, take pause and rest, reflect, and move forward into this brand new baby year with a sense of gratitude and strength. It is the best gift of all, and it’s yours for the receiving. Even in the darkest depths, whatever you’re going through, keep on going, because within suffering there is also the light of blessing, gratitude and love there, though its light may seem too dim to warm your weary bones. Breathe in and blow out your precious breath onto that spark, give it your oxygen, and it will become a flame in the darkness.
“Count your blessings, one by one, when twilight comes and day is done…”
God Bless Us, Everyone.
“Hello, my name is Kevin, and I have trouble getting–and staying–motivated.”–Me.
“Hi, Kevin”.–the room.
Not just recently, but all my life. From the time I was a little boy, if I could find a “something” I was passionate about–drawing pictures, building with Legos, playing the violin–I would pour 100% of my focus into it, until I became exhausted by it and ultimately, bored. I had to learn to balance the short-burning fireworks of passion with the fire-pit maintenance of pragmatism.
I struggle to this day. Doing so has made me reluctant to try new things, or make old things “fun”. If I can’t master it, be perfect at it, why bother? Am I doing it right? Rather than tackle the Big Ticket Items on my “This Sucks To Do” list, I opted to make a mundane (and oft despised and maligned) weekly task “interesting”, at the very least…and (dare I say) “fun”.
I present to you, “Kevin’s Guide to Mindful House Cleaning”.…this is totally about spirituality, I swear. Stick with me.
- Make a pot of good coffee.
- Put on some music (Pandora is a good place for this) that will flood your home and your spirit with creative energy. I don’t care whether it’s Mendelssohn or Foo Fighters, so long as you really like it.
- Sixteen seconds to presence (courtesy of davidji.com). Sit, cross-legged on the floor or your couch. Put your hands on your knees or your thighs. Close your eyes, open your ears. Inhale through your nose and nice slow and full breath. Imagine what that breath “looks like” as it fills your lungs. Imagine it filling your body, fumigating all the inner dust and crap you’ve got in there. Imagine the breath is getting rid of 99.9% of all bacterial toxins–emotional and otherwise–inside your body, your “soul’s house”. Hold that breath for just a few seconds…allow it to sink in past the surface and do its work. Release the breath, through your nose, slowly and completely. Doing so will purge those mental and emotional toxins. *And–if you do this and visualize what you just learned, I guarantee that for at least 16 seconds, you won’t be thinking about anything else. Welcome to awareness. Now…
- Discover. Start with your favorite room, and dust or clean off surfaces first. As you do it, be mindful of what you’re doing. Phone off, television off. Trim away the fat of distraction. Be aware that you’re cleaning out old, spent and tired energy from the space to make room for fresh energy and creativity to grow. It’s like weeding a garden or pruning a bush.
- Once you’ve cleaned and dusted that room, and all the old dust has settled (think all the old thoughts, old energy, old and no longer useful shit), take out your vacuum and vacuum that space. Imagine as you’re doing so, that you are ridding your space (hence, your life, your mind) from the useless crap and detritus (love that word) to make room for what’s newly important in that space.
- Discern. Take a look at that cleaner room. Is there anything else you could do? What needs to be organized? Where exists clutter? Would that object look better over there instead? What would you do differently here? Is there a small change to this space you can make, right now, that will make you smile and give you happiness and contentment? This isn’t about purging or throwing objects away–it’s not “Spring Cleaning”. Think of this as a way of organizing and prioritizing your space so it becomes a way of inviting the best energy for “newness” and peace possible. It’s about arranging, making your bed, lining up your shirts on hangers, folding things, moving furniture, etc.
- Direct. This part’s easy. Once you’ve identified what you’d like to do to that space, no matter how small…Do it. But, do it with presence. For the hour or two you’re doing this, turn the phone on silent, unplug–just let the music play to keep you company. I promise, whatever “it” is that seems urgent–isn’t. It can wait until you’re done taking care of you, and your space.