I have trouble letting go of certain things. Things where I feel I have been wronged. Where I stand on a mountaintop with the wind in my hair, casting scornful glances at the plebeians below me, an expression of self righteousness on my face.
Casting blame is dangerous. And it is never really completely cut and dried. After all, there are always two sides to every story. Sure, the actions of some people will start the boulder rolling down the mountain, but there is always a way to jump out of its path.
I hate to say this about myself but sometimes I think part of me relishes the times I have failed. I think I use those times as an excuse to close the book with a definitive snap on that chapter in my personal history. And if anyone ever asks me why I didn’t do this or why I haven’t done that I can say because of that person or that event.
But how many bad events is it safe to fall back on? We can only cushion ourselves with our negative experiences for so long. After a while the woe is me act just doesn’t ring true anymore and we are in danger of beginning to be perceived as someone who just won’t try.
Along with having difficulty letting go there is often the accompanying revenge motif. The revenge is either put in the hands of karma – what goes around comes around, you know – or in the sweaty palms of time. Time is a slippery customer. It either anaesthetizes the original hurt completely or turns it into something it never was.
So I need to let go. Bad things have happened to me. Just like they have to everyone else. They haven’t stopped me from living my life, but they have stopped me from being the person I really should be.
I saw a ghost from the past the other day. Someone who will probably never be able to let go. And it scared me.
My former neighbour, Donna, is divorced. When we lived in the same street she caught her husband having an affair. A string of them, in fact. And not all of them were with women. I won’t go into the gory details of it but it was quite humiliating for her. I would have been a wreck if the same thing had happened to me.
Ten years later Donna hasn’t let go. When I ran into her she asked me in for coffee. I didn’t really want to because I had an inkling of what I was in for, but I agreed.
In the space of a half hour conversation she mentioned how hard it has been since her divorce five times. She mentioned how much she hated her ex-husband fifteen times. Most alarmingly, she mentioned she will never get over it ten times.
Then there was the photo. It had obviously been taken on holiday. A family shot by the sea. Donna, her husband and their three daughters. She and her husband stood in the middle with the daughters around them. Only thing was, her husband had been cut out. There was a gaping hole where his body used to be. I could tell the photo had been cut years before because the edges of the cut were yellowed and curled.
That photo sits on her mantelpiece, probably has done for the past ten years. I wonder what her youngest daughter, who still lives with her, thinks of it. It is like a kind of stalking, but in reverse.
It scared me to see that photo. Not because I’m in danger of doing such a thing myself but because it is an example of how damaging not letting go can be.
So I’ve written them all down. My list of grievances. The list isn’t as long as I thought it would be. It would appear I have let go of a lot of my grievances naturally. But it is long enough.
Each line begins with I forgive you.
For embezzling a hundred thousand dollars from the business you ran with my husband so that we had to sell our first house to survive
For betraying that confidence
For the lies
For the abuse
For hurting my child
For stealing the ring left to me by my grandmother
For spreading rumours
For your addiction
For thinking you are better than me
For believing I don’t love you
For leaving me
For Christmas I got writing paper made from vegetable fibres. It biodegrades really quickly. It will add a little goodness to the soil. So tonight by the light of the moon I am going to bury my grievances. Under the mandarin tree.
And let them go at long last.