Let It Go

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.

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31 thoughts on “Let It Go

  1. What an incredibly brave and important post! I do believe we have to forgive and continue on, but I know how hard it is to do. Good luck and well done!

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  2. I have also had trouble letting go, mostly of people who have been a negative influence on my life. I’m not sure how it happened or what changed to make it easier, but this year I have let go of many things and it feels so liberating.

    I am also proud of myself because I haven’t fallen back into any of the old traps or habits. In the end we only hurt ourselves as well if we don’t forgive and move on.

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  3. Wonderful, brave post, Selma.

    I also am a hurt collector, but I don’t just hoard my own pain, but I’ll also take on the wrongs done to other people. For that last bit, I call it “feeling empathy” for my friends, but when I’m being honest with myself, I call it dung.

    My friend gave me little squares of handmade paper with seeds mixed into them. You’re supposed to write a wish on a square it, then bury it. I may do that with some hurts I’ve collected.

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  4. I think you’ve come a long way in terms of truly letting things go and moving on Sel. We have to acknowledge that these hurts and these memories exist, that they are there in the back of our minds, whether we like it or not. The “trick” is to not let those people and experiences have the power to ruin the rest of our lives.

    We had a burning ritual several months ago, writing down past hurts, events that we needed to let go of. We wrote them down, put them in a container and lit it up and watched the smoke rise up in the air as they disappeared. The only thing I’ve noted since is that without diligent effort, these things can and do creep back into my thoughts. I still hold a lot of anger….but I will work on it more, thanks to this wonderful post. You’ve said it so well and left us all with much to ponder.

    Your list made me sad. 😦 I am sorry for all the hurts and for the people who have let you down. I truly am. That helps too, doesn’t it? Knowing that there are people who truly care.

    Many hugs,G

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  5. There’s a wonderful song by Eryka Badu called Bag Lady, about the struggle to keep those bags. I am much like you Selma, I hold tight to those grudges. It’s sickening actually. I love what you’ve done. I must try it. let us know if it works, if it wipes the slate clean.

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  6. I can so identify with this post! I burnt some photos years ago but, as Geraldine also found, those hurts can come creeping back when one starts to feel sorry for oneself again. I hope yours let you go.

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  7. SUE:
    Certain things can be hard to forgive and I just feel that not being able to let them go is holding me back. It’s time to clear away the grudge-encrusted cobwebs and celebrate the new day!

    RACHEL:
    I am weary. I hadn’t thought I was but I really am. Time to throw the bad thoughts away. I’ve held on to them for too long.

    VIC:
    I do feel better. Using symbolism to rid myself of a burden often seems to work for me. I hope it continues.

    GYPSY:
    Longing for that sense of liberation was what motivated me to try this. I am glad you were able to let go and that it has continued to work for you. I hope I will be able to say the same thing!

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  8. KAREN:
    I am guilty of collecting hurts on behalf of friends too. It can be exhausting. I love the idea of the paper with the seeds. It’s like returning all the hurt to the earth!

    HILLY:
    I am so glad. If I have helped you in some way then I am really happy. That’s just brilliant!

    GERALDINE:
    It makes an enormous difference knowing that people care. For someone else to acknowledge that a hurt is legitimate is so important. I really have to thank you for that.

    I agree with you completely that the trick is not letting the old hurts resurface. That will be the challenge for me. They’ve been hanging around for a while. But I’m determined to beat them.

    LAURI:
    I know the song well and it really fits in this case. I have been holding those grudges in a death grip for years. Time to cast them to the winds. I will let you know if it works!

    STERLINGMF:
    I am so pleased to help you, hon. Creating a physical way of letting something go often provides the mental trigger for me to banish it for good. I hope it works in this case.

    DAOINE:
    The hard thing is they often come back during moments of vulnerability when we are unable to fight them off. Hopefully, this time they’ll stay away!

    PUNATIK:
    Sounds like we’re all providing lots of mulch for our gardens. I hope that as the plants grow we can all begin to heal!

    HURRICANE:
    You are definitely courageous enough. I know you can do it!

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  9. It really is Sel, it was a powerful experience for me at the time. I felt so free doing this and for quite a while afterwards. Now, I think it’s time to break out the matches again…. 😦

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  10. A really wise post Selma. I love the idea of writing your list on paper that will become part of the growing cycle soon.

    Your friend REALLY REALLY needs to move on. It is worrying that she declares that she will never get over it – sounds almost defiant, as if somehow by being miserable for the rest of her life she’ll punish her ex-husband. Hasn’t she heard that great expression “living well is the best revenge”?

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  11. Selma, just when I need such words the most. I have an appointment Tuesday afternoon with my doctor. I fear when I leave her office it will be with the realization the soft lump just under my right jaw isn’t just a swollen gland. I am so glad I “buried” my resentments and moved on, and not too long ago.

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  12. Hi Selma,

    Back in 1986, a guy I knew was working as reporter on the Anita Cobby case. Because of this I was privy to facts that could not be reported via the mainstream media. Facts I wish I didn’t know.

    And so, my concept of the limits of forgiveness were turned on its head when Garry Lynch (Anita’s father) forgave the men who gang-raped, mutilated, and murdered his daughter.

    The more ‘unforgiveable’ an act, the more it needs to be forgiven because if the one who has the power to forgive doesn’t then one loses one’s power in all aspect s and one’s life (metaphorically) ends. And what forgiveness does is give back ones power and brings one back to life.

    Another, great, thought-provoking post. Thanks.

    David

    “Forgiving some one who has wronged us does not mean that we tolerate the wrong that was done.
    Forgiving someone does not mean that we want to forget what happened.
    Forgiving someone does not mean that we excuse the person who did it.
    Forgiving does not mean that we take the edge off the evil done to us.
    Forgiving does not mean that we surrender our right to justice.
    Forgiving does not mean that we invite someone who hurt us once to hurt us again. “ –Lewis Smedes

    The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong., Mahatma Gandhi

    The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget.” Thomas S. Szasz

    And on the lighter side of forgiveness,
    When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.”- Emo Philips

    Always forgive your enemies – nothing annoys them so much.,Oscar Wilde

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  13. I had to read this again, simply because it was so awesome, as were the comments. (Thanks, David, for the quotes, they also resonated deeply with me).

    Anyway, today I came to realize that someone I had thought of as one of my dearest friends, has written me off. Cut me down and out of her life. She had asked for space due to a busy schedule, and when I gave it to her, it was like she disappeared. I got in contact with her again, and her response to my email was curt, and very cold. Nothing of that old friend in her message at all.

    When I mentioned it to Killer, she said, “Well, didn’t she hurt your feelings on more than one occasion? You even called me, in tears, from a retreat after she had been so rude to you and another friend, and you had no way to get home. Perhaps it’s just time to forgive her for hurting you so badly, forgive her for turning her back on you, and move on with your life. Remember the good times, and the bad ones, or you might end up letting her hurt you again.”

    Wise woman, that Killer. I just hope I can forgive soon, so I don’t keep making a damn fool of myself trying to reignite a friendship that has obviously grown cold and is no longer healthy for me. (But I’m still sad to have to say “good-bye”)

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  14. GERALDINE:
    I think that’s the secret to this entire process – you have to keep doing this when there is a build-up of emotion, stress and what have you. Hope it helps…

    PUDDOCK:
    Oh, she really needs to move on. It is actually like watching a scene from a suspense movie starring Bette Davis or one of those classic Hollywood actresses. I felt she was a little unhinged. I think that not only does she want to punish her husband by staying miserable, she actually enjoys the negativity of it. So sad.

    DANA:
    That really means a lot to me because sometimes I read your work and there are so many thoughts flying through my head I don’t know what to say. I often just think – ‘beautiful.’ So thank you!

    IRON FIST:
    It’s just time to move forward for me, hon. I feel like my feet have been encased in concrete and I have been dragging myself along. It’d be nice to skip along the sidewalk again. 😀

    MARY:
    I will be hoping the lump is nothing serious. I will be thinking of you. You are a dear friend to me XXX

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  15. Hi DAVID,
    You truly are a good soul. You’re going to make me cry thinking about all this. I still think about Anita Cobby. The horror is unspeakable. That her father could forgive those monsters…. I just can’t formulate an adequate response to that other than to say her father’s grace is overwhelming.
    Your quotes are just awesome. So are you!!!!

    Hi KAREN,
    Who is this woman? I want to punch her in the nose!

    It hurts when an old friend – someone you truly loved – turns their back on your friendship. The reasons are much more to do with her than you (as is always the case), but even knowing that, the hurt still bites.
    I am really sorry to hear that because even though we have never met in person I regard you as one of my dearest friends. It’s totally her loss.
    You’re one of the good ‘uns XXX

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  16. Hi Selma. I’ve had to my own letting go for a good ten years now. Seems every time I turn around something is going down: changing careers (twice, not just jobs), wife leaving (for a woman, no less, this only once thank God), cashing relationships (too many times), friends having trouble, running out of money … feels like the life of Job. It’s really why I started blogging last winter, calling it “truth and rocket science,” because it seemed neither science (I’m a social scientist) nor “truth” could answer any of my questions. Letting go is the only thing that is actually working. It’s hard, so hard, and balancing the angry days and the things-are-looking-better days is hard. But I try, I try to let go. And when I can, it’s good. Thanks for your thoughts. –John

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  17. A very powerful post indeed! I think writing Slice of Life stories has done much the same for me. For many years, I kept things hidden deep inside. There is something about writing an event down that frees the soul.

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  18. QUERULOUS SQUIRREL:
    I have a great deal of trouble forgiving myself too. During my weaker, darker moments I tend to hate myself for what I see as my failures. I am actively trying to stop doing it.

    JOHN:
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Sometimes it is so hard to let go. I know exactly what you mean. But it does feel good to let go when we can. While I enjoy plotting a bit of revenge, to my surprise letting go is more enjoyable. I would never have expected that!

    CRICKET:
    Your Slice Of Life stories really did that for me too. I completely agree with you – writing it down is so liberating!

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  19. Hi ELISE,
    Your comment was lost in the filters for a moment there. I really appreciate you stopping by and I will definitely read your interview. Cheers!

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