Clearing the Slate
“As long as we see what has come to pass as being unfair, we'll be a prisoner of what might have been.”
Mark Nepo (The Book of Awakening)
Most of us have a keen sense of what is fair and what is not fair. The problem comes when we see ourselves as being in a different category from others. If something unfortunate happens to someone else, we say, “Gosh, that's too bad. I wish her well.” When the same thing happens to us, we say, “This is horrible! This is terrible! This is not fair! Poor me!” There's a difference in weight and value. Imagine the emotional toll when we're holding on to that sense of unfairness for our whole lives regarding something that happened in our childhood.
There is no doubt that we can be deeply traumatized in childhood. I think every day about the children in Syria and Somalia and other places in the world where conflict and war is all they have ever known. For them, life has not moved on. They are in the heat of the trauma. When the fighting ends, they will need time and care to learn to trust life again. When I lived in New York in the 1970's, and worked at Mt. Sinai Hospital, there were people working side-by-side with me who had the number tattoo from Nazi concentration camps on their wrists. They were scarred in a very real way. My memory of them is that they were quiet, cautious, but highly functional and even valiant people whom I never heard complain about their lot in life.
I'm speaking more about “first world” problems. Caroline Myss describes them as “cookie” problems. “I didn't get brownies as a child—I only got cookies. Whoa is me.” These problems, such as lack of affluence, lack of influence, lack of popularity, lack of beauty, dragged from childhood and kept alive by our refusal to move beyond them create a continuous drain on our vital energy and on that of everyone around us. Being angry with a parent who didn't treat you right forty years ago is only hurting you. When we are busy keeping the past alive, we are neither living in the present, nor looking forward to our future. We're just as stuck as those children in war-torn countries.
Do whatever you need to do to lay aside childhood issues. Find a way to bless them and let them go. Sometimes rituals help—write a long letter to the person you are still angry with, and then burn it, or bury it. Draw a picture of how the trauma looks or feels, or journal about it. Tell a counselor or a pastor what happened, and listen to their words of healing. By whatever means you find, let it go. Don't waste another moment of your precious life keeping a wound alive. Your life is a blessing of untold proportions, and you want to be present to live all of it. Letting go of what might have been, and embracing what is, is your doorway to freedom.
In the Spirit,