Being different, Decaying home, Empowerment, Facing difficulties, Facing the past, Going through boxes, Integrity, Letting go, Memory, Pain and suffering, Painful memories, Personal responsibility, Release, Stories, Truth, Understanding, Validation
I’ve been going through boxes.
It’s been twelve years since I’ve had the emotional energy and time to go through boxes, but even then I wasn’t this thorough. In the last twelve years I’ve only added to the box collection…papers, class notes from grad school, textbooks, teaching supplies, old tax returns. It’s really amazing how much stuff I’ve managed to accumulate…and how much of it has a story and memory attached to it.
Some stories I uncovered were intensely painful ones…ones that, at the time, I was happy to box up…assuring myself that I would never look at again. Except I did. Some of the memories that came flooding back were so intense that I realized why I hadn’t been able to remember them until that moment. This was the first time I was facing all of this pain since it had happened, and I was extremely uncomfortable. Part of the discomfort was realizing that all I really had to show for my pain were papers with writing on them…and my memories. And, perhaps the most stunning piece of all was that the papers which should have listed the reasons for my pain, didn’t. There really was no written evidence to support or prove the depth of pain my memories provide.
I showed them to my mom…this lack of documentation of my pain and suffering. She looked at me and said, “It didn’t happen.”
“What?! It most certainly did!”
“Not according to a court. In nursing, if it’s not documented in a patient’s chart, it never happened. There’s no documentation here, so it never happened.”
I felt utterly and completely betrayed. “Of course it happened,” I replied indignantly, close to tears. “Why do I have all these memories and these emotions if it didn’t happen?”
“What if it didn’t? What will you lose if you lose the story?”
I was stunned. That was such an excellent question. After several minutes of consideration, the only answer I could come up with was, “Pain and suffering.”
“Do you need to hold on to it?”
I hesitated. “Good question,” I said slowly. “Maybe not. But if I let go of it, all that effort and struggle would have been for nothing. I’m really not comfortable with the idea that everything I’ve experienced is invalid. I need to find a different way of making these memories ‘not happen.’ A way that allows my stories to be true then and still be released now.”
The answers didn’t come all at once, nor did they come from a single source. But when they came over the next 24 hours, I knew they were pieces of a new truth that I had asked for, and I was grateful. Two pieces that dramatically helped me shift these painful memories and stories were these:
- I am not like everybody else.
- Others’ reactions are not about me or my responsibility. I am only responsible for me.
It’s not that these statements are all that surprising to me, rather, it was the application of these statements to my painful memories that showed me the answers that I sought.
I have spent a significant part of my life trying to be just like everybody else…to blend in…to fit…to belong. Part of this is because of being a missionary kid…never being fully in one culture or another, always being a blend…never fully belonging somewhere or having a home…always having to change and adjust to the cultures and people around me in order to survive…never allowed to just be me. Another part of it, though, is just that I’m odd. I know this, and I am only now learning to enjoy it. My interests are generally considered nerdy, my conversations are intense and probing, I am never satisfied with the mundane or routine or status quo. But most of society is not like me, so I have tried to compensate by pretending to be someone I’m not, even for just a little bit of time, so that I can associate with people. This usually turns out badly, as everyone knows I’m faking, so I go back to being me and experiencing its consequences…and there are consequences. The biggest consequence I’ve experienced so far is that of isolation. A genuine and authentic life naturally reveals the lies with which many people use to comfort themselves. Such revelations aren’t very enjoyable to those who cling to those lies, so they tend to push me away…as they would anyone else who revealed things they didn’t want to see.
In my particularly painful experiences, my not-being-like-everybody-else meant that I saw people clearly…their motives, their intentions, and their agendas when no one else did. It meant that I could see when someone was lying, wasn’t in integrity, being responsible for their stuff. This also meant that if such people were in positions of power and were abusing it, I had a choice…to keep my mouth shut or to speak up. I always spoke up…often my mouth spoke even when my head tried not to. I felt so betrayed by those who didn’t ever speak up to support or defend me, but the realization of not-being-like-everybody-else showed me that they couldn’t…they just didn’t see what I saw. Not only that, they couldn’t even peek at what I pointed out because it might mean they would have to do something about it. The risks were too high, so they too shut me out.
I knew some of this at the time, but I also knew I was missing something important…and here it is…the piece that the then me didn’t have: I’m not responsible for others’ lack of responsibility or dishonesty or lack of integrity. I don’t need to step in to “help” someone when he/she isn’t responsible or integrity because then I would be moving out of integrity myself. My only responsibility, ever, is to myself. Only if someone asks do I have the opportunity to help, and then it’s simply to model the solution to him/her. What he/she does with that information is not my business.
Additionally, I realized that their reactions to me and my authenticity were never about me…they were always about them and their fears and their issues. But I accepted their reactions as my truth, creating needless pain and suffering. To continue to hold on to the painful stories I created under these circumstances would only add to the unnecessary, and limit my future.
Without invalidating my memories and emotions, these two statements allowed me to finally understand how and why those situations happened. I also understood how and why they won’t continue to repeat. This means that I can let go of this story easily because both experiences are true…then and now…even if no documentation proves it. I don’t need to hold on to those decaying houses as proof that my memories actually happened. I don’t need evidence any longer…because it never belonged to me or was about me in the first place.
Today, I invite you to ask your Guides and your team to help you release attachment to old stories that are keeping you tied to structures that can no longer support or sustain you. Our experiences can be true as we remember them, but we don’t have to be limited by that truth…both the past and present stories can be true simultaneously. Similarly, releasing a long cherished story today doesn’t mean that carrying it was pointless, but maybe it means that it never was ours to carry. And if it never was ours to carry, then maybe we can set it down easily and keep going…freer, lighter, happier, truer.
And so it is.