There is a certain amount of dualism in studying two subjects at the same time; first, I started reading the Buddhist philosopher, Thich Nhat Hanh, who writes of mindfulness, prayer, peace and love. On the other hand, I am studying the collected works of metaphysical authors who promote the idea of “The Secret,” or the laws of attraction. Both are fascinating, and have some interesting correlations.
In the laws, its imperative that one clears and cleanses the mind of abstract and worrying thoughts. Where your focus goes, your energy flows, if you will. Hanh also states in his book “Love” that there is no way to give what you do not possess, and in a clear mind, one will possess the knowledge of the gift. Jesus said the same thing in the parables; over and over again if you just look at it. No man can serve two masters, you will chose (my paraphrase) chaos or peace.
I rarely respond in post to a letter, but I’ve been getting many of this type of comment of late; letting go not just of a relationship, but of a lifetime of ache. People 10, 15, 20 years down the pike that feel empty and cheated. My response to you, beloved is the same as the old rhyme:
“How do you eat an elephant?”
One bite at a time.
So in breaking tradition, I received a letter from a young woman of forty-something today, divorced, the mother of several grown daughters, currently living with a female relative. She expressed in her life story one common theme; regret. The short history: a moderately privileged childhood in the rural United States, beauty, ample money, great education all through high school ~ and into college. (I would imply few learned and internal boundaries, thus her utter tailspin at college.) Most of her opportunities she lost to first alcohol then drug addiction; gambling and men. Lots of men, good men, bad men, dangerous men.
What is it about we humans that cause us to seek relationship even when a few years of growing time, all on our own as individuals would so benefit our own mental health?
I can weigh into that one ~ I got married when I was 21. The alone part came when that marriage failed because we were two totally unrelated humans with children and no real tangible connection to each other. I thought back as I read her letter to some of the people that I know, past and present. I thought back to the person that I have been. I considered how we wage so much on the “good times” or the desperate need not to be alone, just to look back later through the lens of regret. You end this by beginning to trace that through the patterns of our lives and bring it right to the doorstep of today.
It ends here.
Understand when I say this with love that it is for your own good. You have taken to long to say goodbye…and trust me, even that is unnecessary now.
Let go of your memories that date further back than the outfit you’re wearing. If your twenty years ago is still today, and it’s not because you’re imprisoned, you must redirect your thoughts. The only thing worse than having a past that you cannot forget is giving it every minute of your future as well.
This works for many things. I’ve forgotten the 30 years of life that I had before Indiana, and that includes an ex husband I once loved very much, a career I gave up everything for, lots of college pranks. I kept the moments of my daughters growing and our home in the early happy years, childhood friends and important life lessons. Everything else, I gave back to God because it hurts me, the kingdom and my ability to move forward. I no longer remember any bitterness or fighting with my ex. In fact, we get on famously these days and I am happy for our children that he, I and my husband (their step-dad) can all be together in one home for special occasions and be happy. What does it take?
SELF R ~E~S~P~E~C~T.
I can play with his other children like they’re mine, and Brian has been a GREAT dad to our girls, without trying to take their father’s place. Could I do that if I was obsessing over what used to be? No. It’s worthwhile to invest in that relationship – but not in remembering why we are divorced. I chose to think of him as that man that is so worthwhile, I treat him with respect, I require respect in the same manner. I have to admit that this practice, once you learn it, becomes effective on real life as you live it. I recently wrote the post that sparked this letter about giving up on regret the “day after” acting like an idiot in front of friends. Yes, I have few regrets over anything in my recent past…they’re just not important enough to sacrifice my future for. I am one step away from the most amazing life that anyone has ever lived…even now it’s seeping through the doors and windows, bathing my whole life in hope, love and light. Regret is negative. Why, perched on the edge of everything I have ever dreamed of, would I chose to ever look back now? I wouldn’t. How do you get here?
The first step is knowing that you can, and knowing what you dream of, what your possibilities are…your infinite possibilities.
What is your dream?
Who are you?
What were you created to do?
Can you see in infinite beauty inside of you?
Can you see the spark of the divine, cheering, waiting, hoping that you will rise to be that which you were intended, no matter how far afield you’ve roamed?
The two things that I am studying support these letting go of self regret thoughts.
- I am. There is one me, and that is priceless and valuable. I am worthwhile.
- I am present, and able. I know that there is a destiny of happiness for me, a greater plan in the Divine order. No one has the right to control me. I will start one small step at a time and continue forward until the skies are clear. In the meantime, I will believe with all my heart, pray with all my soul and let God introduce the reality of blessing (not through trumped up religion.)
- I am whole, made as I should be. I always seek medical attention when necessary, but first I envision the whole, happy and engaged self that I am made to be. I take really great care of myself, inside and out. I don’t eat junk, no matter what the people do around me. I value myself so that I can value others. I speak out of my mouth the strong conviction I feel in my soul of being healthy, well and free from strife.
- I am made of possibility. The life that I am living is my choice. The life that I have lived this far has been my choice, and the opportunity of others. I will evaluate my choices and make the best decisions for me from here forward, knowing that I can only give what freedom I possess.
- I am committed to positively engaging with my dreams. I will not sell out for less than, for partial dreams, or for people that used to be part of my life who no longer carry any meaning or life. I will speak of what I need to those that I love and trust; I will accept some loneliness as time to reflect. I will learn to appreciate quiet.
- I am able to meditate, to engage with that soul being inside of me, to become in touch with my inner peace.
The real problem, dear one, is not that you have “wasted the last twenty years of your life” or even that “it may not be worth living.” It is worth living. You are worth being. The real problem is this:
- Are you willing to forgive yourself?
- Are you willing to learn what the term “self sabotage” means and how it relates to your making the same choices over and over?
- Do you realize that even when someone seems to be supporting and helping you, they are actually enabling your illness becasue that is their weakness; the person that you live with came from a bipolar/dysfunction family, and that is what she knows. In you, she has recreated her early childhood. It may be painful, but it is the pain that she knows.
I’ve learned a lot about letting go in the last year, more than I didn’t know that I didn’t know. The Buddhist studies help ground me in something other than my classic Christian training; helps me see a different side than the “right and wrong” rule set that are just a large part of how and why people fail. It doesn’t mean that I believe Christ any less; in fact, I am willing to follow a living Christ in to any book that might better help me understand how I might help you. It’s just funny that we’re so closed off to forgiveness…for ourselves, for our choices, for the lives that we live in such miserable silence so often. That, I am happy to say, I let go of as well.
How did I actually, physically practice letting go of regret? I made up my mind to take my life back. It had been hijacked. My control was gone.
I correlate regret to drama. Adult version of relationship ADD. So to get my brain back from la la land, and myself off the gooey pile on the floor, I made a sacred space to pray. I’d lost sight of what I really value; God, my home, my family. I put a picture of my husband, daughter and I there, as well as a Cross, candles and an incense tray. I stayed there each morning, sometimes falling asleep, just listening and praying. I was covered in darkness part of the time. Part of the time I curled up like a baby on the floor and cried until I could no longer cry. I trusted, prayed, stared at the ceiling. After a few days, I could breathe in more deeply, still listening. I went outside. I talked to friends.
I didn’t think about what had hurt me, but I did focus on this feeling of being utterly used, worthless and disposed of like yesterdays newspaper. Betrayed, forgotten, lied to. You ask why focus on the negatives? To answer them, one at a time. I am worthwhile, and I am not disposable. I attributed them back to the person and situations that “blessed” me with them, and watched it naturally shrivel and fall away. All of the word pictures from my past, from the earliest times that I had, up until last January 5. That was my independence day from a lifetime of pain and regret. Slowly, my real self esteem returned, my internal boundaries, my God given power to think and feel with free will; sans any regret. One small step at a time.
By February, I was better, still losing weight and still on shaky legs due to a medical condition that plagues my life. I had a small army of people praying and loving me. By March, I had found myself again, and healing through April, there was less grey and more sunlight as I put one foot in front of the other and just kept going. Brian cheered me on. My professors cheered me on. My community loved me and cheered me on.
Several times, I thought I might lose my mind, just start screaming and lose my ability to reason. I did not. I wouldn’t let the thoughts come to my head. I would refocus on school, someone else, being alive…something healthy. I watched out my window as the world came back alive. And now today, I planted my new flowers, made a bed for the sweet basil seeds, and watched my beloved husband and daughter mow the yard. No thoughts outside this yard came into my head, really.
Today, it’s been six months of independence training. I live here, totally in the present and with no regrets. Still self sabotage from time to time, but recover either right before or when I’m doing it. I know my twelve steps. I know what “the other life” is; being steeped in drama, trapped by a thing/situation that fed on my heart ache, wondering all the time when the pain would finally stop. It’s the crap, the lie, chaos. I can not possibly tell you how uninterested I am in any more drama. I’m utterly, totally and happily free….and that is what I wish for you.
Would I cringe if someone read my past aloud? Oh, heck yes.
Do I have lots of stuff that I wish I had never done? A very, very long list.
Am I going to give up my life over it? No.
What happened in the past, God doesn’t care about…. if I have confessed in reality and gone on. My parents life is none of my business. God isn’t holding me accountable for their stuff, your stuff, Anyone Else’s stuff. Just my stuff. Honestly, I’m more interested in doing God’s stuff these days, failed as I am. I don’t get hung up on religion…just faith. Where will it take me? I don’t know. But I know that in Christ, I am free to be me. The one that once stole my control no longer has any power or influence over me at all, as though I am completely healed. No regret remains.
I chose peace.
I chose me in Christ.