Once there was a man who travelled across a desert. Tired, thirsty, lost, he wondered if he would ever find his way out of this place of endless rolling sand dunes when suddenly, he crested a dune and saw on the other side a mighty river. With a hoop and a holler he raced to the water's edge and drank.
Satiated, he took a deep breath and looked to the other side. Tall, leafy trees swayed to and fro in a gentle breeze. Green grass covered the ground in silky perfection. Birds flitted amongst the trees and the air was filled with their beautiful song. Across the river was heaven. Now that's where I want to be, the man thought. But there was no bridge. No boat. Nothing to get him from where he was to where he wanted to be.
The call of that lushly beautiful place was too intriguing. He had to find a way to get there. He would build a raft, he decided. He searched the edge of the riverbank and gathered up whatever wood he found. With painstaking care he fit the pieces of wood together and built a sturdy craft. When he was finished, he eagerly climbed in and paddled across the river. With little effort he made it. He was relieved. He reached the other side, climbed out and lay down on the grass. This place was paradise!
The man looked around and saw a path leading into the woods. He didn't know where it went, but he was eager to find out. This place was so perfect! He wanted to explore. Fearful, however, that he might come across another river, he picked up his craft, loaded it onto his back and set out on his adventure. As the day progressed, the man grew weary. But he could not put down the trusty boat that had carried him to this paradise. He kept walking and the boat got heavier and heavier until eventually, the man fell to the ground beneath the weight of his boat and lay still. He could not walk any further.
What load are you carrying? What riff-raff from the past drags you down as you venture into new horizons, exciting vistas? Is it weighing you down?
Put it down.
But I can't, you say. Ask yourself, why not? If you can make the choice to carry it, do you not have the choice to put it down? Ask yourself -- What's in it for me to walk through today bowed down by the weight of yesterday? What's in it for me to walk backwards into today looking forward to nothing but yesterday?
I believe we all can put down the burdens of the past to venture freely into today. It takes commitment, a strong will, determination and a belief that the value of the past is not in what we hold onto but what we let go of.
The past can teach us many things. But when we hold onto the pain, the anger, the sorrow and regrets, we're not getting the lesson!
Last night my eldest daughter and I were talking about an event that happened during the period when I was missing and she was lost in the hell of having been abandoned by her mother. When she told me what had happened to her I felt sad and angry. But, I could not change what had happened -- I could only help her deal with the feelings that still reside inside her and help her let them go.
Now, in the past, I would have wanted to get angry. To rail against the individuals involved, to blame them for what had gone wrong -- it's a great way to deflect the light from my accountability, my role in what happened! Truth is, stuff goes wrong every day in life. Things happen for which we don't have a map, or guidebook to tell us how to handle them.
For my daughter, there was no rule book entitled, "10 things to do to make sure you're okay when your mother runs off with a psychopath and deserts you."
I mean really, what woman in her right mind would do that? Oh right, I wasn't in my right mind back then. I was really, really sick.
Now I'm not.
Rather than rail against the past, look at all I did wrong and deflect my anger from me to someone else, I lovingly embraced myself for the wounded abused woman I was, and focussed my energy on my daughter who needed my help.
She needs me. The past doesn't.
Last night when we talked I didn't have the perfect words to say to her. I didn't know what exactly I could do to make it all better for her. I couldn't think of a bandaid big enough to close this wound and so I let her feel her own feelings while I simply sat and loved her.
Sometimes, it is all I can do to encourage her to love herself exactly the way she is.
And that is where we come to letting go of unforgiveness. To let go we must forgive. The past, the people, the places and things that hurt us. We need to unhook the nubs of memory holding us in unforgiveness so that we can move with grace, ease and dignity into today without wrapping ourselves up in the prickly hairshirt of what happened to us as protection against the world around us.
Letting go of unforgiveness leaves me free to flow into today without the burden of other people's words and actions pulling me down.
Letting go of unforgiveness frees me from holding myself locked in the arms of the past where I did not know what I know now. Letting it go lightens my load.
My daughter is a courageous and beautiful young woman. Last night as we chatted she thanked me for having given both her and her sister strong self-esteem. We laughed together, cried together and loved together. I told her how blessed I feel to know that even though they went through hell with me, they didn't end up on the street, doing drugs, drinking, living pain-filled lives because of what had happened to me.
"We had a solid foundation of love," she said.
I agree. I look at my daughters and am in awe of their beauty. They are awesome human beings. I am blessed.
So often we see people acting out and blame the burden of the past on their actions today. Ultimately, it is not the past that makes us do things to hurt ourselves today. It is what we do today in the name of the past that hurts us.
When we choose to carry the pain forward, we walk pain-filled steps. When we choose to let it go, to release the pain so that we can move forward without fear of the past being the story of today leading into a fearful tomorrow, we give ourselves the gift of freedom to be all that we are meant to be.
Letting go to getting on and living it up! is the greatest gift we can present ourselves today.
It takes courage, determination and love. It takes compassion, for ourselves and for everyone in our lives, and it takes the wisdom of knowing this is our one and only life. Holding onto the past keeps our hands busy and our minds encumbered. With our hands and minds filled with yesterday's flotsam we are not free to grab onto the limitless opportunities that present themselves when we look at the day with love-filled eyes and know, This is our one and only life. It's time to live it up!
May you journey through today with a forgiving heart, a peaceful mind and a spirit eager to live it up!