I read a quote once which said we should forgive others not because they deserve forgiveness, but because we deserve peace. I found myself thinking about this when writing my previous post, “An invisible scar”. While there is a place for anger, there is a point where anger just ends up hurting ourselves, like punching a fist through a window. There is no finer example than the story of my friend’s mother and the pathological grudge she carried and took out on myself and my family. The woman died of cancer in her forties, an illness that, I believe, does not happen in isolation from one’s emotional life.
My friend’s mother lived a parallel life, spending much of her time online posting to a blog she started in 2008. She wrote about her health, spiritual development, and craft. She had quite a following, with many “fans” and online friends awaiting her hypnotic words. I discovered her blog many years ago after she died. Last night I visited it again. I wanted to get to know this woman who caused me so much grief, and see if she’d come to any insights about her behaviour. She had a lot to say about me when her daughter and I were in primary school, but interestingly, I could not find a single mention of me anywhere in her blog. She did, however, reflect on how she had been holding onto ancient anger, pain, fear and sorrow deep within. She linked this to her cancer in her liver, the part of the body which is responsible for cleansing and letting go of toxins. I believe that cancer, in general, has a lot to do with an inability to let go and accept death. This is what defines the very illness: cancer cells are cells which do not die, which ignore the signals that tell them to self-destruct, which defy the natural cycle of birth and death. So they end up multiplying, spreading, and forming chaotic patterns rather than the factal pattern seen in trees, river tributaries and healthy blood vessel networks. In their efforts not to die, they end up destroying the whole organism, themselves included. Apoptosis/ cell death is built into our biology as our bodies know that we cannot have life without death.
This is why we need to find a way to let go, not for others but for ourselves. Letting go does not make it ok what happened, it does not mean we’re weak or have “given up” (in fact it often takes great strength to let go), it does not mean doing nothing about unjust treatment, nor does it mean not working through the experience and honouring our feelings. The only way out is through, and I believe in order to let go, we need to first fully feel our anger, sorrow, and pain, acknowledge it, express it, have our story heard, and do something about the problem, if that is possible. I was recently treated very poorly by a training provider and withdrawn from the course I was studying. I told myself that I would write them a bad review online and then I would let it go and move onto bigger and better things. I didn’t want to continue studying in such an unloving environment anyway, and my time and energy was better spent elsewhere, such as cleaning up my room, on projects that make my heart sing, and with people who lift me. The last few days I finally managed to clear out some of the stuff I have hoarded over the years, an important part of the letting go process for me.
In terms of the experiences I shared in my previous post, there have been four things that have helped me to move past the “stuckness” and anger a little.
First, turning my pain into art, writing a memoir and keeping this blog have helped me to reclaim my voice. The most dangerous form of self-harm, I would argue, is stuffing our emotions. It may be a socially acceptable form of self-harm, but it’s not getting us anywhere in terms of our health and happiness.
Second, I held a “letting go ceremony” with a friend from my spiritual group where we wrote the things we were ready to let go on paper and burned it in a cauldron.
Third, I see the tiny driver behind the huge machine. I see that my friend and her mother were deeply wounded people themselves.
Last, I choose to see my friend’s mother not as a foe, but a teacher. She has taught me how important it is to let go of pent up anger, a lesson she learnt a little too late. Life’s too short, and if she had of got to know me, she would have found a kindred writer, artist, and faerie in me.