Life is full of choices, and it seems to me that the most important ones are the choices we make of what we hold on to, and what we let go of.
I have been holding on to lots of ideas about how I should feel, how my life should be, and what I need to protect myself from – for better or worse. This is where my giant came from. For example, when my mother passed, I experienced grief and sorrow – and methinks this was a normal reaction as I loved my mother very much. There was more than grief and sorrow though – I felt robbed. I wanted to have more time with her, and I regretted not spending the time I did have with her more meaningfully.
For over two years, I’ve continued to feel these emotions whenever I think of her, and that is a lot of self-inflicted pain. Most importantly, I’ve continued to feel these emotions… because I’ve chosen to.
Around that time, I did not have the skills I needed to choose anything else. I experienced her physical death exactly how my family and society had taught me to – feeling robbed, wanting more, and full of regret – and I allowed these feelings to stick to me like glue. Deep within myself, I believed that I should continue to experience those emotions permanently and forever, feeling self-inflicted pain as atonement for the sins of every phone call I ignored, every birthday I didn’t attend, every conversation where I wasn’t really listening…
To feel any other way would be a betrayal of her memory.
Wait, what? I have to feel like crap every time I think about my mother, and if I don’t I’m betraying her? That feels wrong – and I know there is some deep “because’s” here, an onion layer that needs peeling back. I believed that pain and sorrow were some kind of thin string connecting me to her that I needed to carefully maintain as penance, lest I lose her completely.
The truth is, nothing has made me feel this way – I’ve chosen to value my sorrow and to block out joy, and there was plenty of joy. My mother and I had many great conversations, we shared many laughs, and we had many great adventures. Am I perfect? No, and I am allowed to experience grief whenever and however I wish.
If choosing to experience joy is a betrayal of any kind, it is a betrayal of my internal falsehoods. Something deep inside, an inexperienced boy within myself has been holding on to guilt and pain as if that is the only way I can feel connected. The boy believed that sorrow was a duty, and a way of honoring what I felt I had lost.
Now I let of go of my sorrow – I’ve realized that the connection I believed it offered me was simply part of my own guilt – and I forgive myself. The boy within may feel this is betrayal, but he will grow from the lesson. In sorrow’s place I choose to welcome Joy the Betrayer of Falsehoods, and it is awareness that is allowing me to burn down my mud walls. For me, the truth is that Joy is a much stronger connection than sorrow could ever offer.