I’ve been working on cleaning up my past on many levels recently, especially spiritually. One of the ways of doing this is to make amends to people we may have hurt across our life. In the spiritual program of which I am a part, we sometimes divide the list of people we need to make amends with into three columns entitled “definitely,” “maybe,” and “when hell freezes over.” That last column title is of my own making. As in “I’ll make amends to you, pal, when hell freezes over.” But you get the idea.
It is the last column that needs the most work. I can’t move forward until I let go of my resentments and my anger. Until I accept that over which I have no control. It doesn’t mean that I like something, just that I accept reality as it is. “When hell freezes over” is one of those expressions that alerts me that I better look harder at what’s going on for me.
This morning I was giving a little talk on the subject of acceptance. I had read a line recently in a book that absolutely stuck in my craw. It was a perfect focus for my inner work. It made me realize that the majority of my life had been spent laser-focused on a fact of life I wanted to pretend wasn’t true. “There was a piece of reality I never wanted to see:” the line said, “I loved someone who couldn’t be trusted.” It really isn’t so important why the people in this column of my list weren’t trustworthy, as what I did with that fact. I had been beating myself up with my own stupidity and inability to understand how this could be so. I had been justifying my resentment and even hatred toward these persons like one savors a sickly sweet sauce so delicious it hides the poison contained within. Most of my own suffering came from my inability to accept these people exactly the way they are.
One of the definitions of acceptance is “coming to terms with something.” I not only have to come to terms with the fact that I loved and trusted people repeatedly who, for reasons of their own, could not live up to that position of trust, but I have to learn to accept myself. Life is too precious, each day too short, for me to waste time being angry about things I can’t change.
In letting go of my harsh feelings toward another I not only free them from the poison of my resentment, I free myself. I free myself from my own judgments about giving away my power to people I loved. I did what I did to meet my own needs. The people I turned to were not bad people, they had their own challenges that ultimately had little to do with me.
All of a sudden doors open and freedom moves within me that had not been there before. I find myself so much more peaceful, and so much more open to the beauty of life that is all around me if I will only see. Letting go of the past opens the door to a new and different future. I don’t have to seal myself off from the rest of humanity, or even continue to live life as if finding a truly loving relationship is impossible. As I learn to be more open and honest with myself, and accept my responsibility for my own feelings and my own life, I somehow give that gift to others, too.
I have a friend who told me that my only job was to “clean out the pipe” between myself and the God of my understanding. I love this analogy, for it lets me visualize some of my behaviors and thoughts as a literal “block in the pipe” that I can then clean out with ease. As I loosen up, I open to marvelous things.
The sunlight is so much more beautiful as it plays across the leaves of an Aspen waving in the summer day. My heart, open to my friend, is so much more deeply stirred by her sharing about her struggles with her feelings after her ex-husband is badly hurt in a motorcycle accident. My judgment of another friend and her seeming “failings” suddenly becomes eclipsed by the light and strength of her willingness to admit she is only human, and her wish that she might do better in the future. My heart fills with understanding and acceptance.
In short, I realize I am no longer alone. When I hold on to things I can not change, I shut the world out. When I “come to terms” with my past, I see a whole new Universe open before me.