In case you, like me, find this a more complicated, "I could get lost in the woods" sort of journey; I want to drop bread crumbs at each turn I think bears watching or noticing. I think my own journey began at the first bread crumb, "forgiveness is a gift you give yourself, not something you 'bestow' on somebody else." That tidbit of information first caught my attention on the Dr. Phil Show. His guest was a woman whose husband had cheated on her. Now I have another whole complicated network of opinions and beliefs about infidelity - none of which will appear here. What was important about the show was what happened when Dr. Phil tried to make the woman hear and understand the concept about forgiveness being a gift you give yourself. Rather than considering, embracing or finding relief in the idea, she was hopelessly stuck in the notion that if she forgave her husband it would mean he "got away with" cheating on her. Sitting in the comfort of my living room, far away from this woman who wasn't even among my sphere of acquaintances, let alone friends, I didn't know if I wanted to bang my head against the wall or throttle her. "He already GOT away with it." I screamed at the television. "Now you just have to decide what you're going to do with your life going forward. Stay with him or dump him." My money was on "dump him" because I couldn't see any way a person who was as stuck as she was could possibly ever find comfort or love in his companionship. I could see my way out of part of the puzzle she couldn't see. "Fish or cut bait" that's how I saw it. But even though I hadn't really realized it yet, I hadn't fully embraced this notion of forgiveness being a gift you give yourself. All I could see was the inertia present due to the corner she had painted herself into.
I think it's time to drop another bread crumb, here.
Anyone who has ever heard anything about a 12 Step Program has heard the concept: "The first step is admitting you have a problem." Many of us, knowing that we don't have a drug or alcohol problem, hear that phrase from the safety of a mind that feels it is information which doesn't pertain to me. We may joke about it occasionally with a friend who really enjoys chocolate or golf or "Survivor," jostling them with a friendly elbow telling them it is time to "admit they have a problem." We may hear about a friend of a friend or someone on television who is struggling with addiction and shake our heads feeling sadness about the destructive need to "hit bottom," but it is still a concept about others rather than something we consider about ourselves. Think about the woman on the Dr. Phil show: if you asked her if she had a problem, what would she say? She would tell you her problem was her husband cheated. She would say he was her problem. But is he? Isn't her problem really that she can't let go of the fact that he cheated on her?
Bread crumb time. . ..
I first heard this from Andy Andrews, I have since seen it enough places that I'm not sure where the idea originated from, but the concept is "your best ideas got you where you are today." The advice is to look for mentors or experts who can give you other ideas because no one was looking to screw their lives up. No one actively pursues "how can I make my life as miserable and messed up as possible." It was their best thinking that got them to this place where they are unhappy. Now, if we consider the woman on Dr. Phil again, perhaps you can see why I begin to think this is so complicated rather than easy like Art does. Her best ideas got her to this miserable place where she can't let go of the fact that her husband cheated on her because then "he'll get away with it," but she also can't figure out how to punish him or what to do about him in order for her to stop feeling the pain. On some level, she knows this and she has gone to a mentor or expert, Dr. Phil; but she can't implement any of his advice because the two of them have not reached an agreement as to what exactly the problem is.
It's probably time for a small crouton here in the form of the definition of insanity. Albert Einstein once said "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Maybe it's just me, but I think if you can apply Einstein's definition to anything you yourself are doing??? You might want to go back to "admit you have a problem" although you still might have problems identifying what the problem is. Look at it this way, if you can apply the insanity definition to yourself, YOU are the problem. Not outside forces like your parents, your spouse or the government. It is something YOU are doing or, more likely, something you are thinking.
I'm sorry; I don't know who introduced this next notion to me. It could be Eckhart Tolle; it could be Wayne Dyer. When I heard it, I felt an awestruck realization of truth. The idea is: "what everyone who has had something bad happen to them in life - they've experienced abuse or a spouse cheating on them or rape or whatever bad thing you can think of - if the person has experienced it and just can't get over it or past it - what they really want is for the event to have never happened." I knew the truth of it. I knew that was actually how I personally felt about some of the more unfortunate events of my own life. But simultaneously, I also knew that it is absolutely crazy to want that. Insane. Because that is nearly the definition of the grammatical concept of the past tense. It HAS happened. Not "will" or "is," but "did." Done, over, and out. Oddly, the notion what I actually wanted was "cuckoo for cocoa puffs" or absolutely bonkers gave me an odd sort of relief. It gave me the freedom not to want it anymore.
We're nearly there, just a few bread crumbs left.
So here you are, stuck banging your head against this wall of an event that can never "unhappen" feeling miserable. You can't have what you want, but what do you have? Thank you Eckhart Tolle, you have "The Present Moment." All you have is this moment. Whatever that bad thing was, it isn't happening in this moment. The only thing that can drag that bad thing to this moment, is you; and there are so many better things you can do with this moment. In this moment, you can choose to listen to that mentor or expert and take the steps to effect a change in your life. In this moment, you can take stock of your surroundings and realize not only is the bad thing not here, but you are safe and blessed with comforts you previously never really noticed. In this moment, you can choose not to be a scared, sad victim. In this moment, you can choose life.
That might be enough. Maybe we don't need any more bread crumbs. But I have one and it's a good one. Perhaps it is the bread crumb that can lead you back to the present moment when the boogie men and gremlins from that past bad thing try to drag you back into its grip. Because it happened. It isn't going away and whatever mistrust you nursed into life or whatever survival skills you nutured as coping mechanisms; chances are they are here to stay as well. At least just a little bit. There is a sad but excellent chance you will not stay in the present moment, but will have to gently nudge yourself back here. So consider my bread crumb.
In Alan Ball's "American Beauty" there is a beautiful scene about an abused boy who finds beauty, spirituality and transcendence in a video he has made of a plastic bag being blown about by the wind. About the video, the boy says, "Video's a poor excuse, I know. But it helps me remember... I need to remember." I loved the scene from "American Beauty" and coveted a plastic bag moment of my own. Since one of the hats I frequently wear is that of a photographer, I have been nearly obsessed with capturing my own plastic bag moment on film. Only a week or two back, I realized I have been so numb and absent from the present moment that I already have had - I won't say "my plastic bag moment" because I don't think you need to be limited to just one - but I have had a plastic bag moment and captured it on film.
Several years back I went on a weekend vacation to Lancaster, California, to witness the Poppy Festival and California Poppies in the desert. On the way to Lancaster, I drove up the Grapevine and through Gorman, California. Some years, and I was lucky to have gone there during one of those years, for a brief few days the hills of Gorman are painted in color as if dropped right out of a painter's pigment jars. No artist could paint a scene as magical and fantastic as the one you see - live and in person - in front of you. I knew I was seeing one of the best things I had ever seen.
But wait a minute . . . . where's the bread crumb?
It's just this. Bad things happen. Bad things may happen to you. Nothing happens out of this "present moment." It happens, it is done and we may be many moments away from what happened. You can choose whether to ever think of it again. But you know what? Good things happen in this moment too. "Plastic bag moments." In one of my moments, I witnessed the beauty of Gorman, California and I can choose THAT to think of again. " . . . . it helps me remember. I need to remember."