We are born with nothing… and everything.
Life experience has ups and downs. Whether I am a pauper or a prince, joys show up, setbacks arise and tragedy rears its head.
I like to compare life to a backpack. Imagine this… take all the things that have happened to you over the course of your life… all the traumatic events. Each one of those events is a rock. All the rocks of different sizes, textures and colours made up of all the disappointments as you grew up, all the failed relationships, all the people who died too early, all the teasing or bullying, all the money troubles, all hatred for someone who treated you wrong, all the injustices against you, all the physical impairments, all the bosses who used you, all the times you were ignored… all of it.
Now try to lift that bastard.
We all have a backpack of rocks strapped to our backs. Most of us spend our entire lives filling that backpack and carrying it around like some sort of badge of honour as if the more weight we can carry, the better person we will become. Many of us carry a gargantuan bag of rocks around our entire lives only to get to the end brutally bent, broken and disfigured from an age of trying to manage more weight than we have a right to carry. Tell me… how happy would you be to put YOUR backpack down for a day? An hour? Five minutes?
At some point, I had to make the decision whether to start dropping rocks or continue slogging along with the weight digging into my shoulders and impeding my mobility. How do I expect to negotiate my way through myriad life pylons with all this frigging weight strapped to me?
Better I get rid of the weight.
There are only two ways I know to help with the load. The first is to be grateful for all the good things in my life. Being grateful makes me stronger. It reminds me what I really value, what’s important and what I have. More importantly, I like to be grateful for the lessons the trials of life have taught. But then, I like to learn anyway so that’s kind of a no brainer for me.
Gratitude is the quickest way to deal with the load of life. You start to feel better... stronger... almost immediately.
Eventually, I realized I could only become so strong. I was still carrying the damned rocks around! What to do now? Forgiveness.
Forgiveness takes longer. It’s not as if I can make a sweeping statement like, “I forgive all those who have trespassed against me” and tomorrow all will be right with the world. Nuh uh. It takes work. One trespass at a time. Lots of meditation and kayak trips and walking in the woods and beating up stuffed animals. Sometimes the forgiving doesn’t work the first time or it’s a particular person who has a whole lotta trespasses against me. It just takes time to work through.
Journaling helped me a lot. Each day, I would write what I was grateful for that day. Then, if I had a particular rock that seemed to be digging into my back, I would spend some time trying to extricate it. Eventually, I would manage to free it up, get it out of the bag, turn it over in my minds eye and take a good look at it... then drop it to the ground.
We all make mistakes. We all make decisions we wish we hadn’t. At some point I had to understand there are people out there who have made decisions… knowingly or not… that have affected me in some negative way. Those people deserve my forgiveness (even if it’s God). More than that, I deserve to forgive them for my own peace of mind.
A couple of points…
First, most people I was carrying a rock around for weren’t even aware the incident affected me the way it did. (Yes... I was carrying it for them. It's their weight!) Or worse, often I was carrying a rock around for someone I would never see again! Does this make sense?
Second, there’s no need to confront the person. Just forgive them. Sometimes I would do a little ceremony if it was a particularly big rock. Going back to the first point, confronting them will only confuse matters or I might not be able to find them anyway.
As I look behind me now, there aren’t as many rocks along the path. There are fewer people to forgive. Most of the forgiving I do now happens quickly so I haven’t got the rock for long. It's taken quite some time to lighten the load to make it manageable.
Having said that somewhere back there on my trail is one shit-load of rocks.