Happy Sunday and welcome back Lorie Sheffer, our regular Guest Blogger here at Mid Life Celebration. If you missed Lorie’s post last week, it’s because she was over at Lane 8. Take it away Lorie:
“What’s too painful to remember, we simply choose to forget.” Remember those lyrics? That is actually pretty good advice. How many of us carry around baggage from things that happened in our childhood, early twenties, or even our not so distant past? It seems like we have somehow been conditioned to think that it is good for us to dredge up old hurts. I suppose in a way it can be cathartic, but if we don’t find a way to let go and move on, we allow the past to invade the present. Spring, and midlife, is a good time to clean house. Not just our physical homes, but also our minds. If it’s not serving a purpose, if it is dragging us down, then maybe we should just let it go.
I very recently lost a person who meant a great deal to me. She was not only a family member she was also my dear friend. We always suspected that there was a reason we were never invited into either of her homes. She always came to us, and we loved her unconditionally so we never questioned her. She was kind and loving and incredibly intelligent. And she had a secret. That secret was that she had severe hoarding issues. Her death reveled to us the depth of her condition. She couldn’t let go of things. She lay alone for a week after her death, in a pile of things. Detectives found us because she had stacks of letters and cards sent to her by my children, my grandchild, and me and we were traced through the return address labels. As we stood there on a cold February day, the snow falling outside of her Manhattan apartment building, the grief was almost unbearable. The material things that she couldn’t let go of were clearly visible. We could see them. The hundreds of leftover containers, all painstakingly washed; the clothing from decades ago; the receipts from every purchase made since she was a young woman. The things I was unable to let go of weren’t visible; I could keep my secrets hidden. When I pass from this earth, they will pass with me. But carrying around emotional junk from the past is no less incapacitating than the mountain of things that had consumed her. The things she kept represented good memories for her, while the things I hung on to caused me to have panic attacks and anxiety. So who had the mental disorder?
At least once in our lives, we are disappointed and hurt by someone we love. Parents unintentional or intentional hurts; the best friend who lets us down or isn’t there for us when we need them the most; the boyfriend or spouse who betrays us. We see it in the news every day. The misfortunes and embarrassments of the rich and famous have become a form of entertainment for us. Schadenfreude is a German word, which means happiness at the misfortune of others; taking pleasure watching someone else suffer; the “I’m glad I’m not you” syndrome.
Letting go of pain and hurt is not condoning or excusing the person who inflicted it. Forgiveness is not for the person who caused the harm; it is for the person who was hurt. If we hang on to pain and heartache, we only continue to give it power over us. We can’t change what has already transpired, we can only decide how much we will allow it to affect us at this moment. Ask yourself if knowing or remembering is going to help you or hurt you. If a dog is known to bite then remembering that is going to help you. If grandpa has been dead for twenty years and someone decides that you “need to know” that he was on the ugly side of racial tensions in 1960s, then that serves no purpose other than to give you a horrifying memory of someone who you thought was a good person.
Clean your house. Get rid of the clutter you don’t need. It can obstruct your vision of the beautiful things that deserve a special place. If it’s too painful to remember, then toss it. When we drove out of New York City that day, I decided to leave my baggage there.