There comes a time in life when we need to let go of those heavy, over-stuffed suitcases filled with past mistakes, regrets and shame. In recent times I have become aware just how much I hold on to old pains and ‘wrongs’ subconsciously. I must have been a Franciscan monk in a past life. The amount of self-flagellation I have inflicted on myself over the years is quite frankly astounding. I have played the ‘victim card’ so often that over time it has become my ‘go to’ self-perception. I allowed these experiences to define me. This victim mentality has been a self-created prison from which I am now in the midst of breaking free.
Reflection & Realisation
Over the past wee while I have been writing my third book, ‘Fifty Felafels’, based on old travel journals I kept whilst travelling around Europe in the early 1990s. Reading the musings of an immature twenty year old mind through forty-seven year old eyes has been enlightening. I wrote a lot about my feelings, and of unrequited relationships. On some level I understood these people were dealing with their own emotional stuff. Yet despite this, I still dropped into “poor me” mode whenever I was let down.
Getting caught up in my own mental drama, I lashed out verbally, treating them like they had somehow been mean and uncaring. Whilst reading these journals, the hazy fog of distorted memory lifted. I was horrified and ashamed of my behaviour. It was I that had treated others unfairly and behaving in a disrespectful and uncaring manner.
Back then I had been particularly needy and rather manipulative. I was seeking connection and closeness. There was a lovely older man with whom I had a brief romance. He was gentle, honest and vulnerable. He was dealing with his own emotional stuff and was not in a space to handle intensity. Whilst he had needed to keep me at arms length whilst processing some deeply personal emotional stuff, I reacted in an insensitive and selfish manner.
I managed to track him down to a little town in Ireland thanks to Mr Google. I don’t usually share personal correspondence on this platform. However, I wanted to share with you a snippet from an email I sent him.
About The Email
First of all, I needed to let him know I wasn’t about to bring any untoward surprises into his life.
“I hope this email doesn’t know you too much for a six… although I suspect that it might just a little. About 26 years ago I met a lovely man by the name of Mike who lived in Archway, London who I lost my virginity to on my last night in London (sorry made me laugh to write that …. don’t worry when you recognise the face in the photo below you will know that no kids will be knocking on your door!!!! BREATHE!!!!!!!!!).
I have just been reading through my travel diaries from the early nineties, and I have just arrived at the entry dated 21 December 1993 where I was in an emotional state (stressed to the gills about preparing to depart on a 3 month trip). At the time (the day before I was due to leave), the people who were going to look after my belongings all went incommunicado, and I ended up calling you to see whether you could look after some bags for me. At the time, you were going through stuff and were diplomatically trying to put some space between us. My response (according to my diary) was somewhat less diplomatic as back then I told you to “fuck off!”.
“I am writing to apologise to you for the way I spoke to you and for the way things were left. Also I truly apologise for not having the emotional maturity to take a step outside of my own victim mindset to honour and respect what you were dealing with. I cannot begin to imagine how you must have felt after that phone call. Sorry it has taken me 23 years to pick up that bloody diary and send you this email.
I felt compelled to track you down and write you this email. I wanted to let you know that through my own crap I could still acknowledge what a special person you were back then, even though I was ensconced in my emotional crap. You were a caring gentleman (a ratbag gentleman, but a gentleman nonetheless) – I hope you have not changed that.”
Being Set Free
Some of you may recoil in embarrassment that I would actually hit the ‘send’ button on such an email (and at the fact I admit to doing so). However, for me it was healing to acknowledge the goodness in him, and how much I have grown emotionally. I didn’t know whether he had carried around his own pain as result of the fracas between us. If it affected him in any way, I wanted to help him discard that emotional baggage. There were no expectations of response. For the record, I did receive a beautiful reply expressing appreciation that I had written. It ended up being the most beautiful exchange. Pain has been replaced with joy.
The discovery of my immature and selfish behaviour has been painful to acknowledge. It has also set me free in many ways. As previously mentioned, I had always believed I was a victim. I now understood this to be far from true. That emotional baggage that I had been carrying around with me has now been discarded. I have also learnt to never presume what emotionally triggers another person. We are all unique. I feel more compelled these days to treat myself and others with kindness and compassion. It is like taking a deep breathe of the freshest air imaginable.
Anne McCormack is author of the book, Lovitude: Trying To Calm The Monkey Mind and the award-winning, Peacock Dreaming: The Wisdom Of Flowers.
Feature photo courtesy of Pixabay
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My Wish For You – Stepping Into Mindfulness
Making Me Happy! A Journey Into Mindfulness
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Re-Learning The Joy Of Living With Journaling and Meditation