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Here it is! The much awaited Lessons from Control vs Letting Go!
What made me think I had it all together?
When everything kept falling apart.
I searched and searched for why things kept going wrong,
Why the same things kept happening to me over again?
My life is a process of learning and growing.
The Journey, I call it, for there is never a destination.
New things always come up for me to learn from,
but are they really new?
And this particular teaching of Control vs Letting Go has been huge for me.
It tore everything that I knew about life and myself
out from under me.
My lessons were for me, but somehow I see
that this is a spiritual epidemic.
In my past, I have spoken of not feeling good enough,
I see that’s how most of us are raised, it rings true for many.
Realizing that loss is an inevitable part of life was at first difficult to comprehend.
I couldn’t lose again; I have always lost.
But why aren’t we taught that loss is good?
And how can loss be good?
The spiritual lessons I have learned have explained the good side of loss.
Pain, anguish, resentment, fear, anger, guilt, blame, hatred, struggle …
These words came easy for me as I worked my way through this.
Compassion, love, forgiveness, inner resiliency, gift, transformation …
Not so much, and getting easier as I work my way through.
I have gone through some sad and terrible things in my life that I had to look closely at to see why my life wasn’t working. Feeling like I had been “trying” to keep holding everything together and control my life, the people in it and my surroundings just so everything would be ok, was the very thing that brought me to rock bottom, the loss of everything.
I never knew where I was going or what I was doing throughout my life. Now at 52, for the first time in my life, I feel as though there is an opening. I have no idea where it will lead; this time I don’t feel lost.
I have read about many who have hit rock bottom and were able to climb back out. I have hit rock bottom and there is only one way for me to go and that is up. Shame, anger, sadness, resentment, fear of loss, control … these things have pushed me to the pit of finding out that everything I had feared would happen to me finally did. And for some strange reason I feel a sense of relief and freedom. I know I can’t hold on any longer, I cannot control what is happening to me. I can, however, control how I will respond to what is happening and that is what I have learned. Again, not easy.
So, my response is to recognize that everything that has happened was for my soul to grow. As a human it is absolutely the most painful and heart wrenching thing I could have ever imagined. If you are reading this, you may probably feel the same way.
There is a way out.
It requires willingness, courage and a desire, but it can be done. If I can do this, anyone can.
What did I learn from my lessons?
- I am resilient. I have always had an inclination of the strength I have inside. Through all the trials and adversity, I am still here having the opportunity to do it better this time. Notice I didn’t say right. There is no right. One of the problems of how I had been raised was that it had to be done right. No mistakes. Bad girl if I made mistakes. So how was I to learn? All my life was by trial and error and beating myself up in the process. Not the answer. Lesson: I have inner resiliency.
- Somehow there is a gift on the other side of the pain. What? That certainly wasn’t what I was taught. All I knew was that there was pain on the other side of the pain. The longer I stayed in pain, the worse it got. Until I began looking at how I contributed to anything that was happening to me in my life, I couldn’t get out of the pain. It was constant and never ending. My lesson here was being in such shame of hurting people that I completely stopped telling anyone what was happening with me and “trying” to deal with it myself. “Trying” to control the process and the outcome was no longer working for me. Again, I felt alone and with no way out. The only way out was to go in. Just like I mentioned above about recognizing what it was that I was contributing to the situation that was happening, I couldn’t see that my belief and behavior were a huge part in what was happening. That was a huge pill to swallow and believe me, I am one that does not take pills well. A natural reaction to loss is retreat and isolation; mostly from shame. Being able to recognize this and reaching out to friends and family when I most needed it, has helped me to see that if I don’t, I will be alone. A lesson I learned from my mother, who is alone. I’m sorry to say that the beliefs we took on as children from our parents, will eventually turn us into them unless we figure out a different road to go on. I’m pretty sure if you have children, you have heard yourself treating them or talking to them just like your parents did with you. I even found myself sounding like them. That woke me up. Ask for help, this can’t be done alone. Lesson: We need the gift of others.
- I work on faith every day. This is not an easy task for me. I was raised in a conservative Jewish synagogue. I learned how to read Hebrew for six years. I had my Bat Mitzvah when I was 13. Then I ran away. For me, I never felt a connection to God. He was always far away and a stranger. I was never allowed near him unless it was tradition by way of holidays and that didn’t help me in any way feel connected to God or Judaism. Going to Sunday school was the only connection I was told to have, to be a good girl and learn Hebrew. For the most part, at home, there were only a few observances of high holy days, yahrzeit and Hanukkah. I never felt a part of that either although I tried. My spirit was lost from the get go and in my mind, I was disconnected from everyone, including God. I felt unloved, alone and lost. Growing up during my adult years was no different; I had always been in search of some kind of connection. I remember going through many different religions to find God. None of them seemed to help. The good news for me was that I landed on spirituality. Connection. For me, though, I found God inside which taught me how to connect with myself and him/her at the same time. I am still learning about faith. I am closer now than I ever have been. Lesson: My faith can sustain me. (Lesson learned, after realizing that controlling was not working for me, letting go and letting God work on my behalf on the things I have no control over, was the enlightening moment for me in what I am going through now. I’m pretty sure there is still more, but at least I see it now. As a caveat, I believe in a Source and call it many things as you will see in my writings: Universe, God, Higher Power, Creator, Source, He/She, Him/Her, etc.)
- Forgiveness is an option. Years of being taught to forgive other people for terrible things they “did” to me without knowing why the hell I would be forgiving them was certainly not my thing. This is not what forgiveness is about. I forgive to set myself free. I forgive their behaviors because as Jesus said, “…they know not what they do.” None of us do. Again, life is about learning, lessons, making mistakes and coming out with the wisdom of not doing it again. I would love to know who has the rule book on being human. The belief is that the bible is the rule book and in many ways, that is true. For me, while going through years of finding myself through religion, I have found that those years made me feel much worse about myself. So, by that point I thought, “So, I can’t forgive anyone else, and if I am this bad, then why should I ever forgive myself?” Nooooooo!!!!!! Not how this works! There were a couple of tools that I had finally found on working with forgiveness and yes, it is work. The first one I will call 70×7 (no I didn’t make it up, it’s already out there). Very useful and a huge commitment. How bad do you want to move forward in your life Caroline? Absolutely. Writing out “I forgive _________ (picking someone, including myself) for my feelings of _________ (taking ownership for my feelings, not easy. For one thing, when I first started this my feelings were all mixed up together. This did help me to differentiate my own feelings and then helped me to separate my feelings from others (another form of co-dependency, I’ll leave that one for another time). Anyway, my apologies for the tangent, so “I forgive _________ for my feelings of _________ (fill in the blank with one of the four most prominent feelings, anger, sadness, fear, shame) about ____________________ (here is where I put my version of what happened, my story, or the situation). You can do this any way you want. As many people as you chose, one person or yourself. When I did it, one person seemed to lead into another, so on the same day, I could have worked on six people. What do I mean by a day? On a lined sheet of paper, write the above statement out, filling in the blanks 70 times (1-70) for 7 days straight and if you miss a day, you have to start all over! Talk about a commitment to oneself! And it works. Also, I want to share the other way I did it and you can get this online. Colin Tipping wrote a book called Radical Forgiveness and there are worksheets on his website that will walk you through a different process of forgiveness. There is a different thought process with his work, so if you don’t believe in what he talks about, it may not work for you, so using 70×7 might be better. “The energy we have put into the harsh emotions of our loss must be redirected into life-giving sources of new beginnings and continued healing. We cannot move on if the leaden chains of guilt, blame, hatred, anger, and resentment keep us bound to the past.” (Five Spiritual Lessons of Loss, Joyce Rupp, O.S.M.) Lesson: Forgiveness is essential for healing.
- I found a spiritual transformation that came out of loss. This is a big one. We aren’t taught this. I was taught that I wasn’t good enough, my bottom line belief about myself. I took in many ideas about myself that I realized many years later were lies. I lived, I made mistakes but perfectionism had a hold on me and it made those mistakes worse. Then I was really sure I was bad. Nothing in the form of positive could ever possibly come into my life. I had felt like a failure and a fraud from the get go. My own mother didn’t even want me (in my mind, until I worked through forgiveness with her and figured out the truth). So in my life, in essence, I had lost everyone, everything, started over and over and nothing ever worked out for me. From the trauma when I was a child, I learned it had created the drama and chaos that I attracted into my life. From the fear of loss, it created the need to control and here I am telling this story about Control and Letting Go. It has been a process, really, of death-rebirth-death and if you look at nature, what comes from death? You will find the answer to this question every spring. “Life through struggle to new life.” “We can trust that something new will follow our time of death and destruction.” This is the cycle of life and it works throughout life, in nature through the seasons and in death. This is the ultimate lesson, “this truth is at the heart of spiritual growth and development.” Lesson: Painful loss holds the seeds of transformation.
This is life; I believe this is why we are here. My lesson in this is to stop waiting to get permission to live and be willing to make the mistakes I’m sure I will make in order to learn and bring joy into my life. If you have ever seen the movie “Inside Out” take a lesson from Sadness. In order to find joy, you must go through sadness. In order to release sadness, you must also release the anger, fear and shame that is held so deeply. Feelings are just a guidance system telling us what direction to take, they are nothing to be afraid of. I will also mention here that feelings, both positive and negative, must be released. That will be another discussion though.
It hurts, I know it hurts. I am writing this while being in the middle of and working through this right now. With all the tools I have learned, I am now able to move into a more peaceful and joyful life. I know because even in the midst of all the turmoil that I have created in my life, I am feeling a sense of peace right now, in this moment.