Other people can sometimes be a problem for me. I have had occasional encounters with family members and acquaintances, who let me know how much they disagree with my life and what I am doing with my time. Or they let me know how much they don’t like me.
So why do I sit and listen to their criticism? Am I trying to keep an open mind, or do I deserve punishment for not being perfect?
I don’t ever feel like I’m perfect, but something inside me thinks I should be a victim. I think I inherited the behavior. My mother used to criticize my grandmother as being a martyr or ‘being holier than Thou,’ But my grandmother was miserable with or without my mother’s criticism. My grandmother did not have any psychological tools to survive negativity from other people. She lived to be 91 and was not a happy woman. I loved her, she loved me, but my grandmother felt sad her entire life. She escaped into books and reading, and I’m convinced that’s how she made it to old age.
When she died, I inherited a stack of my grandmother’s letters she had written to her relative, grieving for her sons, both of whom suffered from alcohol. When I read my grandmother’s sad letters, I didn’t know what to do with them, because she was dead and her sons were dead, and the sadness no longer prevailed.
What would be respectful, and how could I be healthy toward the memories of my loving family members and not prolonging their pain. My grandmother’s two sons both committed suicide, and so had my grandfather, who gassed himself. One son died by carbon monoxide poisoning in a car, and the other with a bullet to his head. Neither of them were happy, for real. This type of misery is truly fatal.
I am not the suicide type, thank God. I’m also not into whining about my family’s pain. But I am very interested in UNDERSTANDING the dynamic of co-dependence and personal boundaries with families and friends.
I’ve learned to name the problem. Naming doesn’t come easy for me, because I don’t always know what I’m feeling at any given moment. I needed to learn to be still, and wait for understanding to come to me, and it comes to me through my intuition. Writing can also help me comprehend what I mean, when I can look at what I wrote and say, ‘yes, that’s it.’
I decided to burn my grandmother’s sad stack of correspondence in my fireplace. I tied them with a pretty blue bow, and set a match to one corner. As they ignited, I prayed for their memories to be released from pain and sorrow. I asked for forgiveness from the pain of holding onto to unhealthy things, like when I listen to people who do not understand me or really care more than an opinion. I used prayer, like a momentary conversation with a spiritual consciousness that goes far, far beyond my ability to absorb what life is all about. I chose to trust that prayer would ease my discomfort. It worked.
I’m telling this story because I don’t want to keep any more pain inside me. There are many phases to grief and sorrow, some responses are healthy and some are unhealthy. Maybe my decision to give back pain to the universe can help someone else.