Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Let Go and Go On

Sorry that last post wasn't very uplifting. Let's try this one:

In going through quotes by Andy Rooney for the last post, I came across this gem:

When you harbor bitterness, happiness will dock elsewhere.

Wow. So true. For some people, bitterness is easier than happiness. To them, sadness and cynicism are the norm while happiness is a fleeting thing that comes and goes and can't be trusted to stick around for very long. When you're all filled up with one thing, you can't fit anything else in, even if it's better than what's already in there.

You know what odd image came into my head to illustrate this? A work refrigerator. Picture this: you come to work, you've made yourself a delicious lunch that you're looking forward to enjoying on your lunch break, you go to put it in the mini-fridge, but there's so much old, rotting, neglected food in there that you can't find a spot for your fresh, new, nutritious food. And you can't take anything out because it doesn't belong to you. You're stuck standing there, knowing what you want to do, knowing that what you want is better than what's already there, but there's nothing you can do about it.

Now look into your own heart. Is it filled with old, nasty, rotten, unhealthy things put there by someone else? If so, then like that old food, they do not belong to you. Luckily in this case, you own the fridge and you can take out or put in whatever you want. This makes you free at this very moment to clear it all out and start anew. Remove all of the old stuff that has "gone bad," give the inside a good scrubbing, and resolve to only fill yourself with clean, fresh, new attitudes and outlooks, about your life and everything that comes with it.

Easier said than done you say. Well, that's true. So try this quote on for size:

Resentment is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Original author unknown, but he or she was really on to something.

Not so odd anaolgy #2 - Remember the play/movie Amadeus? The composer Salieri spends his adult life hating Mozart and being angry at God for giving Mozart the talent instead of him. When Mozart dies, Salieri finally feels vindicated, like all of his anger and resentment have finally paid off and now he is going to be the famous and revered composer he has always dreamed of being. What actually happens? Mozart's music is loved around the world for centuries and (until the play was written) very few people knew that Salieri even existed.

So what did all of his years of anger and resentment do for him? Absolutely nothing, except give him a thoroughly miserable life. His perceived betrayal and unforgiveness left him empty and broken, and in his mind, with nothing to show for it. I wonder (metaphorically) what music he could have created had he not been obsessed with darkness and malice? Could his music have been as beautiful and magical as Mozart's? No one will ever know. But what we DO know is that when you look at your life through the lens of anger and cynicism, you are unable to reach your full potential. In everything. Gorgeous paintings go unpainted, amazing sports records aren't broken, engineering theories remain undiscovered..and the world is left with far less excellence and brilliance than it could have had.

One more, I believe this is a Buddhist saying:

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

So true again. It's so easy to hang on to being angry and upset with someone, and so very difficult to forgive them and move on. I'm not sure why that is, but I think it's one of the most difficult intellectual things we try to do as human beings.

So in that same vein, yet another odd analogy. Remember the bad guy in Raiders of the Lost Ark who grabs the hot medallion and has the image seared onto his palm? That's anger. It's something that you believe you deserve and so you take it. Then, when you have it, it hurts like hell and leaves a horrible, blistering scar. In the movie, the bad guy at first is okay with what happened because he thinks that his scar will lead him to the right place. As it turns out, it doesn't. It ultimately sends him digging in the wrong place.

See, it works, doesn't it? Like him, we think we deserve to be angry at someone for what they have done to us. We also think that by holding onto the anger it's the right thing to do. That person wronged us, and by remaining angry we are saying to the world, "That wasn't right! They had no right to do that to me!" Well, that may be true...but do you know where that leaves us? Living in the wrong place.

I know letting go of bitterness, resentment and anger is hard. Especially if you have been hanging on to them for dear life for a long time. But if you don't let go of them, you're only hurting yourself. Isn't that what the mean people had in mind in the first place?

Don't let them win. Let go and go on.

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