In reminiscing with a former colleague this week, I realized there are two sorts of people and situations I have a great deal of difficulty letting go of.
The first is those people and situations that have hurt me. I have realized, in talking with this former colleague, that I tend to cling to my bitterness. I hold on to my distaste and disgust with those that have hurt me. Just speaking about them - years, perhaps, after I have seen them - is enough to make me sad and angry and enraged all over again. And it is like once engaged, I cannot let go of it - I wonder how they are doing now, and (truth be known) perhaps even take a bit of secret and nasty pleasure if things are quite as good as they should be. There is no good excuse for this of course, just the angry revenge of the powerless against those whom they made to suffer their tempers and speeches and attitudes and actions, things that affected my life in ways they should not have.
The other set are people and situations where I feel I should have done differently, whether by better behavior or different choices. The spots where I failed others. The spots where I feel like I should have made a different decision and chose not to. In some ways those "Roads Less Traveled" Frost left us with, but just as often the roads that we traveled a distance and then, turning our back, went back the way we originally came. In these, perhaps, the situation is reversed: here it is I that made others to suffer my tempers and speeches and attitudes and actions, my indecision or even my wrong decision.
How is that these things become lodged so deeply in our being that we cannot seem to rid ourselves of their tenacious grip? How many times have I said "I am done" only to find myself slinking back in the corners of my mind to the person or situation I have just foresworn (for the fiftieth time)? Against others, is that I still seek some method to have my revenge, even if it is to dance on their graves? Against me, is it that I somehow continue to seek an outcome that never came to be in hopes that somehow the situation can be made different? (It never can, of course. You really cannot step into the same river twice.)
The past is meant to instruct, not to hinder. And I have received instruction in both types of situation -but with that instruction comes the past that I can never really seem to release.
And yet, I have to. The past that I think I see, that I think I relive, is really nothing more than a shimmering in my own mind rather than a reflection in a river - the river moved on long ago and what I think I am seeing is really something I am seeing with my eyes closed. It has simply become time to open my eyes and step in, letting the shimmers dissolve in the sparkling daylight on the river that is, not the distant echo of the days that were and have long ago flowed out to the sea.