Sharpening The Tools

Therapy to me has been about gaining the tools most lucky people honed at the knee of their loving and sympathetic parents. It’s hard to till emotional barren terrain with a sarcasm and empty promises. I like to believe I am well on my way to the fully stocked and functioning emotional tool shed I should have graduated college with. If I had graduated college.

The blow to my emotional foundation from last week in Mixed Messages put me in an easily angered and dark state making it hard to be around my family. Then my sister fell and broke her ankle. It brought up a lot of unresolved anger from when I broke my foot. I know, the two aren’t the same but they aren’t mutually exclusive either. I learned there is still a lot of anger in me at the living family. Sure, I forgave mom but it’s easy when you know you’re never going to have to deal with them, or care about them, or be measured and judged by them ever again. The anger I’m still dealing with in regards to my sisters and brother sometimes overtakes me and apparently I’m not as deft at hiding it from them. My humor turns scary dark. Who knew?

The anger was getting too comfortable so I took out my journal and I wrote for a few hours. When I was taking care of my mother I would open a vein and let the ichor run over the pages until the pain receded back to numbness. That was the purpose of the ‘vomitorium’ entries as I’ve come to label them. When I needed more than the temporary peace I limited myself to not just spewing but finding a solution to the bone stuck in my throat. I did a lot of spewing in this entry, about the abandonment, the narcissistic or neurotic tendencies which make me and my sisters who we are and how it affected me directly. It is all about me in my journal, that is the purpose of my journal. I calmed down the anger as well as talking myself through it and I’m turning to my tools to deal with it.

My most useful tool has always been my journal. I can remember writing a lot of posts about how I needed to be a better person, not for my mom, but for me because I wanted to achieve my goals. In some way I laid the foundation I’m building on today, in other ways I reinforced the illusions my mother conditioned me with. Focusing on my breath helps me work my way through acute and immediate stressors so I don’t get wound up in the anger and I remain functional. Forgiving the living is still a tool I’m trying to put to the whetstone but I can’t seem to make contact well enough to do anything but dull the blade. I don’t know why I can’t just wave my hand and say “All is forgiven”. No, I know why. It’s the memories and their words and the not being there when I needed them that present in my mind and refused to be mown down by the dull blade.

I love my sisters. I really, really do. Even when they don’t believe in me. They don’t have to believe in me as long as I believe in me. I don’t let the anger get between us, if I can help it. I need to sharpen my skills at hiding my moods better though. I don’t have to be the happy little clown all the time to humor them but I don’t need them worrying about me and trying to get to the festering angry core of my issues either. Thich Nhat Hanh taught anger has to do with the angry person not the one causing the anger. I can’t control why people do what they do, the only thing I can do is control what I do. Anger isn’t in harmony with Christ’s teachings, it isn’t in harmony with Zen teachings and it isn’t in harmony with a happy and healthy emotional wellbeing. Maybe it’s time to stop spewing in my journal and going to back stating a problem and finding a solution. So, I guess a blank journal is going to be the whetstone for the forgiveness scythe to put in my tool shed. Time to order more ink.


I started reading ‘Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames’ by Thich Nhat Hanh I realized I wasn’t trying to help myself or anyone else with the comments about my sisters. The ultimate goal was for them to read my words and be hurt by them. I don’t think they really know how deep this goes, I honestly didn’t know how deep this anger went until after therapy on Tuesday. I don’t want to hurt them (yes, I do) but the purpose of reading and journaling is to work through it until it’s resolved. into forgiveness. I had hoped this process would be a wellspring of posts for the blog but in light of my Monk, wanting to hurt the person who hurt me is natural but it is not freedom from the flames of anger, it only fans conflagration.

“To be happy, to me, is to suffer less. If we were not capable of transforming the pain within ourselves, happiness would not be possible.”

Thich Nhat Hanh, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames

Therapy was also enlightening in as much as I learned to get to forgiveness you have to go through (not skip over) the anger. I have to deal with anger as it comes up, like my Monk says, but I am allowed to be angry. There has always been a real fear of anger taking me back deep into the void. Ellen pointed out in the Void there was hopelessness and depression. I’m not hopeless any more, and though I am still medicated for depression I am not suffering with it any longer. I can get angry, I can feel it and learn from it and work to transform it into forgiveness and freedom. This, however, is going to have to be dealt with in my journal and therapy. I will try to express my progress as long as it isn’t a subversive attempt to hurt my sisters.

To Forgive or Not Forgive…..

My bee-line to end my chemical dependence put some of the needed emotional journeys on hold. I didn’t realize this until I picked up my journal and what started as a travel-log kind of entry turned into a soliloquy about the nature of and the need for forgiving. I hadn’t forgiven my mother and the anger which welled up in me whenever I spoke about her to anyone would attest I wasn’t about to forgive her. A sweet young woman spoke in church Sunday and she explained how she came to forgive her philandering and abusive father because she knew her happiness and salvation rested in the balance. She said she would never let her father back into her life again to hurt her but she had forgiven him. The spirit that glowed through the digital link was inspiring, obviously because it amounted to 7 pages of my 9 page journal entry, and it makes me want to share the transformative effect it has had on me.

Most of the entry was angry, a lot of what I put myself through for “living amends” seems ludicrous to me now. I felt I needed to serve my mother as a way to earn her forgiveness mostly for the un-Christlike thoughts I had of her. I’ve learned as a caregiver those thoughts aren’t completely unhealthy, but the guilt of not being perfect in the care of her, of not living up to the impossible expectations she set for me twisted and warped my perception of life at that time and my mother rode that donkey all the way to market. There is some anger in those words, and that is not forgiveness. I don’t know if narcissism is learned, or if its a chemical imbalance or if its a chosen avocation when one realizes it’s easier to get what one wants by undermining the people around them……I honestly don’t know but assigning an illness isn’t forgiveness. There is blame on my part for the role I played in this psycho-drama by allowing her to do this to me when I knew it was wrong, when I thought I understood the depths of the abuse and was “handling it”. (Handling it through inhuman doses of anti-drugs, copious amounts of chocolate and escapism through movies and all the sleep as I could steal in a day.) I should have called her on her behavior, I should have left her to her other children, I should have…..But blaming myself and redirecting the forgiveness towards myself isn’t forgiving [my mother] either. Those are the three major examples in the entry, to list them all would probably put you to sleep.

Christ says He will forgive whom He will forgive, but we are required to forgive all. While writing I prayed. I needed to know what it means to forgive. Don’t get me wrong, I know the definition, I know the process of repentance, and I’ve asked for and given forgiveness in the past. This level of forgiveness was a level I didn’t think I could attain let alone actually grant. I wanted to know if there was a magic bullet, or a wrapped gift, flowers, something I could do to make it happen. I wanted to forgive but I didn’t want to forgive either. I didn’t want forgiveness to erase what she did to me, yet I want to be healed and move beyond the pain and anger. In essence, I guess I didn’t want her to win. We are promised that mercy cannot rob justice and we will all stand before the holy bar of judgement where no one will win alone. Our forgiveness will be the only character witness to be called on our behalf.

At the end of the journal entry I asked three question:

  • Do I forgive her? Yes
  • Am I still angry with her? Yes
  • Do I ever want to see her again? At this exact moment, I never want to see her again but maybe someday that will change.

So, why am I sharing this now? The anger is still there as you’ve picked up in my words, but the level of vitriol behind it has waned to something I can push against and move beyond it instead of letting it tripping me. I might still fall and skin my knees from time to time but forgiveness is a balm for all wounds.

Pruning the anger and dischord from the family tree is the next step. I am working at getting passed the feeling of abandonment from the siblings and their offspring. Those feelings are tangled in with my twisted ideals and entitled expectations from that time. Forgiving the dead is one thing but forgiving the living adds an element I don’t know I am emotionally ready for…yet.

Who do you need to forgive? A parent? A spouse? A sibling? Yourself? After this weekend I can testify to forgive and allow yourself to be forgiven. I promise the light is brighter on the path out of the void when you do.