Gran's Apple Butter Blog

December 13, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Home Stretch (7XI)

Chapter 7 – Home Stretch

So, where were we? Oh yes, coming into the home stretch. At this point we tend to punch the gas a wee bit, eager to pull in and put ‘er in park.

But there’s one home stretch we tend to dawdle on. Our final trip to that Big Rocking Chair in the Sky sparks mixed emotions, ‘cause this going home means saying “see ya later” to all the homes we’ve had here – the ones we shared with friends and family, the ones that held our hopes and dreams. No matter how much we want to go, it can be hard to say goodbye.

This can be hard on everyone involved – not just the one who’s leaving, who at least has a new adventure to look forward to. For the ones left behind, it can feel hard ‘cause they’re still in the old adventure, and one of their favorite players just left the team. Sometimes that makes it hard to keep going, to finish the race.

It can be hard ‘cause this represents change. Gran said she’d never gotten very good at enjoying that. The thing with change – we don’t know what that means. And we’ve been socialized – oh boy, have we: Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. But is that true? I gotta say, in my life, sometimes what I found around that corner was a whole lot better.

We fight this change so hard we hold on much longer than is good for us. Sometimes because we don’t want to go for ourselves, sometimes because we don’t want to go for the ones we’ll leave behind. We know they’ll be sad and probably have to deal with some darkness until they figure out how to move on with their lives. We want them to move on ‘cause we love them – we may even tell them that. But we also know that most likely they’re going to forget this for a while. Sometimes a long while. And Gran said that was ok. It’s only human.

So we’ll hang around, dragging things out when we know it’s better to rip that bandage off all at once. Sure, it hurts like crazy. But Gran said at least then somehow the pain can seem a bit more bearable. She didn’t say how though. She didn’t always answer my questions, just like she didn’t always answer anybody’s questions. And for the same reason – she knew I’d have to figure out this one on my own.

This can feel especially hard when the person saying goodbye is young. When this happened, Gran would remind me of the saying about good people dying young. She suspected that might not be too far off, ‘cause when we’ve done our work the best we can, we’ll want to go home and take a rest – all this learning wears us out. So when someone makes this trip earlier than we’d like, Gran figured that meant this was just a fast learner – ready to move on, lessons complete. That didn’t make the goodbye much easier, but somehow the idea felt soothing, like a sip of peppermint tea on a hot summer day.

Sometimes we fear this journey so much we get stuck along the way. Halfway home, we can go no further, ‘cause that extension cord we’re hanging on to isn’t long enough. Or maybe someone roped the trailer hitch as we flew past, and there we are, dangling between here and there, lost in the darkness. There’s only one thing to do then, Gran said, and that is to lovingly and gently let go of anything we’re holding on to here, and to do what we can to help those left behind unhitch their end of that rope as well. They may not even be aware they’re holding on, but we’ll know it.

This applies to deaths of other things too – like the end of a relationship or a job, anything that means a lot to us. We go through this process consciously when we give up one thing to make space for another. Sometimes we know we’re doing this. Other times, Gran said, all we know is that something is going away, something has been lost, and we’re just hanging on for dear life.  

That’s when we have to be patient with ourselves and keep plugging away, following our path, even when it leads away from roads that have been a big part of our lives for a long time. Gran said it was very important to ask for guidance in these moments, to pray that highest good be served, and then to listen and watch for the stars that will lead you home. That’s when you learn to see in the dark, when you close your eyes and hold out your hand, trusting that Someone is there to take it, and then, follow your heart.

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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September 6, 2011

Going Home, Excerpt: Circles (6/XI)

Chapter 6 – Circles

In all our relationships, whether constant companion, family member, or momentary hitchhiker, there are a few helpful things to keep in mind.

Number One: Forgiveness is highly underrated. This isn’t just about forgiving others. It’s also about forgiving ourselves. But remember: Forgiving doesn’t mean we give up on things that are important to us. Nor does it mean we continue interacting with people who continue to hurt us. Forgiveness simply means we let go of the weight we’ve been carrying – the weight of anger, of a grudge, of our expectations. When we’re ready to forgive, to let ourselves and others heal, once again, miracles can happen.

Number Two: Pride is highly overrated. Learning how to say “I’m sorry” and really meaning it can take you a long way in this world. Even when we’re sure we were right, when we’re sure we were the only ones who got hurt, we have to swallow our pride in order to practice forgiveness. But again, remember: Excessive use of these two little words when not accompanied by changed behaviors or attitudes can lead to others questioning one’s authenticity.

Number Three: Unconditional love means that even if other people don’t accept your apology or never let you in, you get to love them anyway. Like the song says, “Draw the circle wide.”[i] If someone doesn’t want you in their circle, just make yours bigger, until it includes the world – and them in it.

Number Four: Courage in large doses is required for all of the above. If you’ve burned a lot of bridges, the trip home may take some doing. When in doubt, repeat steps one through three, never give up, and don’t forget to say thank you.

These points were all key to what Gran considered a very helpful way to heal our relationships, past or present: rewriting them. We have scripts in our heads, she said, stories about each person, each place, each memory. These stories are typically small, with constrictive borders that tighten over time. We know their dialogue by heart because we’ve replayed these scenes over and over in our minds, tightening that noose with each showing. We think this serves some purpose, but there’s no room to grow in there, and we become as trapped as all the other actors.

The healthiest thing we can do here is to rewrite those scripts. Take a whole notebook for each one if you like, use colored markers or finger paint, Gran didn’t care which, but rewrite those stories into grand sagas with plenty of empty pages at the end – pages for each person to complete as they grow. Pages where words spoken in haste can be transformed into words of love. Someone used to be your mortal enemy? Rewrite that story, leaving enough space for this person to turn into your best friend, and you may discover that even as you rewrite this plot, the story begins to come true. That is the power of the word.

We judge each other so harshly, projecting our fears outward. Yet there’s just no reason why we have to do this. Sadly, it seems we often make this choice because we don’t understand there’s another way. That other way doesn’t get many headlines, Gran said, but it’s true. And we all can do this, if and when we’re ready to take this step.

As we rewrite our scripts and expand our circles, we redefine the hold the past has on us, shifting our grip until we see that really, we’ve been the ones holding on to it all along. Then we have the power to decide what we’re going to do next – let it go and move on, or remain willing prisoners to our past. Only we can make that decision.

Gran had gone through this editing process many times after she figured out she didn’t look so good in those horizontal jailbird stripes. This changed her life, she said – and she hadn’t looked back since.

[i] “Draw the Circle Wide,” lyrics by Gordon Light, music by Mark A. Miller

© Mary Batson, Going Home, Front Porch Rambles, and Gran’s Apple Butter Blog, 2010-2011. All rights reserved.
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