A few years ago, I was sitting in a diner listening to someone talk about the unfairness of his current life situation. He was lamenting the devastation he felt at being excluded by his family….and his suffering was heart-breaking and so real to him. And he kept it alive. He brooded over the hurtful letter he’d received from one of his sons, and the years of stony cold silence from another. He alone kept these hurts alive, and they eventually became his prison.
He couldn’t (or wouldn’t) see that he had played any part in creating the unhappiness he felt… and so he was trapped. He wanted everyone to admit that they had been wrong; had judged him harshly, and unfairly. He thought that their actions (or lack thereof) were the key to his freedom, his happiness, and he was so angry at them, for not loving him.
And yet, knowing him for many years, I also knew that even if all of these people finally said exactly what he wanted them to say, he would not be happy. Oh, maybe for a few days or weeks he might be, but his feelings; of not being good enough, of being excluded and marginalized, were beliefs that he carried within himself, about himself.
His feelings of self-loathing were being mirrored back to him by those around him, and they were so painful to see, that he wanted to run away from them all. He wanted to shout, “I don’t need any of you!” at the top of his lungs, from the lonely prison of his own making.
He holds the keys to his freedom, but he is not ready to hear this, because the price for his freedom would be giving up the need to make anyone else wrong. The price would be a fresh start, beginning today; radical acceptance, radical love of himself and “them” too. He doesn’t know that he can love others, even if they never respond, even if he never sees or hears from them again. He doesn’t know that it only takes one to Love.
“Don’t brood. Get on with living and loving. You don’t have forever.” Leo Buscaglia