Once upon a time, about 25 years ago, I was given a “personal excellence check list” from a coach to grow professionally. One aspect of the check list was to clean up regrets and resents. I waited to create and tackle that part of the assignment until I knew I had some time to recover from what I knew would be a painful experience.
Gratefully, I had a therapist at the time because after I compiled my list, I could barely walk and had kids coming home from school, practice to get to, dinner to make, etc. I called my therapist, and he guided me through a meditation that found a safe place to house the list until I had margin to revisit it again.
My safe place (in my imagination) was a forest like the Hundred Acre Wood from Winnie the Pooh. In the meditation, I found a hollow tree that I could place the list in and knew it wouldn’t be discovered by others. After we hung up, I put the list away in a secure and private space to come back to later. Over months, I revisited the list many times…cutting the pages into slips of paper to be addressed individually. That helped shrink the enormity of seeing and feeling it all together.
As I spent time with what I called my “shit list”, I sorted the slips of paper. Sometimes by era of my life, sometimes by people, area of pain, etc. I sat with the crap that had been thrown into that "area" of my self-map. I made amends with people I had hurt (unless I couldn't or it was healthiest not to connect), but either way, I received forgiveness. I forgave.
I let Grace and hope replace pain.
When I would choose to revisit the paperclipped bundle of paper, I would go through them and notice if there was still a “charge”, an emotional hook still “in me”. I would select the one that needed tending and take a step toward healing. Maybe that was writing a story about it, drawing a picture, saying a prayer or allowing the event to be spoken about to my therapist or safe person.
Little by little the slips of paper were thrown away or burned because they had lost their “charge”. They were dead and could be pulled from “my world” and simply be a part of the story, the history of what was once upon a time.
I’m NOT suggesting you go through this exercise; I am offering an idea of how you may decide to clean up a similar area in your "world" one day.
Without the clean up, there were resources being used to keep those past parts "alive"; like weeds taking the water and nutrients from your garden that you're trying to grow healthy food in. Mind though, there is value in the shit list, as manure is a key ingredient for bearing good fruit.
In a story that Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes tells, there is a very sly Mr. Fox who leads a young woman to a “room of the dead” and this is, as she unpacks and offers insight to, a place we all have in us: what was and isn’t anymore.
We can give thanks for what was and trust that it serves our lives in some way. As it's cleaned up, mixed in as healthy fertilizer, it can actually give energy to healthy growth instead of taking from or remaining toxic parts of our lives.
Onward....to tend what is growing in and for us now.