There are times I think about growing up and how wonderful it was. When I was very young, I’d play for hours in my sandbox. As I got older, I’d go walking in the woods and play beside the creek. In time, I learned to drive and like most of my generation I’d hang out at the mall. The doors at home were never locked. I remember feeling safe. Yes, there are lots of good memories.
But to be honest, those are the things I choose to focus on from my years growing up. They were part of my experience growing up, but there were also other parts that were painful and confusing.
My parents did the best they could but we were what therapists call a blended family. (That was before the Brady Bunch made blended families more acceptable.) My father was my mother’s second husband. Her first husband had been killed in an accident and she was left with two young children. In the 1950’s, this was something of a scandal. While my parents did the best they could to create the appearance of a happy family, there were lots of secrets and tensions I never really understood. In time, my family disintegrated.
I went to the best schools available in my area. I believe I received the best education I could have and appreciate that. But there was a lot of abuse. In grade school, there was physical abuse from some of the teachers under the guise of discipline. In high school, several of the priests were pedophiles. Of course, this wasn’t publically known for decades. With the sexual abuse occurring, there were layers of manipulation particularly by the vice-principal and the director of the music program, two of the pedophile priests. Then another made sexually inappropriate comments about nuns while teaching religion class.
Not surprisingly, I was targeted as the gay kid. That resulted in my getting beat-up often. Freshman year was the worst. I was assigned as the only freshman in a sophomore gym class. (It was the pedophile vice principal who made the schedule.)
I’m not writing all this to say what a rough life I had or to seek sympathy. Instead, I want to suggest that life is complex, often marked by amazing experiences and significant pain. I’ve known both. As I move further into my elder years, I have a very clear understanding that healing doesn’t change what’s happened in the past. But healing has allowed me to come to a sense of peace with what was — while holding closely the best memories.
It’s difficult to let go of pain and hurt. Sometimes doing so requires therapy, medication, and a variety of treatments. For me, an essential part of healing has been contemplative practice. It’s been by simply learning to be still and present in silence, in prayer and meditation, the pains of the past have slowly faded. I remember events, but the emotional content is released. In letting it go, I’ve been able to come to appreciate some of the wonderful aspects of my life which were previously clouded by the pain. At this point, I am content to say that I’ve had a good life…and I am thankful for it.
We each carry wounds and scars from our past. I don’t think it’s possible to be alive and to escape hardship. But living a good life isn’t a matter of not having pain. Instead, to be alive is a matter of finding ways to heal our brokenness. Healing our brokenness doesn’t happen in an instant but is a process which takes time. But such healing enables us to open our hearts to embrace life with greater fullness and happiness.
Photo credit: Serkan Göktay CC0 License www.pexels.com
© 2017, emerging by Lou Kavar, Ph.D.. All rights reserved.