December 10, 2008

Making Peace With A Guilty Vendetta

My friend Christina, who I had met in Riga over three months ago, told me a story in front of the hostel that we both shared. I can’t remember the conversation that preceded it but I remember the story well. She said there was an African tribe, of which I have tried to research their name or place of origin on the internet and have come up completely empty-handed, that settles their personal vendettas in an interesting way. The wronged party of a particular situation, such as a person who had murdered someone from another family, will take the guilty party out to sea and throw them overboard. If the wronged party let’s the guilty party drown, then that decision is accepted by the community as fair punishment but if the wronged party decides to save the guilty party, then the situation is officially over and must never be mentioned again.
I was thinking of this story during one of my many walks alone through the beautiful, open landscape of Mongolia. My mind quickly went to the place it usually did when I have uninterrupted time to think; to the last eight months of my Mother’s life and to the feelings of guilt I have been harboring since her funeral. I had spent the last year a half beating myself up, engaged in a constant argument with the rational side of my brain, over some pretty trivial events that ignited these emotions. I was trying so hard to heal and this was definitely holding me back.
We were staying with a family near a central mountain range and were preparing to leave on a two-day horseback riding trip the next day. The moon was almost full, the air was cold and windy and there were rocky foothills scattered behind the yurts. After much thought the previous day I decided to use this location and the story of the African tribe to confront my guilt head on and see if I was ready to start letting it go.
I put on my jacket, hat and gloves and grabbed my pen and notepad and followed the light of the moon to a small valley between two foothills where I sat on a rock and wrote down all the things that I felt guilty about; from the smallest to the largest, I left nothing out. My list numbered almost fifteen points and when I was finished, I folded the paper and placed it under a rock that I would be sure to remember how to get to when I returned from the riding trip.
I then went on our excursion and used the two days on the horse to decide if I wanted to rescue my guilt when we got back to camp or if I wanted to let it go. The guilt had, in a way, become a safety blanket; a place for me to keep returning to all the sadness I felt about what my Mother had to endure. I figured, if I went back to the rock and left the paper in place, then I was not ready to let it go yet, but if I retrieved it, then I would tear the note up into tiny pieces and throw it in the air so that the words of my guilt could never form full sentences again; it would be over.
I was tired of feeling bad; really, really tired. I thought of how irrelevant all this was now; I don’t know exactly where my Mother is these days, but I am pretty sure she is not sitting there brooding over weather or not she got her anxiety medication half an hour late or if she had to wait an extra day before I brought her the rest of the O.C series on video. If she wasn't brooding, why was I? I realized that because I was spending all my time focusing on the things I felt I did wrong, I wasn’t leaving any room to acknowledge the things I know I did right.
Feeling full of a power I can’t quite define, I went out to the valley when we returned and retrieved my note. Then I tore it up. Then I threw it in the wind and watched as it rolled over the hill in scattered pieces. Then I took out my writing pad and wrote down all the things I did right and put this new note under the same rock and left it there.

No comments:


blogger templates | Make Money Online