Cindy Coughlin, local HR expert and founder of Thirsting for Change coaching, shared this post recently on her blog and gave us permission to reprint it here. I read it because I appreciate Cindy’s growth mindset and honesty so much, in her writing, and because burning one’s journals, to me, is a kind of sacrilege. I clicked with a sense of horror and then read with a deepening sense of understanding. Beautiful lessons here. Anyone else had a healthy bonfire with old writings?
Let It Go – Three Unexpected Things I Learned When Burning My Diaries
I’ve spent the last month going through my diaries from when I was a teenager. Admittedly, this has been a very difficult thing to do. I am bearing witness to a young person who was, for the most part, jealous, way-too-boy-crazy, mean, spiteful and downright angry. To read some of the words I wrote is painful and quite honestly if someone else read them, embarrassing.
Time has luckily softened my angst. Growing up and becoming an adult contributed to this, no doubt. And a lot of “self” work over the past few decades has helped tremendously. That anger was poison. It was poison to other people around me. And it was the most poisonous to my own well-being.
Reading these words has also been an amazing gift. It has given me the chance to take a step back, to look back and see how far I’ve come in this life (thank goodness). And most of all, to get curious about how I am so different now than I was then. In reflecting back, I’ve discovered a common theme: Letting It Go. In burning the diaries, I had some unexpected learnings:
- Letting go is a form of forgiving: I’ve carried some resentment, some anger, some hurt, well into my adulthood. While I’ve worked on this in a variety of forms, learning to let these toxic emotions go has been a form of forgiveness. These emotions are only really hurting me – if I sit at home ruminating that “this person should pay for that thing they did” or “that person is just a big jerk” or “the world is terribly unfair”, I’m only creating harmful emotions for me. Allowing these to go feels like a level of forgiving those that I feel may have unintentionally hurt me – yes, unintentional as I believe in my heart no one set out to intentional hurt me. In letting go, I allow for more joy, calmness, love and compassion to enter. Tearing out each of those diary pages is letting go of the past and moving on towards my future.
- Letting go let me avoid conflict, in a good way: I’ve been told most of my adult life that avoiding conflict is bad. I feel like I’ve avoided conflict all my life, except what strikes me is that, while my memory is somewhat fuzzy on the specifics, I actually created conflict in my teen years. When did the pendulum swing from being an instigator of strife to the exact opposite as a complete conflict avoider? Was this a mechanism for trying to change my bad behavior? If you are also an avoider of conflict then you too know avoiding conflict does not always serve us, however, like anything, it does have its upside. Because I tend to steer away from conflict, it does allow me to let go of potential conflicts a lot more quickly and easily. I ask myself” “Is this worth it?” Nine times out of ten the answer is “no”, it is not worth it. Conflict avoiding gives me more access to actually let sh*t go, in a good way.
- Letting go helped me lose weight: I do not have a scale that can measure the weight of each page I tore out. I am going to assume that each diary likely weighed somewhere between ¼ to ½ a pound. I got rid of around 10 diaries and journals (so far). So, adding all that up I shed around 5 pounds. This was like a cloak was lifted off my shoulders, allowing me to stand up a little straighter, open up my heart a little more, expand my mind a bit wider. It was getting rid of junk that I have been carrying around for 40 years, buried in the bottom of a big box labeled “heavy”. Yep, it was heavy all right. And I will continue to practice letting it go – especially the stuff that does not serve me, that does not fill up my cup, that does not feed my own soul. Deep breath. I’m tearing out and burning the pages of those old diaries. I’m letting the old anger, unmet expectations, sadness, resentment and jealousy go, page by page.
“Letting go doesn’t mean forgetting, it just means we stop carrying the energy of the past into the present”. Yung Pueblo