There’s a saying that you don’t feel how heavy a burden can be until you feel the weight of its release. We carry around things that bother us, allowing them to continue to hurt us. We carry around the wrongs that we’ve done or that we feel others have done to us, making them a part of our daily lives where the rest of our thoughts and actions become reactions. Most of the time we don’t even realize we’re doing it. A lot of times, the letting go of it happens almost imperceptibly, very gradually over a period of time and one day we realize that we feel better about it, or at least not as bad. Hence the phrase, “Time heals all wounds.”
And then there’s the other let-go: the epiphany.
Let me take a moment to say that word three or four times. Epiphany. e-PIPH-any. e-pi-PHANY. (Some words are just fun to say!)
Merriam-Webster defines epiphany as:
1. a usually sudden manifestation or perception of the essential nature or meaning of something;
2. an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking;
3. an illuminating discovery, realization, or disclosure.
Dictionary.com defines it as:
1. a sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.
The operative word or theme here with an epiphany is “sudden.”
We all have experiences that mark us in some way, good or bad. When we’re dealing with the experiences that are not so desirable, sometimes we tend to “celebrate” them more. We wear our scars as badges in a way, and let them define us. They can also confine us; by becoming a comfort zone (we may not be happy there, but there is comfort in its familiarity), and by limiting our allowance to enjoy ourselves fully. And we don’t step out of it for fear of being hurt or made to feel uncomfortable again.
What ends up happening is that we either grow more fully into it over time, limiting our happiness even more, or we gradually grow out of it/move on/accept it/get over it/deal with it/suck it up.
I’d like to say something about the word “acceptance”: it may not mean what you think it means, or at the very least it can mean more than you think. To be able to deal with a situation that we perceive to be negative, we have to accept it for what it is. Many people can insist they have accepted something, yet they become vocally belligerent against it at the mere mention of it. That is not acceptance, and that is proven by the verbal protest. True acceptance is not only acknowledging the reality of the situation/condition that is usually negative or uncomfortable, but not attempting to change it or protest it in any way. If you are still negative about that situation in any way, you have not fully accepted it. If talk of it, or seeing a person involved in it, or any trigger of it causes a negative reaction you, you have not accepted it.
We’ve all had experiences we’ve moved past in some way, with or without acceptance. We get older, time passes, and we realize something that once hurt us didn’t anymore. Or, we have the epiphany (epiphany, epiphany, epiphany…) and all at once everything is fine. It’s important to not only recognize that when it happens, but to celebrate it as well. We should celebrate and be grateful for anything that makes us feel better.
I’ve had two moments that I have considered epiphanies; one last year, and the other just two days ago. While there are many different situations that can be unpleasant to us, both of my instances had to do with my feelings of being treated unfairly by another person. We’ve all been through it, and I’ve been through it many times before myself. What sets these two instances apart from the rest was in each case the instant realization that I had the moment I was released from the negativity of it. It was an incredibly physical feeling of suddenly not being hurt by it anymore. I am obviously a late bloomer if I never noticed anything like this before in my 40+ years. But I have to talk about it, because the feeling was and is still incredible. “The weight of its release.” Wow.
When I mentioned my unhappiness at being treated unfairly by another person, I am aware that it stems from my own expectations of how I expect the other person to act. Sometimes our expectations are based on assumptions we’ve made of the other person, sometimes they have to do with the assumption that somebody else will act the same way/say the same thing/do the same thing as we would, and sometimes they are based on the past precedent—the way that person had treated us previously. My expectations had to do with my previous treatment. People change. People change their minds. Accepting that is very hard. So is letting go of expectations. Technically, or maybe in a sense, expectations should not exist. Sylvia Plath said, “If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” This is a tough line to walk. Sometimes we don’t realize we have expectations of other people until they do something that surprises us—and usually, that surprise is a disappointment. On the other hand, an expectation of someone is almost (almost) a sort of “benefit of the doubt,” and a measure of support that shows we believe the other person is capable of something positive, even if it is only the ability to treat someone else fairly.
I have so much to say on that subject. I’ll be writing more about that later.
I cannot change anyone else. I cannot control how they act. I can only control myself—or try to—and my reactions. This is not new information to me or anyone else, yet it is still not easy to fully accept—or to accept it almost in terms of an acquiescence or surrender, where we just stop fighting it. I think that is along the same lines as the inner battle many of us have with the idea of forgiveness, that by forgiving someone (or by becoming accepting of the way they are) we are showing tolerance or allowance for their actions against us. “You hurt me, you should either make it up to me or pay for it.” That’s a double–edged sword right there: it is based in pride and judgment (which is never good) and it is an emotion that holds us, ourselves, hostage for however long we hold on to that feeling.
There are ways of dealing with disappointment in other people or situations. First, there is distance, you can remove yourself from the situation. Sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you feel that it is something that can be worked through, but you won’t know until you try. Only you know the worth of something or someone to you to be able to make the decision to try to change a situation with that person, and only you can decide when or if the time is right to leave it alone. I remember reading a book a long time ago (I can’t even remember what it was) that suggested using the element of the ridiculous to change the way you perceive something: “Oh look, he said he was going to do that yesterday and didn’t do it until today, how cute is that?” While that is ridiculous, it is an extreme take on the idea that by changing our own thoughts, we can change our perceptions, expectations and, eventually, our reality—which I DO believe (there will be more on that later, as well).
Whatever the case or reason, I woke up Friday morning with a noticeable feeling of surrender to a situation that has been hurting me for some time (and, yes, coloring every other aspect of my daily existence), and with that feeling of acceptance was a palpable feeling of relief. With relief comes peace. I had not felt that in a while. I am obviously the type of person that needs to be hit over the head with something before I notice it. This was one of those hit-on-the-head moments. And it felt good. “The weight of its release.” All of a sudden, I was ok. No, the situation has not changed, and I don’t have what I had wanted out of it. But I’m good. While I still have hope, my hope is for nothing specific and nothing dependent on that other person; my hopes and expectations are solely dependent on me, to be happy again, fully happy like I was before. And I will be because I can see my own improvement daily. And I don’t expect too much of myself either; progress is not always a direct route upwards. I may have moments of not feeling that peace; however by the simple fact that I have experienced it I know it is possible, and if I had it once I can have it again.
I would like to express my gratitude to the Universe for epiphanies in general, and my awareness that I have had and am able to have them (I would also like more, please, when I need them!). Sometimes, being hit on the head is a good thing. And once more, I would like to express my delight in just saying the word: epiphany…epiphany…epiphany (that word is almost as much fun as Ogallala)!