We’re instructed to obliterate the memory of those who have harmed us. And also never to forget what’s been done. A mental yoga pose at the high end and an anatomically impossible curse at the lower.
Nursing a memory of pain can keep you stuck in a place where it’s hard to get far past the hurting. Life can get calcified, organized around pain past and fear of pain future.
Virtually all of us have been hurt in ways that’ve left emotional scars. Often these impact our behavior in ways that disproportionately magnify their original impact. Like a plant growing towards the sun we lean unevenly to one side, trying to avoid the darkness and hurt, or, worse, repeating the cycle.
We’re left off balance, a stance which might be okay in good times, but leaves us vulnerable when life goes askew, especially when something gets tangled in the roots of our history.
We may look like we’re here. But too often we’re measuring our lives by the past, instead of being present, being in the now, in ways that might make us happier. Like alcoholics cradling a bottle: knowing it’s causing damage, but craving the familiar oblivion we hope will keep the demons at bay.
No wonder this reading comes early in our time of t’shuvah, what Rabbi Simon Jacobsen calls “A time of regret, forgiveness, and reconciliation. A time to return to pristine beginnings. To discover our true self, and the divine spark at the core of our soul.”
T’shuvah is coming home to your true self, from wherever you’ve been and whatever you’ve been hiding from. Hiding, btw, can take various forms: from depression to Type A success. From substance addiction to fierce piety.
T’shuvah is about acknowledging everything that’s happened on your path, and about opening the door to forgiveness as well. Eyeball to eyeball with capital T Truth, as best as you can, without judgment, anger, self-pity, or fear.
It can be hard both to forgive and to ask for forgiveness. We may be haunted by victimization or by having hurt others, each conjoined with guilt and/or shame. Hard enough to forgive self for hurting other, let alone forgiving those who have hurt us.
It’s tough juggling. Never forgetting what happened but obliterating the memory of the ones who hurt us. Re-opening wounds to clean them out. Trying to recreate trust in the universe. Believing it will offer us blessings as well as trauma.
This period is the gateway to the High Holidays, a time when we start a new year, and a month later reach the end of the Torah. We’ll reroll it, and begin the cycle again with Genesis. A new beginning. The next you, trying to live better and happier, without repeating the mistakes of the past.
None of us gets it right in any one try. Our lives are an ongoing process of cleansing and healing. We do the best we can, hoping for progress. During this time of return. And in every moment of now.
Exercise: Identify the patterns you’ve generated in response to a core hurt. Ask yourself and your guides how you can lighten and change its hold on you.