Two traveling monks reached a river where they met a young woman. Wary of the current, she asked if they could carry her across. One of the monks hesitated, but the other quickly picked her up onto his shoulders, transported her across the water, and put her down on the other bank. She thanked him and departed.
As the monks continued on their way, the one was brooding and preoccupied. Unable to hold his silence, he spoke out. “Brother, our spiritual training teaches us to avoid any contact with women, but you picked that one up on your shoulders and carried her!”
“Brother,” the second monk replied, “I set her down on the other side, while you are still carrying her.”
kitanzi and I had some fascinating discussions last night about fears and emotional triggers and learning from the past. And while she’s right that one must hold dear the lessons one learns from one’s experience, it’s also important to let go of the weight those experiences brought upon you in their time.
I left school and moved to Georgia when I was 19 years old, for reasons that at that time seemed important to me. I quickly found myself trying to hold together a household with all the financial burdens that entailed, and supporting another person who seemed to grow less and less enchanted in me, and less and less interested in the life I thought we’d lead together. Many of the things that I thought I would do as my 20s unfolded were never realized. I missed the opportunity to travel, to meet and experience new people, to explore myself, because I had voluntarily delivered myself into this service, and because of the fears and emotional triggers that are a fundamental part of what makes me me, I could not easily walk away from it. It took turning 30 and vowing not to waste another decade of my life as I’d wasted the one before to finally start seeking a path out, and another eighteen months before I’d finally realize that escape.
This is history. One the one hand, it’s no more relevant to my life today than the Hundred Years War is. On the other hand, these are the experiences that shaped me, and which shape my needs and desires.
It’s time to let go of the resentment and regret of those lost years. This is, of course, easy to say and harder to do. I cannot change the choices I made–in fact, I would not change those choices if there was any chance whatsoever that I would not end up where I am today. And if I spend my 30s trying to capture the lost opportunities of my 20s, all I end up doing is missing my 30s, and won’t find myself in any better position at 40 than I am today. Yesterday is for reflection, tomorrow is for hopes. Today is for living.
If the life I led was the one I had to lead to find myself where I am today, then it was all worth it, and all the what-might-have-beens are merely pleasant diversions to contemplate in an idle moment.
I’ve carried her across the river long enough. It’s time to put her down.
Because life is good. And I’m happy.