Letting Go

I often have strange, vivid dreams. I’ve long made practice of journaling my dreams, which encourages you to remember dreams more frequently. I have always used this to farm story ideas. Sometimes, my brain provides other nuggets of wisdom.

I have a reoccurring dream that I get angry. I don’t mean normal, every day angry where something fell and broke and you’re a little upset about it. Or something bad happened and you got annoyed. I’m talking full outrage. Table flipping, knife throwing, face turning purple, and any manner of other things you can do in dreams to express anger that would be inappropriate in real life.

The subject of my anger isn’t always the same. But it cycles through a small group of people. People I’m legitimately angry with for various reasons. Not as soul-destroying angry as I am in my dreams, but displeased enough that the anger stays with me. In fact, these dreams tend to remind me of that.

Have you ever had a dream that your significant-other, or someone you see on a regular basis, ticked you off? And then you wake up and realize I can’t be angry, because that didn’t really happen? The dreams I’m talking about are harder to shake, because the things I’m angry about actually happened. But they happened a long time ago. This is the moment where I imagine Rafiki (from the Lion King) hitting Simba over the head with his stick. (It doesn’t matter! It’s in the past!) But it still hurts. (Ah, yes, the past can hurt.)

I don’t believe in holding grudges. There’s a famous quote which warns, holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting it to hurt someone else. I’ve seen the damage grudges do to people and to their relationships. It’s like a dark cloud, waiting to strike lightning on any happy occasion which involves those two people. And I’ve seen what happens when a person holds a grudge too long and loses their chance to make amends.

I don’t want to be that person. There are things I’m angry about, yes. Things I haven’t been able to forget, because those people don’t realize they hurt me. Sometimes, you can’t simply tell someone the truth. You have to wait until they’re ready to hear it. Otherwise they’re going to shrug their shoulders, pronounce you mistaken, and go right on hurting you without regard for their actions. Some people get so caught up in themselves, they can’t see beyond their own nose. It’s pointless to try to reason with people in that situation. I think that’s what causes my dreams. The brain has a strange way of reminding you about all the things that bother you just when you thought you’d put them aside.

But this particular dream was different. After my explosion, after I yelled all the things I’d never be willing to say out loud, my anger turned to sadness. My dream self proclaimed that my anger was partly born of this sadness, because the object of my ire was allowing anger and sadness to rule their life. You can’t let anger or sadness rule you, my dream self insisted, because it’s an endless cycle. You’ll never be able to break it; it will just keep feeding itself. I can’t help thinking my dream self was talking to me.

It’s okay to get angry if someone hurts you. It’s okay to be sad that things didn’t work out according to plan. I think, it’s even okay if takes time to forgive or forget, as long as you don’t let it rule you. If anger or sadness define your actions, it sets you down a negative path. And once you start noticing negativity, it doesn’t take long to overrun your life.

There may be things I’m upset about that happened in the past, but when I dream of my anger, I wake up and remind myself it’s in the past. If I encounter the people who have upset me (most don’t talk to me any more so old anger hardly matters), I try to be civil. I try to pretend nothing bad ever happened. And these interactions are so rare I usually succeed. We go our separate ways, the past returns to the past, and it only ever comes up in my dreams.

When Simba takes Rafiki’s stick, he tosses it aside. There’s no reason to let the past continue to hurt us; it would be like carrying hot coals. If the objects of my ire ever asked for forgiveness, they would have it. It would be as simple as touching base and acknowledging prior events. But if they don’t, it doesn’t matter. I set those feelings aside a long time ago. They don’t define me and they can’t touch me. I’m content to let go and move on my merry way.

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