The other day I was enjoying a salad at work (ok…I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I was tolerating it) with a balsamic dressing. Admittedly I was annoyed because I would have preferred ranch, but I am trying to watch what I eat a little more. As I shook the dressing and watched the olive oil mix with the balsamic vinegar, herbs and spices, I began to truly understand something about human nature, about my nature, and I have been thinking about this ever since. Ah, oil and vinegar – two wonderful and contrasting flavours that both work together and oppose one another. There is the vinegar, in my mind it is a strong balsamic vinegar – acidic and sour and biting. There is the oil, which I imagine is a golden and delicious extra-virgin olive oil – thick and rich and healing. Both are needed, and without both, we do not get to experience the fullness of flavour. I can’t help thinking about how much we require both, and how much these two elements correspond to something big in my life.
Have you ever felt betrayed? Have you ever been so hurt in a relationship that you can’t sleep properly, you don’t know how to forgive and move forward? Maybe you are angry with yourself, or God, or your spouse. Maybe you are holding on to something that just happened, or to a harming that happened years ago. This is the kind of hurt that crushes your soul, that makes you question your ability to make choices and feels like it will never stop. I have been experiencing this kind of hurt lately, and while I may not like this truth, I am responsible – solely responsible – for the healing and forgiveness that must take place. I want to experience the healing, but I am not too fond of having to feel all the hurt and pain and betrayal. In other words, I want the oil without first pouring out all the vinegar. Sure, I may let a little out here and there. I may cry for a few minutes but how quickly I dry those tears and get back to the work of healing. I don’t like the vinegar. I don’t want to pour out all my pain. I don’t want to burden anyone with it or hurt the one who hurt me. I just want to move into the healing and richness of that beautiful oil.
But it doesn’t work like that. Ever. Real healing will never happen until we pour out all the acid, until we let go of all the emotion, until we allow ourselves to feel and taste the sting of betrayal.
It’s ok to do so. Not only ok – it’s absolutely necessary. We need to open our heart wound, look inside, and let out all the emotion, all the words, all the primal screams, all the physical feelings that come with being hurt and sad – you know the ones…the lump in your throat, the tightness in your chest, the feeling like someone punched you in the gut. Once we let it all out and we are sure there is no more, then, and only then, can we let that flavourful and rich healing ointment pour over us and begin that journey to forgiveness, trust and reconciliation and wholeness.
Being in the second half of my life means a lot of things, including eating more salads and recognizing that holding on to pain, and holding in my emotions does not serve me well. This half of my life is all about keeping the tools that serve me, and letting go of all the things that don’t. It’s about both healing and feeling.