Last Saturday was my second IVL day. According to one of my friends it’s my own national holiday, one I’ve even managed to convince others to celebrate with me. IVL stands for InVoluntary Liberation Day. It’s a day to remember what was lost and, more importantly, a day to look forward with hope. It’s the anniversary of when my ex-wife and I split and the day I began this journey towards liberation. Last IVL was more about survival than anything else. I was still dealing every day with the fact that I was now on my own (in a relational sense, I’ve been blessed to be surrounded by friends who love me) for really the first time in my adult life. I had managed to keep my household together and even flurish as I was in the most secure financial position I’d ever been in…understanding that I was still somewhat precarious, but as least I was no longer being actively dragged under. I was also several months into this blog, putting up thoughts about myself and my relationships and my son and my faith.
This IVL was different. Very different. We still had the obligatory barbeque with friends and loved ones over. We start with that because one of the things that truly bring me joy is to cook for people. And I LOVE to grill. So, IVL is MY holiday, so I can say how we celebrate it, right? People bring over sides and things and we have a good time telling stories, talking business, politics, movies and all sorts of things. It’s fellowship at it’s finest. Then we watched the movie My Super Ex-Girlfriend
Which is all sorts of creepy and hilarious and awesome in a number of ways… And yes… I’ve had some of those same thoughts/conversations/etc with my ex’s. But the movie itself helped kick up a number of emotions and stirred the pot so to speak so that when the last event of the evening occurred, I was ready. Or at least as ready as I was going to be.
There’s something special about fire. I’m not talking about how much fun fire can be to play with for all you pyros out there (Yeah! BURN Baby BURN), but something else. Fire is cleansing, sacred, restless, alive… in a way that not a lot of other elements are. We had one built in the backyard of one of my closest friends and a small group of us gathered for what, for me, would be the hardest part of the evening.
I’d put together a box of things I’d found over the last couple months, letters, journal entries, old pictures, and other odds and ends that together represented a mass of painful memories, embarrassing moments, and guilt filled emotions from throughout my life. Some dated back over 15 years. I decided that part of what I wanted this IVL day to be was a chance to let this stuff go. For you, my loyal readers, you know how difficult it is as I’ve talked about it, for me to forgive myself. I think there’s something inherant in the human condition that makes it that way for most of us. That night was my chance to offer up all this stuff to God and to let go of it so that it could flow from my life.
I talked about almost all of the pieces as I tossed them into the fire. Some represented mistakes I’d made, others people who I had let hurt me and then kept that pain close, some things were easier to get rid of than others. I’d been reading some in Leviticus in the Old Testament recently and so, partially influenced by that I also offered some things up as a wave offering. It was a way for me to say goodbye to a lifetime of habits that have kept me from being who I truly want to be. This doesn’t mean that the whole process is over now and I’m much better and everything’s hunky-dory.
As I’ve said over and over again, this is a process…and it will take time. We started the process off with a prayer and ended it with one. Each one of my friends gathered there offered up a hope and blessing for me to replace the badness that I had cerimoniously let go of. That was when the tears truly started for me. Then they one by one and in a small group, gathered around me and held me while the dam broke open.
I don’t like to cry.
I really don’t like to cry in public.
But this was sacred space. With the people with whom I feel the safest and most comfortable. And in that moment, and that time, it was a place where I could finally, truly begin to see what it looked like to let things go. Our past affects us. There’s no way around that. But we have two responses to it. We can either let it define us and the path we take in life. Or we can choose to define IT, and by doing so, limit it’s power and harness the lessons from it to better ourselves. I used to live the former…now I’m beginning to explore the latter.
Happy IVL Day.