Anybody, and I mean any-body, will tell you it is vitally important to your personal well-being to just let go of things.
I don't mean physical things. Usually, when you're hanging tight onto something tangible, there's a pretty solid chance it's for a good reason. A winning lottery ticket you just scanned at a crowded gas station in a questionable neighborhood? You hold on tight to that little piece of papery freedom, and lock your car doors. That emergency parachute you found right after the plane's wings fell off? You clutch that sucker like it owes you money, and don't let go 'till you touch ground. Don't forget to open it on the way down, either.
No, I'm talking about intangible things; invisible, flighty, non-palpable things. Things which greatly affect us personally, wearing us down on a mental or spiritual level, so much so that even the perceived weight of these things can, given enough time, cripple and bend us physically as well. These are things which adhere to our souls as we journey through life, and, many wise people will tell you, keeping these bollocky, belligerent barnacles off the hull of your psyche is paramount to your survival as a whole.
In a recent CBC broadcast of their daytime program Definitely Not The Opera (or DNTO for the regulars), there was a live forum taking place in a city theater where people would tell their tales of indiscretions, admitting in a public setting to things they have done and no one knew about before. It was all in good fun, with people having a great time letting loose secrets which they'd harbored for years. A recurring theme were stories of disobedience or youthful recklessness which people had kept from their parents, finally revealing hilarious truths to their mothers and fathers on national radio about the time their family car lost its rear axle inexplicably one day, or how they'd panhandle the town streets during school days so they could buy their first beers. The premise of this social experiment was terrific, both for the benefit of the person cleansing their conscience and the added bonus of hearing the reactions of the listeners.
But, on a more basic, personal level, how does one go about it? How can someone cleanse their inner being to the point of feeling fresh and rejuvenated without having to subject themselves to public humiliation? It's not as daunting as it sounds, really. You just have to start by thinking of something, anything that you've inadvertently kept to yourself for a long time but which, at this point in your life, no longer carries the same importance or fear of reprisal that it once did. You 'fess up, you laugh about it, then you live on.
Let's try it. Ever not admit to something bad when you were a kid? Maybe you stole a candy bar, or accidentally set the community playground on fire when you were trying to prove to your cousin that gophers were flame-retardant. The point is, only you know about it and you've lived with a muddy little secret all your life, or at least for a good part of it. So, even though you got away with it scot-free, the ghostly weight of the event has pressed on you like a bloated corpse, not quite suffocating your soul to the point of asphyxiation, but squeezing enough just to slow it down, pulling it to the floor like gravity on an overweight cat yearning to reach the counter-high jar of kitty treats. And do you remember ever finally admitting to any wrongdoings on your part, regardless of its accidental or deliberate nature? Yeah, everyone probably has at some point. If not, if you've never admitted to anything in your life, then you must resemble a dried, crusty raisin as a result of living under the crushing, merciless weight of those untold truths. For those who purged their souls, for those who wanted to wipe the slate clean and begin anew... gawd-dam! The feeling you got from freely admitting to a previously unclaimed indiscretion is one of pure elation. Gravity's got nothing on you once you cleanse your inner self of any weighty transgressions.
And all you really have to do, is talk about it.
It's not about seeking forgiveness. You might argue that religious folk will go to confession to be exonerated by God and be welcomed into heaven as a pure soul. I think that's part of it, but mostly people just want to talk to someone, in this case a priest, and have them listen. Shoot, many individuals will pay exorbitant hourly rates just for the privilege of talking to a psychiatrist. I've never been to one, but I imagine the experience to be exactly like how they depict it in the movies and TV, where some poor schmuck is laying across a lumpy couch pouring his heart out to some rich schmuck who's sitting across from him, repeating conversational cues like "So then what happened?" and "How does that make you feel?", all the while the guy holding the pencil is just imagining dollar signs coming out of the other guy's mouth like cashable butterflies. Sidebar; apparently you need some kind of "degree" before you can call yourself a psychiatrist and ask people to pay you to listen to them. They're pretty strict about it, just trust me.
Professional help does work for some people, and that's great, go with what works. But if you're like me and your disposable income is dependent on what you can find in your mother-in-law's couch cushions, you're in luck. I'm here to tell you that, yes, there is a way you can absolve yourself without taking out a high-interest loan or selling your kid to the underage labour market to pay for a shrink. Just gather up your dearest friends, parents, siblings, or third cousin, and plop them down around the dinner table. Or you can rent out a small amphitheater if your improprieties justify it. It doesn't matter, really, just so long as your audience is comprised mainly of those whom you have ever so remorsefully wronged. But be sure to include a handful of random, objective spectators in the mix as well because their reactions will be priceless.
I actually did this very thing a few years back, and boy, I'll tell ya, it felt great. I never did anything so outlandish like murder anyone or vote for the Green Party, but confessing to my little secret transgressions felt like caramel-covered angels passing between my lips on their way up to heaven. To the small congregation made up of my mum and dad, my sister and her husband, and my dear, patient wife, I confessed to countless high school scams buddies and I pulled off to acquire illegitimate course credits, school suspensions which I expertly ensured were never discovered by my parents, and an illegal cult I established in our old neighborhood when I was fifteen. I joke, of course.
I was sixteen.
Indiscretion after indiscretion, my heart felt lighter with every word, breaking away at the concrete shell which had formed around it from years of living with lies coursing through my veins. The gape-jawed expressions of my family members only spurred me on (my mother in particular as she was a school teacher and principal throughout her professional career. The irony was positively delicious). For a long time, I sallied forth, remembering wrongdoings I'd suppressed years ago, only to have them laid out across the family dinner table like a morality smorgasbord. I kept turning to my sister here and there, inviting her to lay down some of her own stories of misdemeanors in the making, but apparently she'd lived a misspent youth following the straight and narrow. So, it was all up to me. Tale after ridiculous tale, I laid it all out, purging my soul squeaky clean.
So, even though none of my transgressions were anywhere close to leading me along the path to, say, serial killing or running for election, I wasn't the perfect little poster-boy my parents thought they had. And, even though I always knew I was way cooler than my sister, now she knew it too. So embrace any little transgressions and misdeeds you may have committed once upon a time, so long as you 'fess up to doing them, eventually. They are all elements and experiences that have forged us into the beings we are today. And if you have loved ones whom you can share your indemnifiable indiscretions with and they'll still forgive you, then I think we can all agree you must have turned out okay in the end.
Now don't go secretly trying to wreck things or steal an office computer or kidnap anyone just so you'll have something to eventually confess to people. Well... unless it'll make a fantastically entertaining story, after which maybe then I'll go digging through the couch cushions to find you some bail money.