When I was about eight years old, I had a bunch of balloons. I don’t recall where I got them or what shape or color they were. I do recall that I liked those balloons.
I don’t remember what I was angry about but I broke those balloons; stomped the hell out of them.
I stood there looking at those limp shards of plastic, trying to keep the tears from trickling down my cheeks, when my dad came into the room. I had been talking to him when I got angry. He had watched me storm up the stairs to my bedroom. No doubt he had heard my feet pounding the floor.
He stood behind me.
If I could have articulated what I felt at that moment, it would go something like this:
“I am ashamed that I broke my balloons. All I accomplished was to hurt myself. I feel really stupid.”
Of course, I could not articulate or even think any of that. All I knew was I was angry and now I felt worse. My dad said, “you broke your balloons.” He apparently understood that I already felt bad and did not need to be judged or scolded by him.
We so often stomp stubbornly into our own private hells. Other people watch with a combination of sympathy and astonished resignation. Sometimes all they can do is shake their head. “There he goes again,” they may say. “When will he learn?”
Do we ever learn to back away from our darkest moments? To say to ourselves, “here I go again; about to do the same old thing and then blame the world for it.” Do we ever learn to take a different path today than we took yesterday?
Meditation on Our Private Hells
What are my private hells: fear, anxiety, depression, bad relationships, isolation, drugs, what? Do I invite them like old friends and then blame how I feel on someone or something else? How will I start taking responsibility for my choices?
Less Than Helpful Advice
When life hands you balloons, don’t stomp on them.