Why Can’t I Just Get Over It?
How to let go with gratitude
Finding a new dentist had been on my to-do-list since before my last checkup. But there on my answering machine was a new message — you guessed it — confirming my next cleaning.
Have you ever been meaning to do something yet find yourself putting it off? Or had a project that kept getting carried forward from one to-do-list to the next?
I called and cancelled my appointment. At least it was one step in the right direction. But three months later I still hadn’t had my semi-annual checkup. I’d gone every six months for practically my entire life. I almost just gave in and made an appointment with the old dentist, but something in me was ready to move forward so I called a hygienist friend instead. I told her what I was looking for in a dentist, she handed me over to their receptionist, and the appointment was made.
Phew!! A sense of euphoria came over me the instant the phone hit the cradle.
How do you feel when you finish a project that has been hanging over your head? Relieved? Lighter? Energized?
That is because you are no longer feeding it your energy. Even when not consciously thinking about an unfinished project there is an undercurrent of energy necessary to keep it alive. Finishing the project frees up that energy. Why did it take me so long to complete that last liberating step?
As Trish Whynot, my inquisitive mind wants to know. I want to go after the buried treasure because my findings never fail to add richness to my life. My intuition tells me that understanding why it took me so long to find a new dentist will be fruitful.
You might be rolling your eyes about now, thinking, “It’s just a dentist, Trish.” But is it? Just a dentist would not have caused me to procrastinate, especially when my friend is a hygienist.
Has anyone ever told you some version of, “just get over it” when you’ve been struggling? Or encouraged you to let go of an experience before you were ready? Did you feel shame when accused of making too big a deal out of it? Maybe it seemed to others that you were making a big deal out of whatever it was because they didn’t know the whole story. So let me share more of my story.
I had the greatest dentist in the world. Not only was he a great dentist, but he had been my dentist since childhood. He acknowledged my whole person, not just my mouth.
I loved my dentist’s fatherly nature. When my children were young, he’d take extra time after my appointment to let them lie back in the chair while he counted their teeth. It only took a moment, showed how much he cared, and built trust between them. When they were old enough for cleanings, we all reaped the rewards. I never had to battle with them over a dental visit; they felt relaxed and safe with him, and so did I. But then he retired and left us in the hands of a dentist who I really didn’t care for.
Has anyone who touched you deeply ever moved on from your life or been lifted out of it before you were ready to let them go? A death, a divorce, a loved one moving? How did you feel?
My feelings were:
- Sadness because I was grieving. Although I was happy for him, I was sad for me because I was experiencing loss.
- Abandonment because he moved on and left me with this other dentist.
- Anger because I wasn’t ready to let him go. He even gave us a good year’s notice, but are we ever ready to let go of someone we cherish?
- Regret because I didn’t realize how he had touched my heart until it was too late to let him know.
Now, you might be rolling your eyes again. “Come on, Trish, abandoned by a dentist?” “Grieving?” “Touched your heart?” Isn’t that a bit much?
Initially I thought my anger came from my frustration with the dentist I had been left with, but it took my moving on from her to realize that she hadn’t been as bad as I had been telling myself. What my frustration had truly been telling me was that I had not been ready to let go of my beloved childhood dentist. As a rule, when strong feelings are triggered — especially if those feelings seem out of proportion to the situation at hand — it is a signal that they connect to something else in our past, something we haven’t dealt with. Therefore, I figured that once I began my grieving process, other experiences of letting go would be related.
To understand this, let’s think about rhizomes. A mint plant spreads not only by producing seeds, but by sending out underground runners called rhizomes. The rhizome then produces roots and sprouts that develop into a new plant, which sends out another rhizome, which sprouts another plant, and so on. Our life experiences are connected to each other much like the mint plants are connected by these rhizomes. I had experienced a string of losses, all of which were connected by this underground system. The rhizomes of mint are shallow (but tough), so when you pull on one plant it causes a chain reaction — which disturbs the other plants, much like my feelings of loss.
As I put two and two together, my procrastination and my excessive frustration with my retiring dentist’s replacement, it became obvious that I was experiencing loss, and that it was bigger than just my dentist. From there I used my feelings of abandonment as fuel to go into the rhizomes of my past — the conduit for my energy that was still feeding some partially grieved losses. I landed at another physical manifestation of loss — a painful breakup from my teen years. It was traumatic for many reasons, and my pride along with my lack of emotional maturity, prevented me from processing it at the time. It took me years to get over that, but had I truly gotten over it or had the memory just become distant with time?
Now again, you might be thinking, “Come on, Trish. Don’t you have more important things to do than rehash something that happened more than 30 years ago?”
Over the course of my adult years I have come to know that real strength is born of humility — having the courage to admit when I am bothered and knowing how to use my feelings to lighten my past, illuminate my present, and brighten my future. Based on this understanding, I knew with certainty that this was the most important thing to do right now. I realized that the feelings I had around my dentist retiring had forced old feelings of loss to the surface; I had disturbed the underground rhizome system, so that I could suddenly see and feel the interconnectedness of these experiences.
Instead of smoothing over the disturbed soil, I dug in. And just as expected, I emerged from this visit into my past with some pearls — the value I had lost from believing that I had been discarded and the wisdom of knowing, without a doubt, that I had not been the victim I once thought I had been. These findings were hugely liberating for me.
Rather than seeing myself as jilted, I now saw the loss of that relationship as part of the natural process of growth and change. As part of this natural process, a restructuring takes place where some people fall out of our lives and we fall out of theirs because we have moved out of alignment in some way.
That’s what had happened with my dentist. He no longer wanted to be a dentist and I still needed one. Our journeys had simply gone in separate directions. All of a sudden I could clearly see that this was also what had happened with this boyfriend and with other losses in my past. Our desires for our futures were too different; our paths had crossed but diverged. But at the time all I could do was blame and become the victim.
With this realization, along with the work I had done leading up to it, I was able to put closure to an entire string of similar events, which freed up even more energy. Rather than add another event to my string of losses, my string of losses had morphed into a string of valuable pearls that I could thrive on.
Knowledge is not meant to diminish the hurt we experience, but through having the humility to feel our hurt, we are able to embody our knowledge with every fiber of our being rather than holding it only as head knowledge. From the closure of these old abandonments had emerged an entirely new, lighter and more hopeful dimension to letting go. My future holds the promise that rather than being emotionally charged by a string of past events, letting go will become an occasion for gratitude. I will still grieve the loss over what will no longer be, but I’ll be able to be grateful for what was, and expect something at least as good, if not better — something that matches the new me — to be just around the corner. I’ll also be expecting that everyone involved will be getting exactly what they need at the same time, just as I have.
Why did it take me so long to complete that last liberating step?
Because I had been subconsciously struggling with it’s just a dentist, I am a victim, and there’s nothing better out there. I was viewing my present, and my desires for my future through the filters of my past. I may have to test drive a few dentists before I find a good fit, but I know without a doubt that it will be worth the effort in more ways than I can currently wrap my mind around.
Next time you are told (or want to tell someone) to just get over it, think about the string of pearls that came from my dentist story. There may be some buried treasure underfoot for you as well, if you accept your invitation to lighten your past, illuminate your present, and positively change the course of your future.
Adapted and reprinted with permission of author Trish Whynot from Why Me? Why Now? Why Not? Finding Opportunity in Your Obstacles, 2012.
Trish Whynot, D.C.Ed. is celebrating her 20th year as a holistic counselor and has recently completed a Holistic Life Coach Certification. She is the author of Why Me? Why Now? Why Not? Finding Opportunity in Your Obstacles, an illustrated guide to living that expects opportunities even during challenging times. Trish works with clients remotely and in person. Visit www.TrishWhynot.com.