The Cloak of Righteous Indignation

ALL the shredding is done. At last. The boxes and boxes of paperwork we have dragged with us from house to house is no more. If you’ll recall – I bought an industrial shredder to do the job. A job that took me longer than I would have hoped. What’s left fits into a small fanning file folder than I can take on a plane.

These papers needed to be sifted through in detail to ensure that we didn’t need any of them or that titles to cars, birth certificates, etc. weren’t tucked between pages. I’m glad I did, because our son’s savings bonds, gifted to him from his grandparents were in those piles.

Some of what I discovered brought back painful memories. Court documents from my husband’s first marriage – long before I came along – and some from after we were married, that surround custody hearings and ugliness. Years of stomach churning ulcers wondering what was coming at us next. It was all there in black and white – depositions, email rants. I reread them and the pain came back. My hand hovered over the shredder asking myself, ‘Should I keep this stuff? Would we ever need it to defend ourselves about the craziness we went through?’ But it got me thinking.


There is an old story about a wealthy man who visits a Buddhist monastery to learn some wisdom. He is greeted by the head monk (I’m not sure what head monks are called) and the man is invited to join him at a low table.

The monk hands him a tea cup full of water. Then he asks the man if he would like some tea. The man responds that he would, but his cup is already filled with the water.

The monk smiles and tells him, ‘You are like your cup. It is filled with things you do not want. To have what you want, first you must empty it of what no longer serves you.’

I thought back. For years, we wrapped ourselves in in the cloak of righteous indignation. Hoping it would keep us warm, in what seemed like a never-ending nuclear winter. We were the victims of injustice or outright slander. We were ‘right’ and someone else was very ‘wrong’. It wasn’t fair. And these documents I held in my hand proved that. But proved it to whom?

We were no longer in that fight – these papers no longer served us in any way. ‘Being right’ didn’t matter. So, I fed them into the shredder and watched them become little, tiny pieces of nothing. They held no value or power over us any more. We would never show them to our children or anyone else. People don’t even want to look at your vacation photos, let alone old court papers over wine at a dinner party! In the immortal words of Ilsa, of Disney Princess fame – It was time to just ‘Let it go!’

For years, I have kept a small empty bowl near my sink in the bathroom. While brushing my teeth every morning, it’s something that helps me remember to start the day with an empty bowl (representing my life). To let go of negativity and past things and to be ready to receive – filling my bowl with all the things I want. Positive things that will benefit me and the world.

Today, seeing my bowl, I found that with all those old hurts in tiny pieces in the recycling bin, I feel lighter. My bowl is well and truly empty – no longer just a metaphor.

Moving to Spain has ensured that we will go only with what we truly need. The things we want to take up precious space in the cup that is our lives. It’s funny, I find that when I look at it that way, I’m very stingy about what makes the cut. And our cloak of righteous indignation has gone officially in the give-away bin.

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