My cousin told me once that when she was trying to quit smoking, she buried her tobacco. She walked all along down the beach until she found a place within the sand and she buried it. If I remember right, she rolled one last cigarette before she nested the loose shreds of leaves into the sand, but that could be merely an extension of subconscious. Not that it matters. It just makes the imagery romantic.
She performed a ceremony. It was a monumental moment for her and she needed ritual to accompany it. A symbol. A covering of the past.
In my culture (read white culture), forgiveness and moving on is all tied together with letting go. We carry our pain until, one day, we don’t. Like that, it is gone. Or it is meant to be.
Somebody hurt you? Let it go. You hurt yourself? Let it go. There is no act performed to symbolize the action of release, because that would make us witches, and we pretend we burned them all some time ago.
My cousin told me once that when she was trying to quit smoking, she buried her tobacco. I thought maybe she thought she was a witch, and that is why I wasn’t allowed to have sleepovers with her.
And then I learned to burry my tobacco.
At my uncle’s funeral, my mother starts to heave these great big sad and mournful sobs and she runs out and when I find her in the hallway, she says that she is sorry. But I think it is beautiful. How she let go, not of her grief, but of her placement in the world. Of our expectations that trauma and fear and immense heart-wrenching sorrow should be released into the wind. Like that, it should be gone. I was proud of her—of how she broke in front of people, and let her fractured edges be revealed.
We do not carry pain until it simply one day falls away. We carry pain until we can reconcile it. Things inside the body do not go away they must be flushed out called out prayed out sung out and even buried. Things inside the body must be resolved in ritual.
I used to hurt myself. In small and larger ways I did not understand how to process through frustration or my anger and so I made the surface of my body bear the brunt of all that ugliness inside me. And then one day I climbed into the bath. I let the water run hot and I gathered thyme and rosemary and lemongrass and roses from the garden and I scattered them all across the surface of the water. I lit incense and candles and I turned out all the lights and I rubbed coconut oil onto my skin and in my hair and I explored every groove and mountain and all the scars I kissed and with my lips across each raised mound of flesh I whispered apologies.
I buried my tobacco. I performed ceremony.
Now, around my home, there are stones and feathers and sticks of incense. There are dried herbs and sage tied round and round in tidy little bundles. The stones I place into my pocket, to warm the space beside my womb because for women, that is where our hurt lies. It is where our hurt is sourced. The feathers I wind into my hair from time to time so I remember that I come from wind and earth and sometimes I look wild but now I am a witch I don’t have to brush my hair if I don’t want to.
Now that I have learned my ritual, I carry my pain differently. I see it, and I watch it. I let it grow and swell inside me. I let it change me from the inside, in small ways and in large. And then, when it is time, I call it forward. I tell it to come out in the way the incense burns, in the way the sage ignites. In the sand, I bury it. And then I mark the spot, in case I ever need remembering.
There is no such thing as merely letting go—there is only learning to release. And knowing you don’t have to brush your hair if you don’t want to.