The Offal Truth: Byproducts of Re-booting Our Lives

So, today we’re going to start with a vocabulary lesson so that everyone is on the same page for purposes of this post. While offal is generally used to refer to the byproducts of butchered meat (apologies if you’re squeamish), another way to think of it is some form of discarded rubbish. A byproduct is, “a secondary result, unintended but inevitably produced in doing or producing something else.” In many ways, offal and byproduct can be used, well not exactly interchangeably, but pretty darn close. A more palatable definition of these terms might be the detritus from items that have outlived their usefulness or gotten worn out. For instance, when you’re 12 to 14 years old and experience a growth spurt, your too small clothes are now byproducts of your childhood. It would be pretty creepy if you kept all your old, soiled clothing from yesteryear. So, too, with re-booting.

The thing about offal is, despite its aural similarity to the descriptor “awful,” it need not be a sad, ugly reminder of the past. In fact, the truth of the matter is that any change requires a shedding of old skin. This discarded remnant reflects the offal truth about who we were before–we’re different now, hence we no longer need it. In fact, if we didn’t peel away the old, think how bogged down we’d be with layer upon layer of residue that lingers beyond its natural lifespan. Now that I’ve got you thinking, I want you to reflect upon how many old unhappy memories or sadnesses you cling to. Does this enhance your life? Does it make you more effective today? No, it does not.

The other side of this coin is the surprising results (aka byproducts) of making a big change. While byproducts can be good or bad, let’s focus on the good, unanticipated consequences of the re-booting process. A week or so ago, I met a friend who is recently divorced and neck deep but early on into their re-booting process. There we were, enjoying Martini Mondays together and philosophizing about life. I decided to put on my therapist hat and invite them to do an exercise using the paper table cloth as our blackboard. My goal was for them to discover the offal truth of this major shift in their domestic arrangements. I asked them to list out ten things they no longer had to put up with being married to X. I then asked them to list ten things they were now free to enjoy being on their own. The first list came easy; the second, well, they didn’t get all the way to ten, but that leaves room for more happiness to discover. Think of these two lists as examples of 1) discarded rubbish and 2) unanticipated results.

When my friend looked at the first list, they drew a box around one of the line items and stared at it for several minutes. “I didn’t realize how lonely I was,” they said with shock, pausing as a glimmer of tears showed in their eyes. “But now that it’s over, I don’t feel lonely.” This, for them, is the offal truth.

It’s funny about memories. Some people have the capability to blithely move forward after a traumatic event, but a whole lot of others cling fiercely to the past. In my life, I have seen countless examples of individuals who get caught in a whirlpool of overwrought sentimentality or old wounds, unwilling to let go. (I’ve been known to do the same, on occasion.) Instead of discarding the offal, they clutch it to their bosom, they ingest it into their very fiber of their being. It’s as though they fear that if they were to let it go, if they were to get rid of the tangible or emotional reminders of what happened, they’d somehow diminish its significance or, perhaps, disrespect what somebody they love cherished. And, they expect us to assume this mantle as well! If I value it, you must value it similarly. If I am outraged, you must be, too. I expect everyone reading this post has run across an emotional hoarder or two in their day. (Maybe that hoarder is you.) Here’s the offal truth: the only way to make room for the new is to abandon the old. Abandon your anger, abandon your grief, abandon your feelings of humiliation.

As I have struggled through my own transition, I have discarded so much of both who I was and a lot of expectations and attitudes that contributed to my downfall. Only, as it turns out, it wasn’t a downfall at all; I was actually given a get out of jail free card! Trust me, this didn’t happen overnight and it hasn’t been easy. But, the byproduct of this molting—while awkward and not always pretty–has created room for a sense of freedom and enhanced personal confidence that are totally unrelated to my bank account balance or relationship status or the comfort from being like the pack. When I started this journey, I never anticipated to feel this sort of freedom. How’s that for a happy, unanticipated result? It doesn’t solve all my problems, but I’m much farther ahead now than I was a few years back…

So, let’s now turn our attention to YOU. What memories or matters are you holding hostage (please note the way I phrased this sentence with you being the active hostage holder)? When in your life has something happened that felt bad or disappointing or terrifying but turned out to open a door to something much, much better? (You can think of at least one, I know you can.) Ok, so that was then. Now, let’s examine some current problem you’re struggling with: is it getting rid of too much stuff around the house? Is it clinging to a by-gone era of your life? Is it a refusal to get over a lingering hurt? Is it dreading the fact that you no longer fit the life you’re living? Fear is the undercurrent to each answer. How stuck do you intend to be?

Here’s what I’d say to sum things up: a leather jacket can only exist if certain other things happen first. A leather jacket provides warmth and design and protection from the elements, but first, certain sacrifices must be made. It isn’t always pretty, but that doesn’t mean its bad or that the end result can’t be beautiful.

 Get out of Jail Free


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One Response to “The Offal Truth: Byproducts of Re-booting Our Lives”

  1. Jim Patterson Says:

    Well done.

    Sent from mobile carrier


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