I’ve been thinking for a while now how I might approach the topic of forgiveness. I could write a poem with metaphors, catchy alliteration, and laughable prose. The product, at least in my hopeful writer’s mind, would be a lovely illustrative vision that dances freely in one’s mind. My fear is that the meaning would be lost on many. I think it is best that I say what I need to say with honest and raw emotions.
Honestly, my aversion to forgiveness is one of the biggest sources of anxiety in my life – and has been since I was a young girl. I am the fruitfully sponned child of divorce. A nasty, exhausting, ‘heart-pulled-out-of-your-chest-and-to-this-day-still-learning-how-to-breathe-again’ divorce left me colored with a rainbow of dysfunctional qualities. Statistics looked at me and thought, “Yep, she fits in with us quite nicely: Binge drinking, pill-popping, suicidal, teenage mother. Couldn’t have predicted it better ourselves!”
There are days, many days, when I look at myself and think, “You pathetic fuck; get it together!” And quite the opposite, there are the occasional coffee-induced bursts of confidence that allow me to smile at my story of survival and strength. But nothing is more constant than my aversion to forgiveness. I think to myself every day, “When will I let this go? When will I let my past be my past? When will I forgive myself for all that I did wrong for so many years?”
During my childhood years, my parents were faithful providers, careful teachers, and undeniably miraculous, loving human beings. Anything my sisters and I truly needed was provided to us without hesitation. Anywhere we wanted to go, we were taken. Anything we wanted to do with our lives – productively, of course – was supported, and more importantly – encouraged by my parents.
As I mentioned, this post is about forgiveness. You might wonder: Well, what is there to ‘forgive’ when you were so clearly loved back then? What is there to be hurt about when everything was provided to you before and after the divorce? Why suffer despite the fact that your parents did everything they could for you? Why carry this burden from childhood into your adult life? Well, my answer to you is this: When a change like this takes place gradually, it is difficult to comprehend its meaning, especially for a child.
It was a slow transformation. My parents continued to provide for us, take care of us, love us, and support us. But there was a shift, a moan of sorts in my soul. An aching moan for the loss I had endured. The loss of a united family. The loss of a faith in marriage. The loss of a sure and steady foot in this world. That little girl in me lost all sense of control and all sense of herself. She was loved, yet had no love for herself. She was taken care of, but had no will to take care of herself.
I made a choice that day when the ground broke underneath my feet and tore my family in two: I chose to give up on myself.
I tell ya, I was one angry little girl at fourteen. I don’t think I blamed myself for the divorce, but I sure blamed them back then. “They fucked this up! They didn’t try hard enough. They didn’t love enough. They should have found a way. They want us to suffer. They did this to me!” Verbal cries of ‘fuck you’ and ‘fuck this!’ soon faded and crept inward, seeping into the dusty shadows of my mind. A silent poison echoed throughout my body: “Fuck my life. Why should I give a shit? They didn’t try; why should I?”
It is so easy to give into sadness and pity for oneself. Even more so when you’re a child. All you know is ‘your’ life. All you know is what YOU want; what YOU need; what makes YOU happy. I was certain that divorce didn’t ‘feel good’ to me, so therefore it must be ‘bad.’ I had no capacity for compassion, love, or empathy for my parents or anyone affected by their divorce. I couldn’t fathom it. I couldn’t attempt it. I gave up – on them, on me, on the world. I just gave up. I gave into my suffering. I fed it, every day, every hour, every minute. Like a starving lioness in search of food for her young, my suffering would pounce on any ounce of resistance. So I gave in to every emotion, to every negative thought, to every path toward self destruction.
I am still haunted by that little girl’s voice. Her fangs latched onto me ten years ago and infected me with the vilest thoughts imaginable. Her suffering is my suffering. Her tears salt my face. I carry her with me. She is a friend. She is a foe. A downright parasite, if you ask me! I hear her when I hear no one else. Yet recently I tire of her weight upon my back. My once playful strides in life are now heavy trudges across the floor, and I wonder what it will take to forgive myself in order to set her free.
I think the most beautiful aspect of childhood is the freedom to be oneself with ease and grace, without hesitation or fear. This way of life and living is free from the restraints and concerns of the ‘ego,’ so much so that the influence of the outside world is paid no attention. It was at fourteen that I chose to see a world, once so open and fresh, as a dark and hateful place. It is in this choice – ten years ago – that my life stopped. I didn’t want to feel. I didn’t know how to love anyone – myself most of all. I didn’t want to live.
So, forgiveness of what? –You asked earlier … As I said, with such a slow transition I could not see the depth and meaning of this life event. Ten years have passed now. Ten years of neglecting myself. Ten years of not loving myself. Ten years of looking in the mirror and repeating over and over: You are not now nor will you ever be beautiful, worthy, or lovable. You are broken, you are bruised, and you are worthless.” Readers, I have ten years of hate, lies, and deceit built up in my mind. And forgiving myself is the only option I have left in order to stay afloat.
Only now can I begin to feel compassion for a suffering little girl. I can’t tell you exactly what has changed or allowed me to see the necessity of freeing her. Only now can I see that she was drowning in fear, choking on the waves that crashed against her once pleasant and playful childhood. I now know that had she dived just a little deeper into the ocean and not stayed so closely to the shore, she would have found what she truly needed. As many others far more articulate than me have said time and time again, being caught by these waves of discomfort is our downfall when we fight it. Wildly fighting the undertow, we remain in the same place, allowing for fear to grow stronger and resistance to reign.
Maybe I’m at such a dark place that there is no option but to see the light. Maybe others closest to me have shown their lights upon my path and allowed for me to see the depth of my issues. I don’t know what this is – what’s happening in these moments. I think when I have these flashes of insecurity, of fear, of vulnerability; I’m beginning to see a tiny little light within. It’s not very bright, and I don’t have an eclectic vocabulary to express the vast array of emotions I feel or what is being shown to me. Really, these moments are very quiet, very still, very unfamiliar. I hear the voice of the little girl within me, yet simultaneously whispers are faintly echoed throughout. They are subtle, almost silent, but I hear them. They are compassionate and loving and momentarily guide me to feel compassion and love. It comes, and then it goes. As all things do. But I find that when this compassionate and loving feeling reappears, I begin to trust and love myself more and more each time.
I think the only ‘truth’ in my life will come when I can lay down all of the lies, the hate, the disgust I feel toward myself – and put all of it to bed for good. I hope that in releasing this scared little girl, I will feel profound compassion and love for myself and everything around me. Perhaps that will allow me to accept my perfectly imperfect life just as it is. I’ll let you guys know when I get there. Until then, my journey continues.
I think in the end, you have to find your own way home. You have to find that place of comfort, of stillness within yourself. You must own your truth and take that first step toward healing.
My first step is forgiveness.
I hope you find the courage to take your first step too.