In the middle of last week I signed up for an online writing class where, for five days in a row, the instructor sends a audio file with a guided meditation and some writing prompts. It sounded intriguing to me and it was free. Be brave, right?
So today when the email arrived I settled in for a cup of coffee and some breath work. With my notepad on my lap and my mind clear from a good night’s rest, I ‘took’ my first class. Afterwards I thought to myself: This is perfect since the Yamas have ended. I’ll have something to tell the others. (You, dear reader, are the others.) And it was exactly that: Perfect.
First, can I just start with the importance of breath work? I have battled anxiety for most of my adult life and have always kinda known about breath work, but seriously. With yoga, the meditations, and now this…I cannot stress enough the importance of coming back to the breath. There’s a calming nature that arrives three breaths in that I simply cannot explain right now. I am not known for being calm and for two decades I have skirted the edge of being good at coming back to the breath. I’m just now starting to feel the positive side effects of being present.
Anywho…the class started off with a reading of the poem by Mary Oliver about prayer. I think this is such a great place for me to start because I’ve recently gotten really into reading more poets, learning that poems don’t have to be sing-songy and rhymey. One of my favorite poets is Zachry K. Douglas and he’s a beautiful mess! I love this about him because I like messy people. I’ve even started writing some of my own poems, which are essentially just mini-conversations I have with myself or words I wish I could say to another – but to me, they are poems, and that’s really all that matters. On this day, the poem by Oliver also reminded me that prayers, like poems, do not have to be elaborate to be important.
Next came the writing prompts with six words: Doorway, Few, Elaborate, Stone, Iris, Voice. I sat for five minutes with these words, breathing, allowing myself a moment to shuffle through the word deck mentally, finally stopping and pulling out Doorway.
So here we are, you and I, this morning standing at the doorway of my heart. I’m aware there are several metaphorical rooms I can walk into this morning, but the doorway to the place where ‘forgiveness’ resides is where I want to take us. I’m very much aware that I’ve been holding on to past hurts and traumas, but I’m also going to give myself a huge fucking pat on the back for all the work I’ve done since June to overcome those by doing a lot of internal – and external – work to get back to who I am at my core.
I am going to skip all the nonessential details about who hurt me and when or what happened to build up the resentment and unforgiveness – because I don’t think any of those stories are really relevant, nor are they helpful. I want to take you into the room, now that it’s tidier, so I can share what I did to clean it up.
The first area in need of dusting was forgiving myself. I knew I had started forgiving others because as I went down the list of names there was less emotional attachment to who they are in my life and what they represent. I also want to be clear here: I personally don’t think that ‘forgiveness’ is all lovey-dovey “let’s celebrate holidays together now”. I think forgiveness can also be ‘Meh. Them.’ as you swipe left on the “People You Might Know” list of life. I’m at a place where I can do that and this is a long time coming, friends.
But you know who I just could not forgive? Yep. You guessed it. Me. So I stopped focusing on how I could forgive those other people and started focusing on forgiving myself. And, it’s working. It really is working, guys. So – I hope by sharing some of these you’ll be able to make some minor (or, dare I say, major) moves toward forgiving yourself.
- I took control of my finances. Now, I have a good job that pays me well and I have few needs. One would say my finances are a no-brainer: More income than expenses. But here’s the deal: In the past, I’ve cared more about others than I did about myself. So much so that I accepted lies and allowed myself to be manipulated into spending money I earned on things that were not in my best interest, but, rather in the interest of others. I paid child support for children that weren’t mine, I paid debts that weren’t mine, I didn’t save for my future. But, in 2019, I decided to get my shit together and stop talking about all the financial mistakes I had made in the past. Today, I can say proudly that I finalized my estate plan, raised my credit score 140 points (yes, this is fucking true!) and reached a financial goal I set in January three months ahead of schedule. This one area of focus empowered me more than I realized it would, but also, helped me to enter a state of self-forgiveness. In other words, I forgave myself for giving away my power – and my money – for nearly a decade to people who just didn’t deserve it.
- I scheduled a photo shoot. Now, I’m not a high-maintenance babe to begin with. Jeans – okay, leggings – and t-shirts are my go-to wardrobe 95% of the time. But, folks, with this pandemic, it had gotten bad. I stopped fixing my hair, couldn’t find my make-up bag for two weeks, and stopped caring in general about ‘preparing the surgical field‘. Before you go on an armchair-therapist-tangent about my mental health – I wasn’t depressed – I just didn’t fucking care. The photoshoot, though, empowered me because I saw who I could be from the view of the lens. And I’m not just talking about hair and make up here. The woman in those photographs looked healthy and happy. She looks a bit mysterious and confident. And the boudoir photos*? She. Is. Sexy. And…she is me. I am her (I am she?) Anyway. I may not put make up on to go to the store, but I do at least run a brush through my hair and put a swagger in my step more than I had been. This simple investment is linked to forgiving myself for allowing others to dictate how I should look in order to be beautiful in their eyes. I get all gussied up for me now. And that’s fun. (*the irony here is that the boudoir session was scheduled so I could give a Christmas present to the man I loved…and then we broke up. The moral though: I did it anyway, proving that I am important to me.)
- I write. I use my writing as therapy (so thank you for reading!) but also…I love to write. I’ve been writing stories since I was eight years old. But, I allowed outside voices to stop me and I put other people’s needs first so I never carved out time to write. A journalism teacher in high school silenced me for years because of her harsh criticism. Later in life, I didn’t protect my time and gave it to others so their needs were met, betraying myself my very own creativity. My talent and my desire to be a better writer is important to me. So, I started protecting my time and I forgave myself for putting the needs of other’s in front of my own in this case, as well. The ‘little’ blog posts take about 3 hours/per post. Additionally, because of my lovely daughter’s feedback (Not really my actual daughter, but my ex-husband’s daughter – who I love dearly) I decided last week to turn one of my short stories into a novel because the lifetime relationship in the story is messy…and beautiful…and romantic. (Who couldn’t use a little more romance, right? And, in this story – BONUS – I can control the outcome – which I can’t in real life.) The point: All this writing requires me to make time for what is important.
So, to bring it back around for us today as we close out: The doorway into my forgiveness room was restricted because of the internal clutter I had stacked against the frame. Clearing the messy derangement – the internal dialogues, the thoughts and opinions of others, the lack of faith and trust in myself – was just the starting point. Now that the doorway is clear, I think I can start to invite others in, always remembering that this doorway can also be an exit. I have the power to ask any one, any thing, any thought that no longer serves me or my higher good to leave. There are some people I’d like to invite back into the room, but I can’t control whether or not they accept the invitation. To be honest, I’m afraid to open the door because I’m afraid they won’t enter. So maybe the next metaphorical room I need to start cleaning is the one where my fear of rejection lives. Alas, another time another blog.
I’m leaving you this morning with a great song by Darius Rucker (Hey! Hootie!) and a few questions:
What doorways do you need to open? Which do you need to close? Can you carve out some time to invest in yourself instead of scrolling through people’s feeds on Facebook? Can you forgive someone who hurt you and realize that you don’t really get the chance ever again to make ‘new’ old friends? Can you forgive yourself?
Love you guys. Take care. Hug more.