I have a handful of loved ones in my life right now who are experiencing longer-term painful circumstances.
In one case, the pain is medical. In one more, financial. In yet another, the pain is less well-defined as she wishes for (but day after day does not act to build) a life that feels like a better “fit” than the one she has now.
And it gets to me.
It all gets to me.
Sometimes their ongoing pain feels very, very personal.
I wake up at night worrying, or praying, or both.
When morning comes, they are right there on my mind.
Following visits and phone calls, I feel like I need to grieve and heal and rekindle hope – as if their pain is my pain.
Needless to say, this isn’t working well for me.
This feels like a weird post to write.
I say that because I have only now just realized (at a newly-minted age 44), that the challenge I thought I was having with forgiving others is not the challenge I am actually having.
By that I mean – in a way, actions others take that affect me are literally none of my doing, and thus they require no further action on my part.
I have no choice about whether someone else does something or says something, or doesn’t do or say something.
Scenarios can range from whether or not my partner says “I love you” to whether or not my parrot, Pearl, decides to bite me.
I may have preferences (I prefer hearing “I love you” and not being bitten), and I may even try to influence the choices others make according to my preferences.
But ultimately, what they decide to say/do/don’t say/don’t do is totally not up to me.
Or, as one of my favorite mentors, Byron Katie, likes to say, “What others say and do is really none of my business.”
I find this sooooo interesting!
To further complicate matters, I can find myself embroiled in differences of opinion as far as whether those others made the “right” choices (interpreted here as: “the best choices for me”).
For instance, I might think Pearl’s choice to bite me is a very bad choice indeed – a choice that requires my eventual forgiveness.
Pearl, on the other hand, may think his choice to bite me is the perfect communication tool that produces no need for self-explanation – and certainly not for forgiveness!
Which brings me back to an earlier post about my efforts to relearn self-forgiveness.
Since forgiveness at its core is a self-loving act, and a choice that may or may not impact others but will always positively impact me, this realization essentially sends me to square one.
Here is an example.
Let’s say someone says they think I am very stupid or ugly (or both).
So now their words are out there, I have heard them, and I have choices:
What complicates matters a bit (for me at least) tends to be my relationship with that other person.
Here is how this tends to unfold:
I have actually experienced a certain number of situations in the last few years with Category 1 and 2 persons.
Because I feel more distant from these types of individuals, it is easier not to take their words personally (even if I still want to argue with them and change their minds).
But when it is Category 3 Person I am dealing with, the challenge amps up a notch or three.
Here, I think the reason is because I figure they DO know me, they ARE close to me, and thus perhaps their words and actions (or silence and inaction) may have some merit.
I have in the past assumed this means I need to forgive them.
But now I’m realizing this, too, is a matter for self-forgiveness.
When these times come, my mentor, Lynn, encourages me to look to see if there IS any merit to consider!
Sometimes I look back with awe – and, frankly, horror – to remember all the years I spent “waiting.”
I was waiting to recover later (after the eating disorder had delivered on all of its [false] promises).
I was waiting until I had more friends, a better personality, more money, a boyfriend.
I used to go out shopping, buying clothes for a person I wasn’t who had a life I didn’t have.
I would think “Well, I’d better buy this bikini/party dress/lingerie set – just in case.”
Finally, one day I asked myself, “Just in case of WHAT?”
If there is one realization I would say is both persistent and perfectly-timed for the start of my “Year of Living Intuitively,” it is this:
If I want to be happy, I have to fight for it.
I say this because life IS hard.
It is hard for all of us. And if I choose to, I can always find hardships – mine or others’ – to focus on.
In fact, without even breathing hard, I could keep myself miserable 24/7 just thinking about the incredibly painful, awful things happening all over the world right at this very minute to people, animals, and the Earth.
With all that grimness so visible and readily available, I have to make a conscious, intentional, and absolutely consistent effort to find the bright bits and hold on tight.
I have decide that every glass that looks half-empty at first glance must also have a less easily seen twin that is half-full….and then I have to muster up the guts to walk over and introduce myself and make a new friend.
A few weeks back I posted about my journey towards releasing false self-esteem.
I really loved reading your comments on this post – thank you!
As part of my work to release false self-esteem, I have discovered I also need to re-learn how to forgive myself.
To start with, I am noticing some things are easier to forgive myself for than other things.
For example, right or wrong, it would seem I can forgive myself for transgressions against myself without even breathing hard. (“Oh, it was only me who got hurt – oh, well, then, no big deal!”)
More challenging is to forgive myself for transgressions – accidental or otherwise – against others (in order of difficulty – most to least: family, friends, acquaintances, total strangers).
Nearly impossible is forgiving myself for any transgression that may have put an innocent (my pets, any animal, a child) in harm’s way.
Yet in this new “re-learning self-forgiveness regimen,” forgiving myself for all of the above is not optional.
If I am going to learn – I mean really learn – to forgive myself, I can’t just do the easy ones and call it a lesson learned. I have to be able to forgive myself no matter what.
Here is an example of particularly challenging one I’m working on now:
The other day I was on the phone with my best friend. She was in tears – I had taken care of her during her eye surgery, and she was telling me she had been taking her eye drops in the wrong order. I was the one who was in charge of reading the directions and organizing her drops. While we were talking, my parrot started screaming. He was very loud, but my friend was very upset, so I ignored him. He screamed for at least 10 minutes (probably longer) before I went to check on him. When I did, I discovered he was on the floor and unable to get back to his cage (he can’t fly so if he ends up on the floor he needs me to help lift him back up to safety).
So here, there are two main areas where I need to forgive myself:
Where I’m at with the eye drops oops:
I adore pomegranate season.
Pomegranates are so juicy and tasty – like a sweet and a nut all in one.
What I do not love is de-seeding the pomegranates.
In short, it is crazy-making.
My boyfriend, on the other hand, finds peeling pomegranates relaxing.
He says it is like meditation.
(Obviously this works out to both our advantage – I buy, he peels, we both eat).
I love meditation and do it daily, so it is odd I don’t find the same quality in peeling fruit.
But truthfully, my “efficiency-oriented” brain always thinks it can improve the pomegranate de-seeding process.
I start peeling, and then a thought pops up. “Hey, look how easy that last group of seeds came off. What if you did the next section this way instead….”
Before I know it, I’m trying to outsmart the pomegranate, creating a faster, more streamlined approach to de-seeding.
This is about the same time the pomegranate pushes back.
Last year my boyfriend and I watched a very sad (but good) movie.
It was called “Now is Good.”
One scene featured some kind of flying contraption – you went inside a clear tube, and somehow it made you float in the air.
Of course, I thought the filmmakers just made it up – something cool you can only do in movies.
When I found out the flying contraption is a real thing called ‘iFly,’ and that the newest one had just been built in the city of Houston where I live, I signed us right up!
Being a parrot mommy and all, I assumed I would be a natural.
Plus, I was so eager to discover if real-life flying would feel like the flying I do in my dreams (which feels very floaty yet controlled, and so wonderful!)
When we got to iFly, we quickly got all oriented and suited up (our ensemble included a full “flight suit,” goggles, ear plugs, AND helmet).
Then we entered the flying chamber, where we discovered the way we would fly is to be hit from below by 170 mph gusts of artificial “wind.”
When the instructors did it, they looked graceful and confident, like human birds.
When my boyfriend did it, he was a pure natural – he said it was so relaxing he nearly fell asleep in the chamber.
When I did it, I felt like a giant (and really pissed off) bird had just chewed me up, swallowed me, and then spit me back out again.
I emerged shaking and sweating, drool coating my chin and the top of my neck (the wind blew my mouth open and my saliva took its chance and made a break for it).
So we are well into the first month of January 2015!
How is it going so far?
For me, it is quite exciting!
But then again, that is because these days, I find the unknown, the unexpected, the un-plannable, energizing and fun.
When I was sick with an eating disorder, this was NOT the case.
I have had to learn that (as one of my favorite mentors, Byron Katie, often says):
“This is a friendly universe.”
But her words alone didn’t convince me – oh no.
“Evil” is not a word I am comfortable with.
Part of the problem is its range.
“Evil” can be used to describe anything from a bad temper (“an evil disposition”) to a bad cup of coffee (“that is just evil!”) to a bad person (“s/he is evil to the core”) to something bad we can’t even comprehend (“I felt the presence of evil”).
Evil can also be applied in both religious and secular situations (although the latter tends to talk in terms of “positive and negative,” “white and black,” “light and dark”).
In this way, using the word “evil” feels more like a description or a judgment – in other words, more like an adjective than a noun or verb.
But where I have no real issue in cases where one person’s opinion may be that the coffee is stale and another’s is that it is fresh, I don’t like to think of “evil” as a matter of personal opinion.
It is a strong enough term that any use of the word should be (in my, um, opinion) definitive.
For instance, let’s say there is a fire raging. Someone yells “fire!” and everyone makes a run for it, injuring or even trampling others in the process.
No one wants to find out later that the person who yelled only thought s/he saw fire.
In the same way, if a fire is on the loose, we don’t want a situation where a person in a position to issue an alert isn’t sure what to call it or if it is dangerous and so hesitates to sound the alarm.
And while I feel like I have a deep inner faith that presents itself to me at the level I can open to it, I don’t personally process evil in religious terms.
It feels like it must be broader than “just” religious or “just” secular (or even scientific) to be classified as such.
This means that sometimes I wonder if evil is “real” – in the sense there is a spectrum ranging from “very good” to “very bad” and evil is just a hair beyond all of that.
If you ask me, I think Netflix is one of the most wonderful inventions ever.
It has everything from nature documentaries to crime dramas to sci-fi thrillers – in short, all my favorites!
Since I find great mentoring through movies and television programs, this means a) I am choosy about what I watch, and b) I watch a lot of things to find what I am looking for.
Recently I’ve been absolutely hooked on a series called “Continuum.”
The central character is a young wife and mom named Kiera. Kiera is a “protector” – a cop in the year 2077. She takes her job very seriously (and has a whole suite of cool gadgets, including a metallic gold suit, to help her reel in criminals).
Then one day, in an attempt to prevent the escape of a group of convicted terrorists, Kiera gets zapped back in time to the year 2012.
Suffice it to say she finds this very challenging on multiple levels.
When I looked up the definition of continuum, my favorite one reads like this:
[A] continuous series of elements or items that vary by such tiny differences that they do not seem to differ from each other.
A runner-up favorite:
[A]nything that goes through a gradual transition.
I never used to think I liked time travel movies or television shows, but somehow this one really resonates. Perhaps it is because I see myself in Kiera.
Even in 2077, Kiera somehow seems a lone wolf, slow to trust, vulnerable to those she has allowed in to her inner world, with a warrior spirit she doesn’t always understand.
In the year 2012, watching her attempts to find her place in a city both vaguely familiar and totally alien reminds me of myself.
From the time I was old enough to call myself “me,” I have felt a little separate, apart, alone. I have struggled not to play the “lone wolf,” to accept my place here, to permit myself to bond, to connect, to fit in.
So as I watch Kiera struggle to make a place for herself, forge new connections, find patience with her situation, and work for good because that is how she is wired (no matter how much she misses her family and her home in 2077), something in me resonates.