I grew up in a very strict and often unsupportive home and then married early into an emotionally abusive relationship. I stayed in this relationship for a very long time (sixteen years), and I harbored dark, negative and heavy feelings. I often felt trapped and a big ball of black heaviness that I stored in my chest seemed to keep me from going anywhere. Each time “something” would happen, I would add darkness to my cloud and I began to feel worse and worse. Finally, it dawned on me, that I had been stuck in this snowball of negativity, and I was beginning to hate life. Things had to change and I was going to have to learn to do things differently.
Looking back, I realize it took courage, and nothing happened overnight, but I was willing to take an honest look at what was happening. I realized I was in an unhealthy relationship and not taking ownership for the role I was playing. It had been easier to place the blame on the other party and to hold content against him…as long as I did this I was the victim and I had nothing to do with any of it!
Then I began to realize that I had been wearing the cloak of victimization for a great part of my life, and it took its toll in other ways. I blamed others for my being trapped in a 250 pound body (which was still lighter than my former 300 pound body…but I had gained back 50 pounds), my health was deteriorating prematurely and I was always an emotional mess. The reality was that the victim role I had taken on, was pulling me back---fast and hard!
I began to hate myself more, not understanding how I could allow this to happen. I always was the perfectionist and I always had everything so well put together…or so I pretended. When I took the blinders off, I began to see the muck had always been there, I had simply chosen to ignore it, and I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and I was ready to change.
Making the decisions to change was not easy. There was a level of uncertainty that scared me to my core, but I was determined and there was no turning back. I was learning to forgive myself for all of the lies I had been living and I was ready to learn to love myself and others. I was also willing to make the changes that I needed.
The first part of the change was to seek out the spiritual realm. The phrase “when the student shows up, the teacher arrives” really held true. Lessons on forgiveness were coming out of nowhere. I was especially taken by the Buddhist phrase, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” Boy, wasn’t this the truth! My anger and unforgiveness was staring me in the face.
I had to make some key decisions, and learning to love myself and nourish my body appropriately became a priority. Slowly, I am still learning to forgive myself for the way I have treated my body, and I am accepting and appreciating my body more and more. Regardless of what society or any one individual says, I accept myself as I am!
I have also had to learn not to own criticism from others, I have done a fantastic job at criticizing myself and I don’t need help in that area! I also had to realize that other’s criticism usually comes from their own inferiority or subconscious guilt. I cannot own that too, nor did I have to own the emotional baggage that I lugged around from the bad relationship…It was time to bury that hatchet.
Little did I know that making the decision to leave a toxic relationship was going to be very unpopular to many of my friends who hold the belief that marriage is forever. I lost many friends as a result of my decision. Though it hurt, I came to terms with it knowing that ultimately, I was ready to forgive and release all of the negativity I had been storing. I saw them through eyes of compassion, and I still pray and wish them all well to this day.
Many ask me how I can be so forgiving, and how I was able to let go of so many painful experiences. There are a couple of things here. I can’t say I am completely healed, but it has been a process that gets easier and easier. This is often revealed to me in subtle reminders. One day I was listening to my iPod and the shuffle feature was on. A song came on and I was enjoying everything about the song, when suddenly it occurred to me that that very song used to bubble up so much from the past and I could not stand to listen to it. I had finally overcome that hurt!
I also have come to have great compassion for others. Everyone carries a different type of pain and yet we are always doing the very best we can with the knowledge, resources and ability we have available to us in that given moment. When I began to see this, and see through eyes of compassion, it was much easier to release my hurt. I was now seeing others through the eyes of unconditional love that God has for us. There were no longer any hatchets!
I realize many of us carry pain-- it’s human. Yet, I also see forgiveness as an opportunity to grow. We grow to love others, learn about ourselves and heal wounds. Ultimately learning to forgive yourself and others is learning to love!