This morning, I woke up with an idea playing through my mind. In truth, it’s been playing around the edges of my consciousness for a while and has really been coming forward as something that I should write about. So I got up with the full intention of writing something before my day got started and headed into the chaos and whirlwind that has occupied my days for the last several weeks. I got myself ready for the day, sat down at my computer, and promptly remembered 2 things I was supposed to have done yesterday afternoon. So rather than doing what my spirit was asking me to do this morning and honouring myself, I got pulled into the vortex we’ll call “other people’s stuff” and that was that.
Has this ever happened to you? You have your calendar, your plan, your to-do list of things that are important to you. Then something happens, and before you know it it’s the end of the day and if you’re lucky, you’ve managed to cross one or two things off the list. The rest of the day has been spent working on things that are very likely very important to people who are important to you – your boss, your client, your family member – but in reality have almost nothing to do with you. They are not of your creation and although you may be the absolute best person to deal with the situation, are not really your responsibility.
This is one of my biggest challenges. Whether it’s innate or it’s a result of my environment and things I’ve learned I have no idea, but I love to help people. I suppose it’s probably one of the things that makes me really great at what I do. The challenge comes when I fail to establish appropriate boundaries and I allow other people’s stuff to creep into my world. I’m getting better at it than I used to be but I confess that I still sometimes find myself donning my cape and tights and swooping in to save the day or struggling with myself to put up the boundaries when I’m already waste deep.
I won’t try to tell you that I have all the answers because I don’t. What I’m really beginning to see is that we all have our weak spots and we all have our triggers. Each of the things that have happened to us have left a mark. Sometimes it’s on our bodies, but often also on our spirits and the deepest of these marks even manage to touch our souls.
A dear friend of mine, Di Riseborough, has written a book called “Forgiveness, How to Let Go When it Still Hurts” that’s launching this Thursday, May 15th. You may have already received an email or seen something about it on Twitter or Facebook. Di has an amazing story of her own journey with forgiveness and possibly because of this launch, I find myself pondering the idea of forgiveness and what it means to me.
It seems there are a few different ideas about what forgiveness is and what it means. Some talk about forgive and forget, others say that we forgive out of compassion for the other party, some forgive out of some sort of moral superiority, and my preferred explanation is that we forgive to release ourselves from the hold our own anger, resentment, or hurt have on us. I like this explanation I think in part because it does not require that I give my “persecutor” a free pass or make what they did to me about something that happened to them. I simply reach a point where I choose to let go of my negative feelings on the subject and move beyond it.
I shared with you the idea that things that happen to us leave a mark. I believe that to be true. I believe that once something has happened, it is not possible to un-do it. When you have fallen in love for the first time, your world is changed. If a person is beaten, they cannot ever be “un”-beaten, and if someone has been raped, they cannot ever be “un”-raped. Everything that happens to us – both good and bad – leaves a mark and you can never again go back to the person you were before it happened. Every experience creates a learning and it changes how we relate to the world.
I used to think that forgiving someone meant that I was saying it was ok for them to have done whatever they did in the first place but I don’t think that’s really what it’s about. I find myself wondering as I observe people, myself included, if those marks don’t become our soft spots. You know, those places that if someone pokes at them long enough and in just the right way, no matter how much work we may have done to heal them, can still flare up and cause us discomfort and distress. Maybe I’m mistaken, but I suspect we all have those soft spots. Some are better at hiding them, some are better at avoiding the people and situations that would poke at them, but we all have them.
So what if healing something doesn’t mean making it go away? What if true emotional healing is reaching a place where we can acknowledge the mark and the hurt that caused it, look it straight in the eye and celebrate ourselves for having survived it in the first place and for having learned whatever we can from the experience. Then we need to be prepared that sometime, the right person may come along with the right stick and poke us there. And in the same way that we may find ourselves having a moment of grief several years after we’ve lost someone, it’s ok to feel what we feel for a moment. The key is to not get bogged down and stay in that space and to develop tools that help us pull ourselves out of it more quickly each time. And to know when to reach out for help. I feel very fortunate and grateful for the people I can call on when I find myself in one of those places and not sure how to find my way out.
In my last post, I quoted something I’d read that said something like “Never be ashamed of your scars, they simply show that you were stronger than whatever tried to hurt you”. It seems there’s something of a theme working through my world at the moment. Whatever has hurt you, my friend, whatever pain or shame or anger you may feel about it, remember that you survived it and you’re still here. Can you acknowledge how amazing you are? Can you look it in the eye and feel your own strength and resilience? If you can, I commend you. If you’re still working on it, I commend you too. I suspect for most of us it’s a combination of the two. There are things I’ve made peace with that don’t really have any impact on me anymore and there are things I’m still working on. The surprise is that sometimes I get them confused and something sneaks up on me.
So let me leave you with this. When your monsters find their way out of the closet (just know that it will likely happen sometime), when you realize that you’ve gotten too close to the vortex of “other people’s stuff” and been pulled in, what if you just stop? What if you acknowledge that you’ve fallen into it, but rather than telling yourself that you’re bad or wrong or you should have known better, you thank goodness that you’re cute because that wasn’t the smartest thing you could have done, ask for help if you need it, and choose to move forward with your life and away from whatever that situation is? Just like a fire needs oxygen, these things require our attention and our energy. Deprive a fire of oxygen and it cannot burn. Deprive these situations of your attention and energy and they can no longer harm you or interfere with your life. It really can be that simple or as hard as you choose to make it for yourself. What do you choose?