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Forgiveness

March 7, 2011

So,  I said in my last post that I had all this bottled up stuff to say, and this one just might get me in trouble! 

Also, for anyone that is a survivor of childhood trauma, you may want to skip this one as it may be triggering for you.  In this moment, wherever and whoever you are, I trust your wisdom to know what is best and safest for you.  Walk your healing as you need…

:pause for disclaimer: This is what is true for me, for now.  I certainly do not say that is TRUTH, or even true for others.  I know that most spiritual traditions and teachers of those traditions would see all of the following statements as profoundly untrue and evidence of spiritual immaturity on my part.  I can live with that.  Please know that from the deepest part of my being, I mean no disrespect to any tradition, path, teacher, or personally held by another conviction.  I believe that all of us have to heal in whatever way brings the most wholeness….Grace, darlin’, if you read this, please know that your heart is the one I am most leery of getting kicked out of after this post is done!:

Resume…

All of my time spent in the Christian tradition and all of the counseling that I received by members of that tradition said that forgiveness was the key to my healing.  I was told that no matter what atrocities I had experienced, it was my job to forgive the perpetrators and that the very salvation of my soul depended on my ability to do that. 

I don’t want to go into a long and drawn out childhood horror story, but the professionals that I have worked with to heal thus far have all agreed that abuse wasn’t the word for my experiences…the more fitting word is torture.  For years.  When and where I should have been safe….

Okay…I’m aware enough to know that the above blurb comes off as “poor me” or victim or some other icky thing so I want to be clear… I’m PISSED.  Mightily, royally, flamingly angry.  If I watched someone do some of the things that were done to me to some little kid, I’d be hard-pressed not to kill the SOB that was harming said child.  I am filled with WRATH…energized with it, sleepless STILL with it. 

That wrath fuels me to heal.  When I am trying to take a nice soothing shower before bed and instead I am ambushed by a flashback, it’s my anger that keeps me right there in that damn shower until I am not afraid anymore….even though I KNOW it might happen again tomorrow.  I’m experiencing insomnia these days (and nights!).  I’ve been awake now since sometime yesterday.  I can’t sleep because I can’t really convince myself that he won’t come and snatch me or one of my babies if I let myself genuinely relax and rest.  And it pisses me off.  And that pissed keeps me determined not to let him win.  I will heal from this; not some, not even mostly, but completely and totally.   I will not continue to be his victim.

I woke up screaming one morning this week.  I was stuck in a replay of an injuring of my knees.  That was days ago and they’re still sore and swollen.  My appetite isn’t what it should be, I can’t remember the last time I actually forced myself to leave the sanctuary of our home, and I am completely sucking at all things a domestic goddess (homemaker) should do.  And I am righteously mad about it.

See, mad is new for me.  I was never allowed to be mad and I was certainly never allowed to even think that the insanity around me was wrong or the fault of my perpetrators.  I was the bad one, the one that couldn’t get it right enough, the one that was either slutty or frigid.  If anyone got to be a target of my rage, it was me.

So when I hear that I am the one that should be forgiving them, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.  I struggled and  labored at that task for so many years and always felt that I was a failure because I just couldn’t do it.  I was told to pray about it and to release my suffering to Jesus.  I was told to Honor my mother and father.  I was told to just CHOOSE forgiveness and trust that the healing for me would come.  And I was told that I would go straight to hell if I could not find my way to reconciliation.  I was told that I was “spiritually retarded” if I could not just forgive and forget.

I read “Miss America by Day” a few years ago and it literally changed my life.  Marilyn Van de Beer is one ballsy lady.  And totally committed to healing.  She tried almost every single therapeutic approach to healing incest trauma that was known.  She paid all kinds of money to all kinds of people in her dogged determination to get WELL.  Did you catch that part…WELL.  I love that!!  Here is a woman unwilling to settle for “better” or “healthy enough”.  Wellness…wholeness….that’s a concept I can get behind.  And at almost the end of her amazing book, she makes a statement about how she will never forgive her father for what he did to her.

Wait…rewind that….really?  She is DONE with her healing work, certain that she is WELL, WHOLE…and she will never forgive??  For serious and true??? I was so shocked that I actually emailed her to be sure that she hadn’t changed her mind or that there wasn’t some “trick” about that statement that made it not REALLY true.  Nope…she meant it, still means it, and totally stands by the dual statement of having finished her healing work AND never forgiving him.

LIBERATION!!!! 

And as soon as I let go of that mandate to forgive, I began to understand all of the complex reasons WHY I can’t forgive…ever.  For me, and in this time, forgiveness implies some kind of ‘okayness’ to the harm.  How often have we all heard, or maybe even said, “It’s okay, I forgive you”.  But it’s deeply and truly not okay, not this time.  And that old tricky phrase, forgive and forget.  Why would I ever forget and how could I?  Imagine wiping out all you know of your life all the way up to age 17.  That’s a lot to forget and millions of excruciating moments for me to forgive.

I try my very best to live a life of nonjudgement of others.  When I think of or see a choice that another makes, I simply choose whether that seems right for ME without assuming to know if it’s right for them.  And I strive to live in a space of deep compassion for others.  When I feel wronged in some way, I genuinely try to step into the paradigm of the “offender” and often find myself apologizing for loosing sight of their Truth, or assuming to know the motivations of the other, or even for thinking that my need or want of the moment should supersede theirs.  Most people who know me tell me again and again that I am loving, compassionate, and patient.  I really do things like ask for blessings to fall on the driver that cut me off or the telephone solicitor who interrupted my meal.  I take time every day to ask for a multitude of blessings on people who I cherish, even if I cherish them because one day, 5 years ago, they gave me the nickel that I needed to get enough gas in the car to make it home.  Really, I do.  Consistently and with as much gratitude as I can muster in the moment.   I don’t say all that to say that I am fabulous or wonderful, simply to say that I’m not mean or vengeful or angry or bitter.

But I am angry.  I am angry that the child that I could have been will never be.  I get it that I am so much stronger now that I would have been.  And I get it that I have some amazingly developed survival skills.  There is even a theory in the mental health field that my sense of smell is so strong because of the way that trauma rewires the brain.  So I get it that I have positives going for me that I never could have developed if I hadn’t lived through all that I did.

But I am tired of having to work so hard just to feel safe.  I’m tired of these cycles of healing that I experience where the darkness before the dawn is just so dark that I cannot imagine that Light will ever come.  I’m tired of having all of these damnable issues.  I’m tired of fear and flashbacks and body memories and nightmares that are true.  I’m tired of feeling like it won’t ever end.

But remember, this is a Love story.  Really it is.  See, this week, when my knees were swollen and sore, I actually forgave my body.  This body is where all the bad stuff happened and I really forgave that.  I forgave my body for refusing to die or be broken beyond repair.  And I had this odd moment of deep admiration for my body.  For years, it was hurt and would complain of the pain and nothing got any better.  But it still persists in telling me that things are not okay.  WOW!  If I did that with my partners, told them everyday that something that was going on was hurting me, and NOTHING changed, I’d just give up.  I wouldn’t be able to express my pain in the same way, day after day, with the same level of  trust after 30 years of not being heard.  But my body does just that.  I started to see my body with this new level of respect, this new awareness of true strength, this owning of my persistence.

And in these moments of this profound fragility, I am so loved.  I have the most amazing partners.  They really hear me and they really see me and they care for me in ways that I can’t even say I need.  Some nights, I ask my husband to look under the bed for me so I know that no one is there.  He never laughs at me or loses patience or yells about.  He simply gets up and looks.  And every night these days, my wife comes home from another long day of work that she doesn’t love and asks me, the same me that’s been hiding in bed all day, if there’s anything that she can do for me.  And she means it.  And when I’m sitting on the floor of our tub, lost somewhere 20 years ago, and it’s 2 in the morning and she’s doing it all again tomorrow, she climbs in the tub with me and is just HERE.  And when I’m stuck there, the voices of these two amazing people call me home, again and again, to right here and right now, where I am safe and loved.   They take up the slack with the kids, keep things running, make sure everyone eats, sit in the bathroom with me yet again, talk to me at 3 am, look under the bed, and believe me.  Everyday.  Even when it doesn’t seem to be getting any better.  Even when I wonder if I’m just going to stay lost.  That’s love.  Nitty-gritty, down and dirty, fidelitous Love. 

So even if I could ever forgive all that he’s done to me, I don’t know that I could ever forgive all that he’s done to them.

My forgiveness is spent on me, these amazing people who love me, and crazy drivers.  The Boogeymen of the world are just going to have to look elsewhere.

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