Do you ever look at an old picture of yourself and think “What the hell was I thinking?” Yet, at the same time, you can clearly remember feeling like you looked amazing when the picture was taken. Or you remember that your life was in chaos but you hid it behind your posed smile. It’s similar to reading really old journal entries. I’ve literally cringed at some of the things my younger self wrote. And yet, it was me. The photographs, the journal entries…all me. But for some reason I didn’t recognize her. Maybe I didn’t want to. She could be weak, self-indulgent, flighty, and quite frankly, didn’t take care of herself. Year upon year she put up with things that no woman with a shred of self-respect would have put up with. She often played the role of martyr, doormat or victim. She was everything I didn’t want to be and I wanted to distance myself from her as much as possible. But one day, I decided to look closer. I decided to look at her with fresh eyes through the lens of compassion.
It wasn’t until 2012 that I made peace with my former self. As I shed a horrible relationship that went on for years too long, my focus shifted from obsessing about my ex-husband to looking at myself. For the first time I started to wonder about my part in the equation. Up until this time I could rattle off lists of things he had done to me, my daughter and other members of his family. I could tell you about all the times he stole from us, or broke things in a fit of rage. I could recount the times he’d bang on my door in the middle of the night for drug money. I’d describe in detail the times I’d find him in the basement in a crack-induced stupor and how waves of hate and contempt would flow through me as I looked at his slumped body on the futon. He had become a shell of a person, and so had I, gaining some perverse satisfaction from telling the tales of everything I had “overcome.” I can’t blame my Soul for vacating the premises.
With time and distance comes clarity. Through some hard and intense practice, I learned to forgive him. I learned to separate the person from the disease. I felt pretty proud of myself for a while (as sure sign that I still had more work to do). Yet, I was still having nightmares about our relationship and all the crazy things that happened. It was frustrating. When was this shit going to end? What part of the puzzle was I missing? One night, as I pondered this question, I decided to pull a card from one of my Angel decks. The card that came up was “Forgiveness.” At first, I felt annoyed, thinking “I’ve already done forgiveness work.” But then I read the various meanings of the card. One jumped out at me: “Forgiving oneself.” When conducting a card reading, you always go with the meaning that resonates at that moment. This message resonated and I felt goosebumps—a sure sign that I was on the right track.
For the next few years I did forgiveness work on myself. No doubt that we ARE our harshest critics, and my case is no exception. As I peeled back the layers of negativity, judgment, and “less-than-ness,” little pieces of my Soul flew home. I now see that I used these negative aspects of myself to build a wall of protection around my heart. It was simply self-preservation. It was all I knew how to do at the time. I wasn’t a terrible person.
Is the work done? No. I still have moments where a memory of my ex-husband will crop up and I find myself feeling sad or angry. But now I’m better equipped to deal with it. I know that each time this happens, I’m peeling back another layer. It’s all a part of the healing process. I’m still hard on myself, but I catch myself in the act. I don’t allow myself to go into a week-long vortex of doom and gloom. Now, when I look back at my younger self, I see her as brave, strong and doing the best she could with what she knew. I will continue to forgive her for her mistakes and thank her for getting me where I am today. She gave me the gift of endless life lessons. I often wonder what my 75-year old self will say about the current version of me? To be determined…