Burn it Down
I forgive you. Loaded words, right? These words don’t erase pain, but they do allow space for growth. They create a little tiny footbridge to build upon. This little bridge gets you across the space; movement forward. Maybe it's narrow, or slightly wobbly, but it's a way forward. Forgiveness gives an opening for deeper understanding and kindness. It’s beautiful, really. It doesn’t make the actions of others ok, but it does allow a tiny space for a sense of peace.
I’ve said those three words a thousand times to other people. It’s part of my nature, to be able to understand another perspective, and step into their shoes for a second so I can move forward with them. I love it about myself. It’s always been somewhat easy for me to understand others’ actions; to put myself in their shoes to see why something might have happened. This gift has served me so well for a long time. It’s taught me more about my friends and partners than I ever would have thought possible. There are times I wish I was more of a “light your shit on fire in your front yard” type of girl, but here I am…being empathetic instead. Damn it’s got to feel good to light that match and walk away, but here I am NOT being that person, so might as well embrace it.
Today, I was walking my dog and I got a message from a friend that led into a deeper conversation about some unease I had with myself right now. “I know you used to write…why don’t you anymore?”, she asked (I’m paraphrasing here, because that’s probably not exactly what she said, but it’s how I heard it). My phone sat on the three little dots for a hot minute as I wrote and rewrote my response; deleting, thinking, typing again. How do I explain that? How do I say that I lost my entire identity? How do I share that writing used to feel so deeply healing, and lately, it only left me feeling like a fraud? Finally, after a VERY pregnant pause, I replied, “It’s a long story”. And it is. It’s the longest story. Over 40 years long, in fact.
We went back and forth for a few messages, and then she asked me if I was able to forgive myself. “Well shit. That was a loaded question”, I thought. I should mention that friends like this light me up. I only want people in my life that push me to be better; people that hold me able to be amazing. If you’ve read anything I’ve written here before, you know for sure that small talk makes me want to crawl into a hole quietly, so this question stopped me for a second, but not for long. Friends that ask these types of questions casually over text are my people. These are the people that truly see me. They know who I am and want me to show up that way as much as possible. But I’ll also say that sometimes, these people make me mad. Today, specifically, I had a moment where I wanted to throw the phone and say “ugh. Shut the hell up”, simultaneously leaving her on "read". In that instant, I just wanted a shallow ass friend to gossip with. But then I remembered who I am…and I know I don’t really want that. But change is hard, and this question stung. But things that sting usually sting for a reason. It’s because the generosity that I am able to freely extend to just about everyone else is missing from my own self-love repertoire.
I’ve never been one to sit in a place of blame on others. Personal responsibility was blasted into me from a young age, and the military only deepened that value. “I can only control my actions” was my mantra. I’m truly surprised I didn’t have that tattooed on my body. I’ve gotten way dumber things tattooed on my body, after all. I was raised in an environment where being a victim was the only way. I hated it and I knew I wanted to take a hard left from that. I would never be the victim. I decided this when I was young, and just kept right on going. Most times it served me well, if I’m honest, because most times, those words really are quite true. No one made me late to work. No one made me fail a test. I made choices that had consequences, and I’ve always been strong at owning them. I did well in school, owned my own mistakes and had a great career in the military. I was a single mom for a time, and worked my ass off to make a better life for my daughter. And I did. A much better life.
Somewhere along the way, though, some difficult things happened to me, and I didn’t have anything to do with them. Things like this happen, I told myself. It’s part of life. But here's the deal: We all run smack dab into other peoples’ choices at some point. People do things that hurt us, whether it’s physically or emotionally, at no blame of our own. Sometimes, these choices have some pretty gnarly consequences on us. The actions of someone else DID impact me. But in true “me” fashion, I took them on. I must’ve done something to have created this. I drank too much, or put myself in a bad situation. I wasn’t fun enough, good enough, too loud, or looked wrong…The list goes on and one. The chatter in my head building and building until the moment my friend texted me that question. Not wanting to be a victim steered me so far away from actually addressing the pain I was in. I stepped into the others’ shoes and gave them an out for their actions by taking it on myself. In the moment, this felt pretty healing. Kindness, after all is what I used as my justification. Everyone makes mistakes. But what I see clearly (well, more clearly than I did this morning anyway) is that it actually was just burying the pain of these things deeper and deeper, piling up until there was nowhere to go with it, and the core of who I really am was lost. I gave them the forgiveness I deserved all along. I haven't been perfect, but I did not deserve these things.
I’ve sat in front of this screen and tried to write a lot in the last six months. Sometimes, I’ve written lovely things that I wanted to share. But this constant chatter kept me from it. I worried someone would see through it. Someone would notice that I wasn’t really who they thought I was. Sometimes, I sat at this desk and cried, deleting lines and staring at my own reflection when my screen went to sleep. I would wake up at 2 am, unable to go back to sleep because this chatter was vibrating inside my brain; blaming me for all the pain building up. I wanted to write something inspiring. I wanted to tell ya’ll that I had my shit together a little more than the last time I wrote. But today, when asked, I put the two questions together and see quite clearly now that I’ve been sitting on a whole lot of anger at myself. This anger has built up and stewed until I’ve felt like my skin was too small. This self- hatred pooling so high that it almost drowned me. Almost.
It’s really lonely inside a space like this; not letting anyone see what’s actually going on. You whittle away at the circle of people around you until you look around, and there’s no one there. I’m stepping in before I’m there. I’m taking on the questions of my annoying ass friend (just kidding, you’re not annoying, I actually love you) and allowing myself to be mad at others for the shitty stuff they’ve done. And then. Then I move forward. Then I unbury myself. Then I say “I forgive you” to myself.
I’ve always said I want to be my true self, no matter what. I mean, honestly, I put my naked ass on this website because of that. And the impact of that has been countless humans telling me my words have helped them. So it’s time to drop my hatred and anger at the old me and get back to who I really am…this messy human that isn’t afraid to show up in kindness for others….and myself. I hope you'll join me. I hope you'll ask big questions of me, and help me along. And maybe one of you can teach me to light some shit on fire?