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Forgiving. My Guilty Secret.

And other life lessons I wish I’d learned earlier...

The choice of happiness or sadness are mine, I could have whichever I chose. 

I alone, am enough.

The lessons that I wish I had embraced in my 20’s and 30’s, I now seek to impart on my daughters as they navigate the paths into womanhood. I often find myself repeating my parents, grandparents and mentors who offered their sage advice in hopes that I could avoid the pain and pitfalls that life would no doubt bring.

The lessons that I wish I had embraced in my 20’s and 30’s, I now seek to impart on my daughters as they navigate the paths into womanhood. 

These lessons were:

The choice of happiness or sadness are mine, I could have whichever I chose.

That beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.

The perfect weight, shoes, outfit, car, et al, does not guarantee the perfect life.

Practice does make perfect, or at least better.

I alone, am enough.

Fairy tales are bedtime stories, not life goals.

There are strings attached.

But the hardest lesson, was the one I discarded first. To forgive. 

Forgiveness, in my opinion, stood side by side with weakness. Although my childhood prayers dictated that I should “forgive those who have trespassed against me, so that I may be forgiven.” Somehow the words slipped past my consciousness each day to be carried away to wait with all the other lessons.

Fairy tales are bedtime stories, not life goals.

So, during my 20’s and 30’s, I stumbled through relationships and situations until I was faced with a truly “unforgivable” event in my life that eventually forced me to entertain the possibility of forgiveness. After so many years of going through the motions of forgiving, I had become adept at the social platitudes that feign forgiveness. Until this moment, I never had a reason to truly harbor ill-will against someone. Yes, I had encountered people I did not like. But my response had always been to avoid or ignore them until eventually they were no longer in my life. Now un-forgiveness lurked at the edges of my psyche to be retrieved and revisited at will.

Consequently, my first true experience with forgiveness came not as a noble response or a spiritual awakening, in fact my motivation was anything but selfless. I simply had to learn to forgive so I could be free and happy

It was during this time that the notion of forgiveness crept into my thoughts. In the depths of my “unforgiveness”, I wallowed in anger, self-pity, regret and despair until I grew tired of being tired. I hesitated because forgiveness was an action that required introspection. Consequently, my first true experience with forgiveness came not as a noble response or a spiritual awakening, in fact my motivation was anything but selfless. I simply had to learn to forgive so I could be free and happy. Miraculously, I began feeling better almost immediately and eventually I no longer entertained the events or the circumstances that had once caused me such pain. Happiness and inspiration came into my life in unexpected ways and I embraced it all. I would like to end here with “Happily Ever After,” but that is the furthest thing from the truth. 

Now forgiving others was powerful, almost heady, and I realize I had become almost smug in my ability to handle situations that once would have seemed insurmountable, but with age and practice were simply managed.  However, I was not prepared for the wisdom of youth, when my daughter asked, “Mom, you always tell us about forgiving others, but you never speak about forgiving yourself, do you ever forgive yourself?” With that question I froze as though I’d been caught in a compromising position. In one fell swoop, my daughter had uncovered my guilty secret. The one I kept close in order to revisit any time life was too good. I’d dust off the mental box and pull the secrets out one by one, to remind myself of all the ways I’d failed myself and others over the years. I had learned to forgive everyone, but myself. Real or imagined, the anger I directed at myself for my shortcomings were the gatekeeper that prevented the door of happiness from fully swinging open. In this moment, I realized that I had only partially learned the lesson of forgiveness….I had to forgive others and forgive myself. 

Now forgiving others was powerful, almost heady, and I realize I had become almost smug in my ability to handle situations that once would have seemed insurmountable, but with age and practice were simply managed. 

 It took several days of introspection and acknowledgement before I was able to confront the magnitude of my guilty secrets and the ways they had held me captive. Finally, I gathered the will to release myself from my self-imposed prison. I walked along the beach and opened the mental box and imagined all of my guilty secrets floating out to sea. Taking a deep breath, I felt an awakening, a freedom that I did not know I longed for until I received it….Radical Forgiveness!

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