Transformation, Self-Compassion and a Little Bit of Hogwash

It snowed New Year's morning in Tucson!

It snowed New Year’s morning in Tucson!

I woke up January 1, 2015 with no anxiety about anything. I’m serious. I have never started a new year without anxiety. When it wasn’t financial anxiety, it was career anxiety. When it wasn’t career anxiety, it was relationship or family anxiety. There has always been something to be worried about.

On this New Year’s morning, I instantly recognized the difference. It was like kicking off a heavy blanket and feeling crisp, cool air on my skin. The sudden lightness felt like freedom. To just sit in a feeling of peace, without being wrapped by burden, is new and wonderful.

It’s also nice not being broke. We had some lean years where I couldn’t bear to look at the January credit card statement because our entire Christmas was on it. So, yeah, it’s nice to not have that kind of anxiety but here’s something really important in terms of my frame of mind: I’ve never once prayed for more money. Even in our deepest debt, I never asked God for financial security. I asked to be shown where true security comes from and how to give when my instinct told me to hoard. And I haven’t thanked God for our current financial stability either because it feels wrong to thank him for something that he showed me I can live without and never needed in the first place. The years we struggled were some of the most meaningful I’ve ever lived and I look back on that time with awe and gratitude. That’s what I thank God for.

2014 started off being about healing old wounds for me and I ended up being transformed. I’ve been permanently altered by the understanding that the way things happened will always be the way things happened but what they mean to me can and should change.

I’ve always been drawn to the idea that only the current moment is real. The past is gone, the future hasn’t happened. It’s the foundation of positive thinking and the key to living in the moment. It also feels like hogwash sometimes and not particularly helpful because much of my emotional understanding relies on hindsight. I have no fricking idea what’s happening right now other than how I feel. That’s living in the moment. But until the current moment becomes the past, I can’t make sense of it. What happened? What were the series of events? How did what happen affect my decisions? Most importantly, how may I have gotten it wrong? Yes, this happened but does it mean what I think it means or could it mean something different? Is there room for more compassion and a more open mind?

My mom saves everything. She recently gave me a bunch of cards and drawings that I made for her when I was a kid. One was a letter that I wrote to her when I was 16. It blew me away. I always believed that my 16 year old self was a complete wreck who couldn’t do anything right. What I read was beautifully and thoughtfully written. It was tender and sweet and showed a grace and wisdom I didn’t know I possessed at that age. If she hadn’t saved that letter and given it back to me 28 years later, I wouldn’t have known that about myself. What an amazing gift she gave me.

As I held the letter in my hands, my heart felt like it was being crushed. In the letter, I apologized to my mom for how it made her feel when I decided I wanted to live with my dad when I was 11. I professed my love and assured her it wasn’t anything she had done but it wasn’t what I said in the letter that affected me as much as what I didn’t say. I didn’t tell her that I wanted to move in with my dad because I had been molested when I was living with her. I didn’t write that by running from the situation, I saved myself the only way I knew how. The fact that I had a loving father and bonus mom to run to are another story completely (another post perhaps).

As the truth between the lines lay bare, I knew I had an opportunity to give her a gift, even if I wasn’t sure the words would find their way out of my mouth. It took me 28 years but I finally told her the truth. It was a trust fall for me. My mom doesn’t use the internet so she doesn’t read my blog and if she hadn’t given me that letter, I would’ve continued to believe that she never needed to know. She stopped being bitter about me leaving years ago but now she knows that I didn’t move in with my dad because I was mad at her or any of the other things she may have believed. And now I know that my story could never fully unfold until she hugged me, cried with me and shared in the sorrow of what happened the way she should have been able to do in 1981.

The facts haven’t changed. When I wrote that letter, I was a 16 year old girl who was depressed, confused and misguided. I hurt people and made bad choices. That’s still true but how I feel about myself has been transformed. Not just how I feel about myself at age 16 but how I feel about myself at 17, 20, 26, 31, 38, 44. If I could be wrong about who I thought I was then, maybe it all deserves a second look. I did my best with what I knew and when I knew more, I made different choices. Self-compassion is transforming.

I’ll never stop being amazed at the way God works through us and the seemingly insignificant chances we’re given that are really opportunities to connect and transform each other. That feels like prayer so I’ll say amen.

19 Comments on “Transformation, Self-Compassion and a Little Bit of Hogwash

  1. Beautiful post, Karen. so much to mine here. I have to say that I too never or rarely asked God for money. We’ve been going through lean times, and I always knew He would provide. And slowly we are starting to get some income coming in. I just know that we will be taken care of in some way.

    But as for this 16 yr old girl you speak of, I know the power of re-writing history. I wrote about this a year or so ago about how we can actually rewrite our past. And this letter is proof. I think we see ourselves through such a harsh lens that we start to create a story about that crusty vision we “see”. I did. And still do to some extent. But usually it’s someone else who lets us know how we really were and we see things in a different light. Like you did with your own letter. How amazing is that?! You broke an old story, a lie. You discarded it and have had great clarity. It has helped your mother and you. And you see things differently.

    We in addiction / alcoholism have an ever harsher lens, and so we do what we can to clean that off, through forgiveness, of the self kind. I may not be where you are at, but there are times when I say to myself “Maybe I wasn’t as much a shit as I make myself out to be!”

    We all progress at our own pace, but as long as we are finding clarity, then we are progressing.

    Wonderful, lovely post, my friend.

    Blessings
    paul

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    • Thank you so much, Paul. I wouldn’t say that people with an addiction/alcoholism have a harsher lens because children (and adults) who have suffered abuse have a pretty skewed view of the world and their place in it too but I completely agree with what you’re saying. “Maybe I wasn’t as much a shit as I make myself out to be!” I was able to look at people in my past who I felt wronged me and see them differently, find compassion for them and even forgive. I was able to do that for myself for my early childhood years but for some reason, my teenage years were frozen in that old story and harsh lens you talk about.

      It’s funny that you say that it’s usually someone else who lets us know how we really are. My good friend who lived through my teenage years with me has told me many times that I’m too hard on myself regarding those years. I was never able to see myself through her eyes until now. It’s interesting that it took my own words to convince me.

      Blessings to you too, Paul!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for sharing about the financial security thing. We are in a place of working our way out of debt and I needed to hear the part about praying for insight when to give when I feel the need to hoard. I keep reminding myself, “This too shall pass.” Blessings to you ❤

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    • It’s so natural to want to hold onto what we have when money is tight. What’s interesting is that some of the most generous people I know are the ones who have the least. Blessings to you too Brenda!

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  3. You write the most beautiful things. I love that picture at the top too. I also covet the peace you woke up with on New Years, though more than that I’m happy for you. What a lovely gift your mom gave you with that note from 16 year old you. What you have been able to do through self-compassion and truth is remarkable and gives me a lot of hope. Thank you for sharing this with us.

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    • Thank you Kristen. Most of us say things to ourselves that we’d never be cruel enough to say to someone else. It doesn’t have to be like that.

      My kiddos loved the snow and got a kick out of throwing it down each other’s backs! I, of course, was off limits. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh gosh, Karen, thank you for this:

    “If I could be wrong about who I thought I was then, maybe it all deserves a second look.”

    It really is amazing what we see when we’re close and what we see when when we have the Gift of distance. I have looked back on so much and seen the me in and through those moments of triumph and trauma and then I look to today and see the Me who rose from the ashes of past pains and the anticipation of hurts to come. I know I couldn’t be my most authentic self (and I’m so not there, by the way), without having been given so much and having Much taken in return. And while I don’t think I’ll understand all that’s happened (I count on God to know if and when any of it should be revealed), I know that there is purpose in pain and victory despite it. You are a testament to that, friend, and, thankfully, so am I.

    With heart and blessings in the New Year,
    Dani

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    • I’ve read some blogs posts lately that have broken my heart because the writers can’t see themselves as anything other than mistakes or hopelessly messed up. I remember exactly when those kind of thoughts started to change for me and it all started when I was proven wrong about one deeply held belief about myself. It just takes one shift to bring the mountain of lies down. “Rose from the ashes of past pains and the anticipation of hurts to come.” So beautifully written, Dani. We will continue to suffer and we will continue to rise and I too hope that it will all be revealed in time if God chooses. Much love to you friend!

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  5. What a beautiful and loving way to start your new year! I’m so happy that you’ve found this peace and that you were able to give your mom this gift. So beautiful.

    Happy New Year Karen.

    Sherry

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  6. What a wonder-filled gift. Sometimes the past isn’t such a bad thing. My therapy goal for the moment is to find compassion for my 14 year old self. It’s been difficult because my so is 14 and it has been bringing up so much of the past i wish to forget. Trying to stay present sounds so simplistic.
    Love your snow! I live in the midwest so that is my norm, we are under a winter snow watch today.

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    • I know what you mean about kids being a trigger. If you can find that self-compassion for your 14 year old self, it will heal so much more than just that time period. I’ve seen how it works.
      Everyone makes fun of our little dusting of snow! It was fun for the day but I’m glad it’s not snowy all the time. Keep warm!

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  7. Love what you’ve written here. :0) For me, I think it’s important to thank God for “everything”- all things. They all belong to Him anyway, right? So, I try to do that. (Well, also His Word says to “give thanks for ALL things.”) I rarely ask God for financial gain too. I ask Him for HIS love and understanding- for wisdom and patience. Everything else is a bonus. ;0) Hope your new year is a good one! x

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    • Happy New Year to you! What’s interesting about the financial stuff to me is that I always looked in the wrong places for my feeling of security, mostly in money and things. Being broke tested me and while I don’t particularly want to go there again, I know that it won’t kill me. I’m like you in seeing everything else as a bonus!

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      • Yeah, some of my best times have been down in the dirt! Laughing because it couldn’t get any worse, and then crying because it did. ;0) But all in all- there’s a special place in that super low bunker (of hardship) that is pure solace and bliss- truly, nothing else matters then. I miss that! (But not the Ramen. Ha.)

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  8. AAAAAMEN!
    Sitting here with tears in my eyes as I imagine the many emotions you and your mom must have felt as you shared. The letter, sixteen year-old you and your gratitude today. It’s gorgeous and uplifting and amazing…just like you. This reminds me of something you wrote last year as you told me about the power of children to heal–what a gift you’ve given her.
    ‘Scuse me while I find the Kleenex.

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