Transformation, Self-Compassion and a Little Bit of Hogwash
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.