Shake it Up Part 2: (self) Forgiveness

Written by: Barbara

Heading to the opposite side of the world this week, I have three intentions: To let go and let the world be. To say yes. And to forgive.

Not to forgive others -- not quite yet. To forgive myself.

I have always considered myself fairly well-versed in forgiveness. When I was 9, my older sister and I got into a horrible fight. Hair pulling and deep scratches and things that couldn’t be unsaid. After time apart in separate rooms, I wrote her an epic, I-Love-You apology note. She accepted it.

Adulthood forgiveness seems to be a vastly different realm. There are deeper set hurts that have taken root and, even when you pull them up to weed them out, roots can linger and grow again.

Back when I lived in New York City, I was working for Nike and on the go every day. I had no clue what I truly loved and who I was without the Swoosh. Tightness of anxiety, dread, and worry gripped me with an intensity I had never known prior to the buzz of Manhattan. I had let go of small town Massachusetts, yet I held onto the longing for simple living. I just didn’t know how. I was angry with myself, daily. I was angry at a Catholic upbringing. Outwardly, I was happy and humble and optimistic. What a paradox to live in!

I couldn’t write off that anger with a simple “I’m sorry” note from myself. Believe me, I tried: Journaling every day and scribbling love notes to myself in black ink. I had to really confront it, head on, and show kindness to it. Show kindness to myself.

In my NYC days, that meant physically leaving a job that was not fueling my sense of purpose. Nike was a wonderful place with exceptionally talented and hardworking people; yet, I knew deep down it did not nurture me at the time. I needed to take on the work of self-growth, self-love, and self-celebration.

Over time and intentional change, I sought a career path that brought me joy. I am able to tune into the sensations of my body and listen. That ache in my chest? That throb in my heart? It meant something was not aligned in my life and it was time to step back, take a look, and perhaps make a change.

The question is though, Could I remind myself that I am good enough? Over and over in my childhood, I heard that I had a certain place as a girl, that Catholicism was the only Truth, that I was too loud and no one wanted to hear that. These messages and others became hardwired that I took into my adulthood.
I wonder what might happen if I actively, every day, offered myself forgiveness for each change that I made and stand with confidence in the movement of the moment. As I mentioned in my earlier piece, Shake it Up, I thrive from change.

So if I thrive from it, can I accept it and forgive myself for the impact of those past changes on myself and others? Can I forgive myself and love who I am in this very moment, today?

Teachings of forgiveness tells me yes, yes I can.

There are 3 things I do now to actively forgive myself in a loving and compassionate way. In turn these actions allow me to expand to love and accept others.

  1. Loving Kindness Meditations: Sitting quietly for a few moments to focus on my breath and offer love and peace to myself, to someone close to me, to someone I barely know, to someone challenging (that’s the hard part!), and finally to the whole world.

  2. Acknowledging self-talk: Everyone has an inner critic. It’s that stream of consciousness that internally scolds us, says mean things to us, produces self-doubt, and on and on. We can choose to “give the mic” to these voices - or, we can acknowledge their presence, shush their volume, and move on.

  3. Gratitude Journaling: Most mornings, I write in a 2019 planner a short list of what I am grateful for. This is a proven tool to cultivate happiness and appreciation for one’s life. It bolsters well-being. So far, I am super grateful for coffee, friendship, love, and my sweet little cat. It’s an imperfect practice and I can notice my inner critic’s volume on day’s I don’t do it!

Forgiveness is a muscle to flex. Just runners can log miles of training for a marathon to get to the finish line, I can practice forgiveness in the above ways. Just like running a marathon, forgiveness can be hard. Some efforts more difficult than others. Yet, it is achievable and the outcome is well worth it. And perhaps just like running, there really is no finish line in the pursuit of bettering oneself.

I choose to forgive. Forgive myself for a past I’ve had a white knuckled grip on and a belief system that simply doesn’t belong to me. Because the only baggage I want to bring with me to Australia is the bag that I check and a heart filled with compassion.