Saturday, June 21, 2008

mamaHow: New Eyes

It's like a wikiHow, but from me. When I mentioned that I had learned how to forgive and move on from difficult incidents in my past, you said it might be valuable to share how I found forgiveness. I'll try to explain.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes." --Marcel Proust

That magical afternoon in college when I was able to lose the emotional connection to my past's traumas was also the day I was able to forgive those who harmed me.

For those who are still clinging to victimhood and those who are still caught up in the throes of anxiety and grief may not be able to understand. It really took those Proust "new eyes" to find a way to forgive.

When I realized, deeply realized, that what happened to me was just a moment in time, a piece of a puzzle, that it was forever in the past, that I didn't have to "honor" the memory of the trauma, that I didn't have to carry that with me anymore, I also discovered that my bitterness and anxiety towards those who harmed me wasn't necessary.

There is a special freedom in forgiveness, because being unable to forgive is a heavy chain tying you to the pain of your past. When I released the trauma-pain from my heart and body, the heavy chain had nothing to hold onto, and it dropped away.

What happened to me was done. Not just over — it was done. While I don't have to trust those bad people, I don't have to chain them to my heart anymore with unforgiveness, because that's exactly what happens when you don't let it go. You carry them around with you, everyday. Who wants that?

If there's someone or something you need to forgive, I recommend a ceremony. I remember a quiet afternoon when I wrote down the names of people and the situations I wanted to let go of on separate pieces of paper. Then I drove to a nearby river and went to work. I read the papers one last time, then I folded each into a paper boat. For every one, as I dropped them into the water, I repeated, "The past has no hold on me. It is done." Plop, plop. The boats floated away, out of sight.

Later on, when thoughts of bitterness and anger would encroach on my peaceful heart, I would remind myself that I let that go. They aren't with me anymore.

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes."
--Marcel Proust

I am not a different person. I haven't moved away. I'm still here. I did not have a choice when bad things happened to me, but I absolutely have a choice on whether or not I'm going to carry that pain along with me for the rest of my life.

PS. Panic attacks are real. Experiencing trauma that nobody should ever have to live through has real effects. It fractures your psyche. I find that the greatest healers include the laughter and love of children, the acts of kindness and gracious servitude, and the acknowledgment of the durability of the soul. Some people find faith to be a necessary component to healing, others find anti-depressants to be helpful, still others use a combination of everything. I think I fall into that last category.