Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Forgiveness - Then and Now

Forgiveness \ne Excuses


In my life, I have often said that it is easy for me to forgive - sometimes it might take a while, but I find in time I make peace with the people and events of my past. But as I strive to live a more authentic life where I am more honest with myself and those around me (even at the cost of relationships) I see now that what I thought was forgiveness, in actuality, wasn't.

In truth, I forgive less and make excuses more. I find it easy to make a truckload of excuses for myself and others:

  • He had a hard childhood, that's why he is so angry
  • She was in a bad marriage and didn't know she was pushing me away
  • His mother was a narcissist and he was never nurtured, therefore he doesn't know how to nurture
  • She's a good person in her heart. She didn't mean to be so disrespectful
  • His pattern is to run away when things get difficult, because that is what his father did
  • If I had just remembered to do XXX he wouldn't have gotten so upset
  • If I just try harder and give more, things will be okay
  • This person needs me to love him/her and it's okay to be the one in this relationship/friendship doing most of the emotional nurturing and giving

It is one thing to recognize the struggles and situations from the past and acknowledge how those influence who I am and others are now. It is entirely another situation to use that knowledge to make an excuse about the situation. Making excuses for others is NOT forgiveness. In some ways, it is exactly the opposite.

Making an excuse for someone else or myself is letting ME off the hook. It is not loving myself enough to be honest with the other person or with me about what I am feeling, therefore denying my own needs within a relationship. A good example in my life is how I deal with anger and rage. Someone who rages, scares me. I feel unsafe. But instead of looking at that and eliminating people who rage from my life, I pretended everything was okay or made excuses for the other person.

I was fortunate that I was able to resolve that issue with one of the angry people I had in my life - my father. It was about seven years ago and it was life-changing. Over breakfast one day, I told my dad about how growing up with his anger was hard for me because I thought it was all my fault. He had this moment, got teary-eyed and said, "Honey, it wasn't about you!" and I said, "I know that now, dad, but I didn't then." And we cried a little and he and said, "I never knew." And in that space my dad and I had an honest moment about our conflict and took our relationship to a deeper, more healed level. It could not have happened if my dad hadn't been able to recognize his anger issues. And it couldn't have happened if I hadn't been able to let him do that instead of making excuses for his behavior. It was a genuine moment. It was healthy and it changed me; I think it changed him as well. Not that my dad doesn't still get angry. But I no longer make excuses about his anger to justify his behavior. It made it much easier for me to recognize his behavior as his behavior and not make it about me.

It isn't just regarding others where I deny patterns and make excuses. Someone recently said to me, "MK, you have to learn to be able to say what you want and not make excuses for why you aren't getting it." That would mean I would have to be honest with what I need and for me, that is difficult. I want to see the best in people. I want to believe they see in themselves the amazing things I see in them. And while seeing the best in someone is beneficial, there comes a time when seeing that can be a detriment to the reality of a situation. Then I get blindsided by because I am busy making excuses or justifying behavior instead of being honest with myself and the person I am with. Worse, when I finally do stand up and am honest about what I need, it is often too late. The expectation that I will make excuses or 'gloss over' a situation ends up causing too much of a shift and the friendship/relationship/connection ends. Not always, sometimes the other person I am with is equally invested in making a shift and we move forward together with a healthier bond - like my father and I did.

My desire to be healthy in my life, means being honest with myself from the getgo. And that, at least for me, is tremendously difficult. Because whether it is relationships, not eating well, not exercising enough, not working on my novel, etc. making excuses creates a nice curtain to hide behind. Curtains however, don't move me forward in my life. Instead of making excuses, learning to truly forgive myself and let go of anger and resentment towards others is how to make progress toward making better choices. I don't think there is anything wrong with recognizing events that shape a person, but those events aren't an excuse. Those events are exactly that - events. Having a difficult childhood does not excuse someone being mean to me, nor does it justify stuffing my face with ice cream.

I, as most people do, have a Judge that sits in my head and tells me everything I do is wrong, that I am a bad person and if I just could be more perfect, thinner, have a better house, clean my kitchen, etc, I would be a good person. The Judge is a blamer. The Judge is an avoider. The Judge tells me the things that go wrong are all my fault because if I could get it right, everything would be okay. The Judge encourages excuse making. The Judge keeps me from growing and moving forward by encouraging me to make an excuse, or explain away conflict by pointing the finger. By listening to the Judge, I avoid taking responsibility for my own feelings and avoid recognizing that the other person's behavior is a reflection of my own! It isn't about the other person. The other person isn't broken or wrong for being angry or rude or critical. When I recognize my own anger, I own my part in the situation - giving myself the opportunity to change.

And I am the first one to say change can be scary. Change involves work. And change in any relationship involves both people working together. It's so much easier to make an excuse and walk away than do the hard work involved in changing a dynamic. I'm not saying walking away is a bad thing, there are situations in life where walking away is absolutely the right choice. Not everyone is invested in pushing through the hard stuff to move forward. However, if I walk away, or someone else walks away, I need to be honest to myself about the reasons. No more excuses or pointing the finger of blame. Instead, it is time to do the work I need to do to learn from the experience and make difference choices about future connections. I may not understand or agree with another person's choices, but honoring them honors myself.

In the end, I am the one who is making choices. And knowing that, I get to make a choice about how I handle the parts of myself where I struggle. I get to handle what I do with the Judge. I can choose to hold on to connections with people who reflect the angry and critical part of myself, or I can choose to foster relationships that reflect the loving, kind and gracious part of myself. I feel that I am at the point in my life where I can be grateful for the experiences that have made me who I am today and make peace with a truly forgiven past.

From this point on in my life, I recognize I am the one with the anger. I am the one that is so cruelly critical. When I understand that I am the one that needs to be kinder to myself, the Judge loses most of her power over me and moves to the back of my awareness. I can fill my life with people and situations that reflect the healthy, wise, strong and honest person I am. And when I come across the flawed, critical, angry, and frustrated parts of myself, I can honor them, release them and move forward in my life without excuse.



Saturday, July 12, 2014

Those Weirdos are your Tribe!!


I learned this week, again, what family means. And what it doesn't mean. It was another hard lesson that I seem to continually draw into my life.

Michael J Fox once said,  "Family is not an important thing. It's everything."

I realized this week how true that is.

Family has very little to do with blood. Although in my case, I am incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful and supportive sister and father and extended family. I am also amazed at what a tremendous daughter I have now in my life.

What I was reminded of this week, is that family is a space in your heart. It is feeling safe. It is feeling loved. It is fighting. It is knowing you can tell the truth - even if your truth is wrong - and be loved. It is knowing when things get difficult, you have someone who loves you and will stick with you. It is crying under the kitchen table and having your dad not know what to do - and having your mom say, "Just let her cry honey. There isn't anything you can do, but let her cry. She'll be okay."

I am so loved. And I can't believe every single day how big my family is. I move through my life trying to emulate what it is to love and as a result, the people I choose to have in my life love me - and if they don't? Then I guess it is better that those people get weeded out, however that happens.

Because in the end, my family are the people that stand by me. They are the people who work through the hard stuff. They are the people I come home to. And it isn't always easy. Families have fights. Families struggle. Families have financial difficulties and personality conflicts. My daughter once said about her brother, "I don't care if we sometimes don't get along, I got his back." And I think that is what it means to be a family.

And maybe family is a poor choice of words. Because there are many unhealthy families in the world. Many families who punish each other instead of supporting each other. Maybe, like the quote below, the best word is tribe:

And sometimes, people I think are part of my 'tribe' or my family, turn out not to be. They choose to leave. They choose to not want to work through the hard stuff. The complications. They don't think working through the challenge is worth it. And that is okay. I have had that same experience where I know working through the struggle isn't what is in the cards. Sometimes you have to make the difficult choice of walking away. It hurts and it is complicated but that is when those who do want to be part of your tribe become even more valuable.

I just know that for me, true family isn't about blood. It is about love. It is about honesty. It is about finding people that honor my heart and journey - and want to share their journey with me. It is about people who are as happy to be part of my life as I am happy to be part of theirs.

So, if you are part of my tribe -  and if you read my blog consider yourself part of my life - then thank you. And know I love you. And when you are done reading, remember to appreciate the people in your tribe. Call your partner,or mom or dad or best friend or sister or brother or son or daughter or niece or nephew or or or...

Because as I have been reminded again this week, there is nothing more valuable than family. Nothing. And there is nothing more valuable than telling the tribe you love, how much you love them.



Saturday, July 05, 2014

Because it turns out, writing a novel is just like life


I had this moment today. This moment of thinking about how much easier it has been in my life at times to quit when things start to get difficult.

I'm working on a novel. A novel I have been working on for over a year. I have a couple of those stuck away in a file on my computer. Okay, more than a couple. This one, however, is different.

This novel is the first story I have ever really loved. It's the first time I really understand when novelists say things like "Oh the characters told me their story!" It is so true. I literally have no idea what is going to happen. None. I have vague ideas. But this story is the first one where I have gone to bed not knowing what I was going to write, and either had a dream about it, or the moment I opened my eyes I just knew what was coming next.

So I keep at it. Parts of it I like, parts of it I don't like. I don't like that I killed one of my favorite characters. I don't like that I don't know what is coming next. I love my main character and I wish I had her strength when I was her age. But then, I can just use my daughter as a role model for my character to know what that looks like.

What I realized, is that I could just let this novel go. It's getting hard now. The first twelve chapters flowed out of me. But now I have characters I don't like. I have a story line that is convoluted and complicated. And the worst part is that I have absolutely no idea where this story is going. And that is scary. Because I could keep writing and this story and it could go NOWHERE! And then what do I have - twelve chapters I like and a bunch of crap!

It might not seem like a novel is like losing weight or life for that matter. But for me, starting the process of losing weight, or writing a novel, is easy. I have an idea, I have a goal. I have control. I set everything up, I get it ready and I am full steam ahead! For the first few weeks, it is no problem. I have determination. I lose weight. I write like a crazy woman. My carefully crafted plan works perfectly.

Then, I crash. It gets hard. The 'easy' weight no longer comes off. Life gets in the way. I JUST WANT A DAMN PIZZA. Whatever the reason is, the honeymoon is over. Now I have to decide which I want more - to lose weight and push through how difficult it is, or talk myself into going back to what is 'usual' and convenient. It's back to the idea of 'courage vs. complacency'.

This is the hard part for me. Setting a goal and living up to the promise I have made myself about following through with that goal. I can make promises to others and live up to those, but living up to the promises I make myself? Not so easy.

So today, I am going to walk the dog. We're up to two plus miles a day and I am proud of that. Since writing my blog  'back at it' on June 23rd, I've walked a total of 15.48 miles, by Sunday this week I'd like to be at 20. I'm proud of that. But it is just a start. Right now I'm hitting that place where it is much more comfortable on the couch with my coffee near me and my dog curled up at my feet and writing my blog, than it is throwing on some clothes, clipping on that leash and going for a walk.

But if I have learned anything this summer already, it is that follow through is just as important as initiation. Sticking with something when it pushes against my own resistance is probably the real lesson I am learning this summer. Yes, there are times when walking away is the right thing to do. And knowing when to let go of a goal and when to push on through the hard stuff is a big part of this lesson. But when it comes to promises I make myself: to get healthy, to finish my novel, to get my finances in order, these are promises that are important. They help shape who I am. They show my daughter what a healthy person looks like. But then, maybe the lesson here isn't health, wealth and happiness. Maybe the lesson is believing I can have those things because I am determined to keep going when making those things happen feels almost overwhelming. Perhaps self care is the real lesson I am learning and showing to my daughter.

So, for this novel? I am pushing through the difficult stuff. For this walking commitment I made to myself? I am pushing through the comfortable stuff to keep increasing my daily goals.

Good heavens, I'm 46 years old! If I don't figure out how to follow through on promises I make to myself, when I am going to learn the lesson that I am as valuable to myself as I think I am to other people? Walking, writing, those are things that mean something to me. Taking better care of myself. Pursuing something that I enjoy. No one ever has to read my novel for me to feel like I accomplished my goal of writing one. No one ever has to look at me and think I am attractive or think I am healthy. That being said, seems to me that perhaps, it is time I think those things about myself.