I breathed in slowly. As I released it all out, I whispered those words that would set me free: "I forgive you. Please forgive me."
And I knew it was time.
It happened one day recently and what felt like out of the blue. When I get really honest with myself however, the truth is I could feel it bubbling up from deep within for a while. I long to feel free in my life, both figuratively and literally, emotionally and physically, and these feelings tied me down as if there were heavy, invisible metal chains wrapped around me holding me in place.
Earlier that day, as I sat in my Chinese/Ayurvedic Naturopathic Doctor's office (phew, that IS a mouthful) he asked me how I was doing. I starred back at him and took a long pause as I met his gaze, really thinking about the question he just asked. I wanted to speak honestly.
"So, how are you Amanda?" I asked myself.
Pause, ponder, silence, response.
I felt it regurgitating up my throat, passing through my lips. " I think I'm ready to finally forgive my ex-husband." I said, "I mean..." I paused feeling that familiar tightness in my throat that happens right before I start to cry. "...really forgive him." Just as right before you vomit is the most excruciating moment, once it's out you feel so much better.
Just saying those wordsI felt so much better.
Dr. Michael sat tall with his lean stature and perfectly pressed spine, his eyes never leaving mine. I'm not sure I have ever met someone with better posture or a more calming disposition. "Ok, well that's good. " Dr. Michael said in a matter of fact tone.
"Yeah." I said hesitating, looking down at my clasped hands, damp with little beads of sweat, something that has always happened when I talk openly about my feelings. "But here is the thing..." I said, "I'm really scared."
"Why are you scared?" he asked with no sign of judgment, just honest curiosity in his tone.
Again, I paused collecting my thoughts. "Because once I do, once I completely forgive him, I really have to let it all go, don't I? All of it. I mean, the pain, the hurt, the betrayal, the identity I've created from that experience...and most importantly, the suffering." I answered as tears started to well in my eyes. I looked out the window hoping that the view of the Pacific Ocean would keep them at bay.
"What is the suffering bringing you Amanda? Why would you want to keep that trapped in your body?" Dr. Michael asked.
I took a deep breath in and let it out slowly. "I guess the suffering is familiar. In a twisted way it's feels safe. I've known emotional suffering for a long time. Its been a second home. But it's just not doing anything for me anymore. I've growing tired of feeling sad. I'm tired of feeling angry and like I'm a victim. And more then anything, I'm tired of suffering. I'm so tired... of the silent suffering." I responded. "I just want to let it go and live in a space of happiness and peace."
"So forgive him" He said, "Forgive him and forgive yourself too."
Later that day as I sat at my kitchen table starring down at my phone I knew in my heart that in order to forgive I had to finally set that part of my life free. It was time. Really time. I have a new life, an amazing future and I can now only live in a space of moving forward.
Everything in me, even the scared parts that found comfort in the suffering were ready to let it go. No more "my ex did this to me" stories. No more anger over what I had lost despite my vast efforts to love and save someone who did everything to push those efforts away. It was over. Done. My heart was finally ready to move on and be happy.
I typed his phone number from memory into the little text box, one of the only numbers I know by heart. I took a deep breath and wrote out my message and hit send. The final chapter of this story.
"I forgive you. Truly and whole-heartedly, I forgive you. I hope you can forgive me too"
Other then to lift the last vail of darkness from my heart, I did so without any expectations in return. You can't fully forgive if you are doing so to get some kind of response from the other. There was no concern for whether or not he would respond. This was for me. This was to end my suffering.
And it was in that moment that the most incredible and interesting thing happened. The moment I hit send I felt those heavy, invisible metal chains break free and drop to the floor and I realized it was always me. I was always the only person who cu=ould break those chains.
It was always my choice.
I forgave him.
I forgave myself.
I am free.
let go of the suffering
One of the greatest things I have learned through all the experiences in my life that have brought about pain is that suffering has a lot to do with perspective and personal choice. I'd even go as far to say that suffering has everything to do with these two things. Grief, which isn't the same as suffering, is a natural part of healing from tragedy, from painful experiences. However, suffering, I believe, is something we choose.
Most of us have heard all of this before. The moment we can take an honest look at our own life and reflect on whether we are still grieving or if we are stuck in a state of personal suffering is a powerful moment and can provide a lot of clarity.
When I realized that I could actually change the stories I was replaying over and over in my mind, I saw that freedom from all the suffering was actually more attainable then I thought. Choosing to let the pain from our past go doesn't mean we will ever forget those experiences or people, we just don't allow ourselves to be victims anymore. It means that we recognize that we have way more power over the situation then we originally thought.
We have a limited amount of time here and to choose to stay in the suffering and let it influence our present and future happiness is a whole other tragedy in itself. Don't you agree?
Pain is a natural part of living. No one goes through life without experience varying levels of pain, both physically and emotionally. If we can get comfortable with this idea and accept it fully, we can work through it and eventually let go of the idea that we have to suffer past the initial grieving of the experience.
It's a practice mind you. It's not something that happens over night. I have to work on it daily. It involves staying in a state of consciousness, asking ourselves important questions and being very aware of our thoughts. It's staying present with our feelings, our emotions, our triggers, and getting very honest with ourselves.
In a world full of instant gratification and new shiny objects right around the corner, getting comfortable with pain and working your process to freedom is easy to avoid. Believe me when I say I understand this.
I use to avoid pain at all cost. I'd do anything to stuff it down and ignore it. I'd convince myself it didn't exist and go about my merry little way putting on a big fake smile and pretending I was happy. However, doing so was causing me more harm then good. Through my daily thoughts and action, how I treated others, what triggered me and sent me into moments of sadness and rage, it was clear that all of this was stemmed from what I wasn't allowing myself to feel. I didn't see any light nor did I believe there was a better way. I didn't believe that I could actually find the true happiness or that I deserved it.
But listen to me when I say this: YOU DO DESERVE TO BE HAPPY. We all do.
Honoring your pain in a way that allows you to experience it in an honest and genuine way grants you the permission to be human. Pain is a natural part of life as mentioned earlier. When you can breath through it and really feel it, knowing that you have the choice to stay or to let it go, you will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and I promise you, you will survive it and come out on the other end.
You can however, choose to stay there, swallowed in the sadness of the past and miss out of the sweetness that is life. It comes down to choice.
It may sound better to avoid and hide from the pain now but in the long run the pain turns into silent suffering which turns into a lifetime of unhappiness. Do you want to spend your life unhappy, consumed by sadness or can you accept what has happened and give yourself permission to let it all go and truly believe you deserve to be happy?
I think to really appreciate happiness we have to know what sadness and pain feels like. We have to have moments when we are so fucking sad we can barely get off the floor, drowning in a pool of our own tears. We have to feel the wounds and lesions that come from betrayal, the separation that comes from thinking that this is all there is. We have to know the dark to appreciate the light.
But feel it and set it free. Break those invisible chains and you too shall find freedom.
The choice is always yours.