I find myself sitting here at the close of the year feeling a little more empty than I expected. It’s not an entirely unpleasant feeling. I know part of that was losing my orange cat-buddy, Colin, very suddenly in mid-October. Part of it is that I physically downsized my personal belongings a lot over the last year. But the biggest part of that emptiness is the space left open from the old fears and emotional weight I’ve decided to (finally) let go.
Letting go has been challenging for me for – well, forever.
I’m a double Virgo (control freak) so the fact that I couldn’t just grasp the concept and immediately move on drove me nuts. That is why I’ve been working on this concept, in particular, this past year.
I identified the issue because I found myself sounding like a broken record.
Me: This thing is bothering me
Therapist/Friends/Hairdresser: That’s the same issue that keeps coming up
Me: Yea it is
Them: Is it helping you?
M: No. I don’t think so. I hate it when it shows up
T: Maybe it’s time to let it go
M: How do I let it go?
T: (various advice that does not resonate with me)
I would lose my mind. How? HOW? Just tell me how to do it so I can do it. Dude. Virgo. I need specific step-by-step instructions. But no one seemed willing to do that for me.
I was hoping “letting go” would just happen if I left it alone long enough. Nope.
Maybe if I get angry at it. Nope.
Maybe if I try to “let go” that I can’t “let go”. Nope.
So after gads of frustration, this past year I decided to research it and put together a step by step list of my very own. Here it is.
1. Change Your language.
News flash – “letting go” is actually forgiveness. Yeah – that surprised me too. Mind. Blown. So step one is calling it what it is. You don’t need to “let go” of the thing – you need to FORGIVE the thing. Accuracy is everything.
2. Forgive does not mean condoning.
I discovered in my research that I was not alone in thinking that forgiving something meant you were saying what happened was okay.
In my past attempts of forgiving I would picture the bad guy in my head saying “I’m sorry” and I would respond in the standard causal way, “it’s okay”. Immediately I felt myself bristle and dig in my heels. I tried the same exercise changing my response to simply “I forgive you” – but no difference.
I had to change my perception of what forgiveness IS and what forgiveness IS NOT to finally see the light.
Forgiveness is consciously changing how you feel about a person or situation that negatively impacted you. (e.g. I was angry, I am choosing not to be angry anymore.)
Forgiveness is NOT condoning the situation or another person’s behavior. It is not saying what happened was okay. What happened was not okay.
This was a game-changer for me.
3. I Am Not My Trauma
I admit – this one was one of those huge “OH” moments for me that also kinda made me feel like a dummy because it’s so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.
Step two lead directly into step three for me:
“What happened is not okay and it also does not define me.”
Sometimes I throw a solid “therefore” in the mix (who doesn’t love sounding fancy):
“What happened was not okay THEREFORE it does not define me.”
Just saying that out loud instantly made me feel differently.
If it doesn’t define me, why the hell am I wasting my energy carrying it around?
If you are researching forgiveness it’s fairly easy to come across this ancient Hawai’ian practice. It is a four-line mantra:
I love you
Please forgive me
How I have it written above is the traditional order, but the joy of this mantra is that you can put the lines in any order at all.
Please forgive me
I love you
If you research this mantra you will come across words like “magical” and “life-changing”. I was skeptical. It seemed WAY too easy. But a positive mantra can’t hurt you so I gave it a whirl.
Sometimes when I said it I was picturing a specific person. Sometimes I just let it run in my head directed at no one at all while I was folding laundry or washing dishes.
What immediately changed my perspective was the line “Please forgive me”. I’m once again picturing the bad guy in my head – why am I asking them for forgiveness? I’m the victim here. Right? RIGHT??
Yes, and also only sort of. I did need forgiveness. A LOT of it. I needed forgiveness from myself. Until I started using ho’oponopono I hadn’t realized how much I had been beating myself up. I blamed myself for ending up in that situation, to begin with. I blamed myself for being duped. I was calling myself bad names. I was telling myself that after making mistakes that sizeable I didn’t deserve to be happy ever again. And I wasn’t even aware I was doing it.
I love you
Please forgive me
Most days that is now me talking to me. And it is magical. And it is definitely life-changing.
5. Allow the Change to Happen
Hanging on to a bit of rage and some wounds makes you feel kinda badass. You’re tough. Gritty. Ready for a fight – Come at me, bro.
Being a professional rock musician those are not necessarily bad qualities. Except that in my case they were blatantly holding me back and exhausting me on the daily.
Applying steps 1-4 I noticed a change pretty quickly. I was lighter. Happier. I could focus more. I laughed easier.
Holy crap I’m changing against my will. Virgo says no.
Enter the mini existential crisis:
1. Panic sets in – I don’t know who I am without this (badass) dark past. I will lose my edge. I won’t be able to write.
2. Clinging to familiarity – Maybe don’t forgive after all. They deserve some hate.
3. Regression into bad habits – Up all night. Overeating. Cigarettes. Booze. (didn’t we stop doing this ages ago? what the hell are you doing, girl?)
I needed a workaround for this. I cannot go through this bull every time I forgive an old wound. There are too many of them.
Being a creative person I decided after some trial-and-error to apply curiosity to this problem.
Instead of: “I don’t know who I am! AHHHHH!”
I apply curiosity: “I wonder who I am without this?” “I want to see who I am without this”
And holy crow – it worked. I suddenly felt joy around forgiving instead of blind terror.
As ridiculous as it sounds, I had to give myself permission to feel good. I had to tell myself that feeling good IS good. It is okay to not wallow in resentment. It is okay to move on. It’s okay to just be happy for the sake of being happy. It’s okay to see what’s on the other side.
So this is me today – at the close of the year. A little wiser, a little happier, and carrying a little less baggage with me.
I’m still very angry about Colin’s death (i may write about it in another blog) but I’m now of a better understanding that the fire will burn out in its own time and then I know how to forgive and let it go.
Happiest of New Years to you all – see you in 2019!