When I forgive myself, I’m letting go of a certain kind of useless guilt – not the simple awareness of responsibility (that’s precisely what I’m accepting and acknowledging), but a self-regarding and sometimes self-dramatising guilt that leads nowhere in particular.
While I hang on to this guilt, I am subtly presenting myself as having done something that not even God can forgive it. Although this behaviour has all the external appearance of humility, it’s really a clever and externally pious way of making myself the centre of the universe – the only person in all creation who is beyond the reach of God.
where we are worn and tired
where we have turned hard hearted
where we feel hurt
and where we have wounded
And the joy and freedom
of your Holy Spirit
where we are the Prisoners of Ourselves
From Wild Goose Worship Group’s
A Wee Worship Book
You can change the world. Yes, YOU. The difference is always one. One person who chooses a different way, to act with integrity, to follow their heart and live their life and live their purpose. One person can change the world.
Nelson Mandela fought for freedom and respect for his people. That included violence in the early days, but prison changed him. Sometimes the things we think are are the end of the world are the doors to miracles. For he then chose understanding, to live and walk in peace, and to forgive; the game changer. He chose to talk and walk with respect for “the other”, to listen and really understand. He learned to walk to a different beat from many of his former colleagues, and in being true to himself, he changed many hearts, a country, a world for the better. He walked what he talked and he gave us all hope. He will always be one of my heroes. May he sleep well.
I believe in the power of words, and that certain books can change your life. I’ve learned that books call to me when I’m meant to read them, when I’m ready to sit with my journal and let the words inspire or teach me as I explore what happens next.
When Sonia Choquette’s book, “Grace, Gratitude and Gifts” attracted my attention, I could have dismissed it, as I’d tried to read another book by her but had ended up setting it aside. But I have learned to trust my intuition – and I’m glad it did, for man, did change happen, and here’s how!
1. Losses create space for the lessons your soul needs
The introduction explained how she wrote the books, through automatic writing. I ask God to bless my writing now, but this was a step beyond that – it was asking God to write through you. In my journaling classes and coaching, I sometimes suggest “stream of consciousness” writing, where you just put pen to paper and see what happens for a few minutes, without judging it at the time. It can be surprising what happens in three minutes. This, however, was a much more deliberate process – one that acknowledged and accepted outside help.
So for the first time ever, I did as she suggested – and asked my Spirit Guides and Angels to guide my writing, covering me in light and love as they did this. I had no idea what would happen when I started to write, and I didn’t expect to find it was the words that came were the story of the end of my first marriage.
A story that is all-ways my story in the same way all the other players have their story and version of events, but I can only tell my own story, with respect for theirs. The story poured out, but in a different way than I’d expected. It was still a story of three people in a marriage, invisibility, a dutiful wife on a lonely pedestal with lots of masks and lists of what not-to-do’s. A story of someone thinking they were living from the light but where all the light got snuffed out so all I saw was a tunnel with no light at the end, darkness. I was unseen, unheard, and unloved, a woman with no boundaries who was fenced in by her culture and beliefs but who found that a culture cannot box you in or stop your heart seeking love and appreciation, for it is love or fear that drives us almost anywhere. It was also a story of a darkness that was almost self-extinguished in despair, where hope could not be found and options could not be seen. It was a story that meant that appreciation was the spark that meant I’d lose my home, my job, my community, my church communities, and almost all of my friends – but as my youngest daughter said when I shared this all with her for the first time, it was a story where I had lost myself. It was a story that still defined me, as I was stuck there with the glues of regret and shame, guilt and anger, hurt and fear. But as I wrote, the story unexpectedly moved to the future – and I was grateful for losing all of these things as well as who I had been, because it created space for all that is so good in my life. I found that this gratitude and perspective gave me much peace.
2. Opening and Closing Doors
Yet that night, I couldn’t sleep. I wasn’t feeling well, but it wasn’t that – it was the really strong smell of faeces, like the toilet was blocked, and a feeling of overwhelm and heaviness. I was sure the others in the house could smell it, it was so strong, yet no-one commented on it, so I didn’t feel I could. When I’d put my head on the pillow, it was particularly strong, so sleep escaped me. At 2 a.m. in the morning, I googled it – and read that smells like this might suggest evil or negative spirits and at that point, this made perfect sense to me given how I was feeling.
So I prayed for protection and searched for an answer again, and found blessings/prayers to use to protect me and my family and house – and the smell disappeared and I slept. This happened again the next night, and I did the same and commanded whatever was there to go, as I was living in love and light and peace and joy and there was no space for it. I felt that in asking my spirit guides and angels to work through me, I had also opened an energetic door where things that were less than totally positive could enter. I needed to shut this door firmly, so I did.
3. A Profound Experience in Grace
The book is a series of daily readings, mantras, prayers and blessings. On my third morning, with my heart cracked open, I read this.
“I humbly ask you to bestow your all-empowering grace upon me this day so that I find the power to forgive those who have hurt or injured me in the past, even though I still feel the pain of their injuries to me. Allow me the grace to stop dwelling in the past, and to release all moments from my mind and emotions where I have perceived myself to be wronged and felt hurt, whether or not the events that passed were meant to personally assault me. I humbly ask for your holy grace to give me the ability to let bygones be bygones, and to free my mind permanently of any memory of wrongdoing, whether at my expense or caused by me. I ask for your holy grace to release me from all guilt or shame that is the result of my own wrongdoing or wrong thinking in the past, so that I may forgive myself fully and learn from my mistakes but not be held hostage by them.”
As I read on, I actually felt that prayer in every fibre of my body; it was a prayer from my heart. And amazingly, wonderfully, I found myself forgiving many of the key figure who had hurt me, and letting bygones be bygones. More than that, I found myself blessing them and asking that they would also all love, light, peace, happiness – and love. It was a profound experience in grace that I am still smiling at – and this too is my story. Namaste
All too often, the only thing that stands in our way and prevents us from living the life we want is ourselves. It’s what we do (or don’t do), and it’s about what we think. In fact, it is what we think that helps us sabotage our success or happiness, because thoughts always precede actions. I know all of this. I know how our beliefs limit our lives, meaning that we hold on to what no longer serves us, or we simply fail to live out loud, shine and be the blessing we are meant to be.
I really DO know this! And yet today a good friend shared this poem, and I loved it so much I’ve copied it to the blank front page of my journal. I knew I had left it blank for a reason.
And do you know why I loved it? Because I actually sat at the end of it and went, “wow!” This is how I want to define my life! Yet what I’ve actually been doing is exactly the opposite. In my head and heart, I have been defining it by my failures, my roadblocks and my disappointments. I have been focussing on where I went wrong with love instead of what went right – or IS right. I’ve mainly kept looking at my own pain, and the pain I caused others, and at what went wrong in my past when life was “mainly normal” instead of seeing that all of this IS normal. And it’s all amazing grace, and love and adventure.
May these words also make you see life in a different way. Be free.
I do not define myself by how many roadblocks have appeared in my path;
I define myself by the courage I’ve found to forge new roads.
I do not define myself by how many disappointments I’ve faced;
I define myself by the forgiveness and the faith I have found to begin again.
I do not define myself by how long a relationship lasted;
I define myself by how much I have loved, and been willing to love again.
I do not define myself by how many times I have been knocked down;
I define myself by how many times I have struggled to my feet.
I do not define myself by the number of mistakes I have made;
I define myself by the knowledge I have learned from trying a new way.
I am not my pain.
I am not my past.
I am that which has emerged from the fire.
I’ve just changed my Twitter handle to Dare To Be Happier, as I know that is the one message I want to share with people that would make a difference in the world. Over the past few weeks, as I looked forward to the next stage in my life, I realised that this anger and hurt is something that I can no longer hold on to if I am personally to Dare To Be Happier. And since I’m commited to teaching this, I must learn it fully myself..!
The adventure begins..and I’m calling it an adventure, because I know it’s really important to frame things in a positive way. Dealing with anger is something we all have to face, so we need to find ways to feel our emotions and express these appropriately, knowing when it may be appropriate to feel anger (against injustice for instance), and to feel our emotions instead of avoiding them. The Project Me 101/Nurturing was something I anticipated as being less than totally easy, as I knew it would involve a lot of change – now, on the other side of that, I see the blessings. So while part of me fears the work I have committed to do in at last dealing with anger, another part of me knows that it really IS time to let go of what no longer serves me – and I also now know that all will be well, because anger is simply stored somewhere if it’s not dealt with. That can be our mind and our bodies, and when that happens, it harms us when we probably thought it was protecting us.
Because under anger is fear – and when we are afraid, we want protection, from being ignored, hurt, silenced, being mute, rejection, of not being loved, perfect or good enough. On the other side of this is love, love for myself first, always. Last week, my friend Jane spoke about finding out she was her OWN rock, and I thought, wow! Imagine how you’d live if you thought you were own rock? And then I thought about how you’d live if you believed you were love and loved, because if you lived from such a place, there wouldn’t be that much room for anger, really… and you would dare to be happier.
And so I turned to my journal this morning, in my beautiful new office, with Wayne Dyer’s new I AM meditation CD in the background playing. Having listened to it yesterday for the first time, he said to decide what “I am” you wanted to focus on, and he gave some examples, one of which was perfect for me – “I am in possession of my perfect job.” I started with that, but towards the end, it just changed totally, and became I AM Love and forgiveness, which in itself seemed to appear out of nowhere, but then I know differently. If I start to meditate thinking that, I can’t help but being changed.
Love is the antidote for fear, and therefore of anger. Somehow I know this will be important on me to focus on, and I park that. I then start to read A Course in Miracles, but in the move to the office, I’ve lost my bookmarked space, so have to go back to the start of the chapter to find where I am again. Oh the lessons in the words we choose; to find where I am again?! I hadn’t noticed it was called “Lessons in Love,” and I think, wow – there’s that perfect timing thing again. And then I read the first few sentences – in a chapter called lessons in love, and this is what it says:
“The relationship of anger to attack is obvious, but the relationship of anger to fear is not always apparent. Anger always involves projection of separation, which must ultimately be accepted as one’s own responsibility, rather than being blamed on others. Anger cannot occur unless you believe that you have been attacked, that your attack is justified in return, and that you are in no way responsible for it.”
Wow again. Anger and fear, anger and fear and separation, our willingness to take responsibility and not blame – and the idea of attack being justified (even if the attack is on ourselves). Prolonged anger harms us physiologically, with hormones and adrenalin activated, and it harms us pyschologically, as the fear behind it stops us living the life we want to live, in case “it” happens again – or doesn’t happen again, against our ego’s fears that we are not good enough, or that we will not be safe, or be strong. The sooner we let it go, the sooner we let the past go, the sooner we are living the life we want. This really IS Daring To Be Happier.. and yes, I dare.
Erma Bombeck’s “If I had my life over” are about living life in the present, and about doing what you really want to do instead of what you feel others expect you to do, or what you feel you have to do. They are struck such a chord because she realised once it was too late that life is short and your time should be spent on what makes your heart smile and on the people you love. I hope she lived the rest of her life on the back of the wisdom she gained through perspective, and was gentle on herself too, because we do the best we can with the resources we have at any given time.
Isn’t it good, though, to be reminded that life is about love, fun, living life large and joy in little things? If you had your life to live over, what would you do differently? Spend some time writing about that in your journal. Forgive yourself for mistakes you made knowing they got you to where you are now; forgive others for things they did knowing they got you to where you are now. Wasting another second on bitterness or regret is wasting a precious second you won’t get again, so turn your face towards tomorrow. Know that NOW is where tomorrow starts, and NOW you can make the choices that are going to serve you best and allow you to live life the way you want to live. Now you know what advice you would give your younger self, what parts of that are things you still want to do or live by. Figure that out, and then just do it. Do it!
Wisdom is all around you. I asked some friends what they would say to their younger self, if they could live their life over, and I love these replies:
Karen Spohr works as an employment law consultant for a major blue chip organisation, and said, “Do with your life what YOU want rather than what you think will give you more kudos from friends, partners, and family members……….”
Marcia Christian is a teacher and counsellor and said, “Care more about how God feels about you than others do, in other words, live knowing that you are the apple of His eye and so invest in this relationship above all others. Life is an adventure with Him. It’s a good exercise, making me feel incredibly blessed by my heavenly Father, doting on me…but I didn’t really realize then and am only beginning to do so now!”
Liz Farrell is also an employment law consultant and sits on employment tribunals. Her sister had a very sudden stroke while still a relatively young woman, and she says, “Value your relationships, they are not guaranteed – family and friends will not always be around – so don’t regret how you treat them now.”
Linzi Paton works for UPS and has survived a very difficult childhood. She says, “I would say to be more aware of people and their behaviours; how, if you let them they can offer you a multitude of experience and support or they can suck your energy dry. Listen to their points of views about relationships, jobs, travelling etc but do not ever let them control your decision. Once you have made a decision, they are not the ones that will either reap the reward from it nor are they the ones that suffer from that feeling when you have made the wrong ones. You control your own destiny – believe in your self and enjoy what the world has to offer.”
Madaline Alexander is a Service Manager with a Cancer charity, and a specialist in hypnotherapy for parents and babies. She says, “Don’t ever think that you are too old to do ANYTHING – no matter how old you get, you will always look at people who are younger than you and think “they are still so young”. ……So long as you are fit enough, just do it and enjoy every minute of it! That way you will always think you are young. Enjoy life!”
Kerry O’Connor is currently on a career break helping with a charity in Africa. She says, “Fate definitely steps in sometimes so remember even big mistakes can lead you on to something else valuable that you wouldn’t otherwise have found, i.e. by taking the perfect path, and you’ll be a better person to know for it in the end (even if it may really suck in the short term!). And it sounds like a cliché but enjoy your parents while you live at home (or they are around helping you get to university, organise your first car or flat or acting as you’re PA whilst you are overseas!) – I guarantee that whatever kind of relationship you have or however many fights, you’ll always miss them throughout any part of your life that they are not around & might regret losing patience with them when they were as you reach the same life stages & choices that they did – you will be very lucky to find others in your life who are anywhere near so unconditionally committed to your happiness so let them know you appreciate it once in a while. Don’t wish away time rushing through achievements just ticking boxes – enjoy the journey (e.g. poor student years but your time is largely your own) – you’ll realise there are years & years ahead to enjoy being sorted/responsible so make sure you have sampled every place, taste and experience you can possibly fit in before you even think about settling down – time speeds up more than you expect the more adult years you get under your belt & the ‘to do before I’m 30′ list should be long enough that you have to start now to get though it all – being 30 (or knowing that is your next milestone!) will still be scary but at least you will have loads of fantastic friends & memories to cushion the blow.”
Alison Lawson is a freelance business consultant, and says, “Now, the present, is all we have, so use it wisely. Fill it full of things and people you enjoy. Love and honour every moment and do not waste a second of that time on people who chose not to love and honour it with you. Never look back. Love and care for yourself – in doing this you will give those around you permission to do the same. Suit yourself more than you suit others. Don’t compare yourself to anyone else they are more screwed up than you think. Travel extensively and take the time to enjoy the journey. Slow down, take your time and savour every moment.”
Rosie Toner works in the arena of sexual health and says, “’Never give up – follow your dreams’ ‘develop your intuition, it will service you well, ‘trust yourself’ ‘laugh a lot’ ‘play safe and insist he wears condoms! If I was to choose one I am afraid it would have to be ‘play safe and insist he wears condoms- to keep all avenues covered so to speak!”
Mary McPherson, founder of The Relaxation Company says, “you can only do whatever makes you feel good – listen to the voice inside which gives you that feeling and went on to say.”
And perhaps my favourite comes from Jane Talbot of Humans Resourced. She says, “”As you live recklessly and freely now…do it forever. As you love now…freely and with abandon..love like this forever.. As you feel alive now..feel like this forever…”
If you had your life to live over, what wisdom would you pass on?