I got hit hard with the flu a few weeks ago. It came on suddenly after a series of intense emotional experiences which included landing a nine to five job after nearly a year of underemployment, making a deeper commitment with my lover, hosting my beloved spiritual teacher in my home, and embarking on a year-long Fate and Destiny project with my cherished Sacred Contracts Crew. Perhaps at some point the system must shut down to integrate so many monumental events.
During the past few weeks as these various events coincided, I have attempted to read Caroline Myss’ new book Defy Gravity. I say “attempted to read” because I have literally been arrested at the beginning of the second chapter. Illustrating the power of this book and these ideas, I been unable to move beyond the first major truth. It’s about forgiveness.
Myss makes the point that all healing begins with letting go of the need to know why things happen as they do. And that is forgiveness in its essence. It’s common in the new age to throw the term forgiveness around quite a bit, yet the concept begs a deeper look. I believe Myss gets it and I have examples in my own life as evidence.
I remember the precise moment her teachings reached me. In my early 30’s I had been struggling with the “why me” syndrome. Here I was, talented, beautiful, healthy, educated, even lucky, but I couldn’t seem to get my life together. Week after week I moaned and complained to my therapist about what an awful upbringing I’d had. Nobody loved me enough, nobody cared for me when I was a child, blah, blah, blah. I spent a fortune on one therapist, then another and finally a third, a Jungian dance therapist, very well known. Although she had come highly recommended, she refused to take me at first. Perhaps she’d been warned about my propensity to whine. I badgered her until she finally relented.
About nine months into our sessions I walked into her office, a curious, haunted, place. There on a shelf near the door was a huge book with the heavy title, “The Victim in Holocaust Germany.” I will never know whether she placed the book in my path or whether it was simply one of the major synchronicities of my life. Although I did not even open its cover, I may as well have been hit over the head with it. In that moment I saw perfectly clearly that my own attitudes of entitlement and victimhood were keeping me stuck. My pattern of blaming my alcoholic parents and chaotic upbringing for my problems kept me searching for the answers to my miserable existence.
My deeper path in my spiritual life began that day, a long quest to discover how I could forgive my family and myself and set us all free. I left therapy shortly thereafter and never returned.
They say that the teacher always arrives when the student is ready. I discovered Myss’ wonderful first book, “Why people don’t heal and how they can,” shortly after leaving therapy. In the book she explains that it is impossible to heal while one identifies as ill. This basic premise has remained consistent in all of Myss’ writing and it comes to full fruition in her latest book.
To stop identifying myself as the victim of bad relationships and events has changed my life profoundly. And to stop identifying myself as angry and hurt has healed my relationships.
In 1997 in the midst of continuing spiritual work, I picked up “Anatomy of the Spirit.” Using the exercises in the book I began working on forgiving others, including members of my family. I had been carrying one particular regret, a relationship that ended 10 years before, in another part of the country. At that time, I had befriended two women, Evelyn and Jenny. The three of us spent lots of time together, and during the summer Evelyn and I both got married within a month of one another. Jenny attended both and played a crucial role in my wedding, signing the marriage contract as a witness. Shortly afterward during a reunion of the three of us in Evelyn’s newlywed apartment, there was a terrible misunderstanding that left me angry at Jenny. Evelyn and I both severed contact with her.
I later moved to a new city, started a new life and a family, all the while remaining friends with Evelyn. Yet I regretted that I had cut off our friend Jenny. With my new found awareness about victimhood I realized that I had hurt myself and her over a perceived offense and now I wanted to know in my heart that I could return to a place of purity and love. I didn’t even know how to do it, and I figured I would never see her again. I was looking for peace in my own heart, a return to the innocent state before the regretted incident. I began to see my anger and resentment as a choice, and I was ready to choose peace.
I decided to journal about it. It was a lovely fall day and we went downtown on a family outing. My husband dropped me off at a pub near the art museum and left me to my journaling while he took our toddler to the park to play for an hour. I poured my heart into the journal, forgiving myself for cutting Jenny out of my life 10 years before. I recognized the choices I had made, the resentments I had held and I let go of trying to understand the situation or justify my part in it. I wrote until I felt complete and, at last, peaceful about the situation. My husband and son soon returned and we crossed the park to the art museum.
We entered the featured exhibit in the hushed building. My toddler, unable to keep his voice quiet, cried out, disturbing a group of art patrons. Distracted by our noise, a woman in a group of three turned to look at us and my jaw dropped in amazement. It was Jenny, the very friend I had been writing about. She approached me in complete shock. We embraced and I learned that she had been living in my city for several years. We chatted for a few minutes and parted ways, but we ran into her and her friends again twice that very day. I guess Spirit knows my willful character and orchestrated a message I would never forget! Not only that, the following month Jenny showed up in the same yoga class that I attended and we remained there together for the next several years. Although we never picked up our close friendship, we healed enough to be together every week.
Forgiveness has been my constant companion since that time. It is the most powerful force I know. What I now understand is that I have only to sincerely intend it and the task is complete. Anyone and anything, no matter how small or how large, how trivial or important, can be forgiven. The smallest resentments, when forgiven can yield the most leverage.
As I lie on my sick bed, Facebook and my cats for company, I’m weak and tired but I have the luxury of time. Someone comments on my post, an ex-boyfriend I haven’t seen in a while and I feel familiar unresolved resentments welling up. I’m not even aware that I’ve been carrying them around, but I drift in and out of sleep, praying to be released from my negative thoughts about how we parted. My prayer is simply this: may I be willing to let go of any anger I bear toward Richard. May I choose to let go of anger.
Richard calls the next evening for the first time in many months. He hears I’ve been sick. We converse like old friends. I hear caring in his words, I express love in my voice. Would I like him to bring homemade soup, he asks? Thanks so much for the kind offer, I say, but I believe I’ve got all the remedies I need.