Have you ever done something you can’t forgive yourself for? Has anyone ever done something to you that you cannot forgive them for? I’m not sure which is more difficult, but I’d have to bet that forgiving yourself, truly, is almost always the more formidable task. Which is where my mind is tonight.
I’m taking a writing class and our first assignment inadvertently redirected my gaze toward a particular time in my history, but this time, with a different perspective. I’m not one for regret, but there are about six months in my personal past that I sometimes wish I could erase, or reframe, or simply change altogether. Someone close to me asked what the point was–it happened, why dwell on changing it when it’s completely and totally impossible?
Because, it’s completely and totally unpleasant, infuriating, and worst of all, disorienting. For someone who trusted her inner voice, heart, intuition, gut, whatever-you-want-to-call-it, quite audaciously since a young age, having an experience when that voice was wrong, or perhaps misheard or even somehow silenced, is almost mind-boggling. No, I take that back, it IS mind-boggling. I can say that with certainty–my mind has been pretty-much-almost-always-totally-boggled since the summer of 2010.
Now, when I have feelings, intuitions, or insights that aren’t necessarily prove-able or bound to hard evidence, I have a serious time trusting them, whether they feel right, wrong, bad or good. I used to rather carelessly trust that I knew (as far as personal choices and values went) what was right and what was wrong. At present, I question almost everything. Where I was once easy-going, I’m now suspicious and neurotic. Where I was once trusting, I’m now on a hunt for evidence and concrete proof. Where I was once certain, I’m now questioning. Where I used to be only occasionally anxious, it’s now a state I experience frequently. I’m now flailing desperately, gasping for air and hoping for adequate rest. And soon, please!
How did I get here? How does anyone? How much of this weight is tied to the fact that I made a series of rather colossal mistakes? How much of this weight is tied to still being angry at myself for doing so? And, perhaps most pivotally, how much of this weight–these awful, irrational behaviors–are tied to the fact that I had no idea I was making those mistakes? I realized the (potentially) most terrifying thing while writing an essay for our class’s first homework assignment: that I was pretending and I had no idea I was pretending. I was lying to myself and didn’t know I was lying. In short: my behavior and mentality was rather delusional.
You could chalk it up to the fact that when all of this happened, I had been living abroad for over a year and had begun to experience a mild identity crisis as a result. You could also point out the fact that I was younger, more naive, or even that I was dating someone who was quite manipulative. You could say that I was in a really tough situation–falling in love with someone I knew I’d have to lose (I couldn’t live in Ecuador forever). You could point out the fact that I was pretty much alone down there, and thus more dependent. You could also remind me that it’s normal to make mistakes in love, that we all get blindsided once in a while.
But not ME. No way! How does Katie Duane, the queen of reading into others, make such a massive error in judgment!? How could I love someone that was so wrong for me? How could I pretend and not even know it!? Maybe I’m not so great at reading others after all, or maybe love makes me crazy, or maybe I’m just clueless altogether. Whatever the cause, I’ve lost trust in my feelings, my heart, and my intuition. I want proof and sound explanations for everything. Now that I know that I have been, and can be, wrong, it seems almost impossible to know when I’m right, unless there is adequate evidence. The result is, at times, erratic and unfair behavior. The result is excessive questioning, doubt, and mistrust not only in myself, but in other people and ideas as well. Oh, and let’s not forget the best result of all: completely delusional theorizing and speculation. If you want to hear some truly wacky ideas, give me a call.
In reality–I guess it was always coming to this. I’ve always been a worrier, and predisposed to obsessions and anxieties. How could it not, one day, carry over into my every-day life? What used to be a cyclical experience of momentary neuroticism has now become an almost daily ordeal. Which is another thing I am having trouble forgiving myself for: how can I be so foolish to say some of the things I say and do some of the things I do? What is wrong with me!? How could you say that to her? How could you do that to him? BE BETTER, KATIE!! Is what that little voice inside is saying these days. I guess this is what happens when you let any problem go untreated… I should have perhaps addressed this obsessive behavior years ago… but I didn’t. And now I’m here. I could be wrong, but, I think an excessively critical inner voice only exacerbates the problem.
The cure then is first, acceptance. I, like everyone else, can be wrong. And that’s OKAY. I couldn’t have gone my entire life without making poor judgements at some point. Second–I need to employ some patience; even when I used to trust my gut and my heart without fail, I always gave it time, I wasn’t hurried in trying to figure out what it was telling me. Gut instincts can not be proven by excessive questioning, nor doubt; only time will tell. Waiting patiently isn’t easy when you’ve lost trust in yourself, but it’s the only real option. Last, I need some compassion. It’s time to stop hating myself for making the mistakes I made. This is my little recipe for forgiveness… I think it’s different for each of us, and for every unique mistake.
So, whatever it is that you might have done that you’re still angry or confused about…ask yourself what it is that you need in order to begin the process of forgiving. I can’t be sure what it is that will create your forgiveness concoction, but I can bet it begins with some form of acceptance. We aren’t perfect, we do and say things we should not, and we all make (sometimes colossal) mistakes. But the best part is… they’re all forgivable.
Happy weekend 🙂
[Art work above by Aitch.]