Tomorrow will be one year since I packed my truck and moved away from my family.
I still feel pain when I think about that day. Although the pain is remote, lingering in the background, it’s still there.
A year ago, I felt crippled. The pain circulated through every cell in my body. Emotionally, I felt as if I was in a tornado, spinning around and around. No matter how hard I tried, I could not stop the feeling that I was spiraling out of control. Two months later I kept complaining to Rafiki, I needed to stop the physical pain I felt in my body!
I felt alone. I felt insane. I couldn’t purge the feelings that radiated through me.
My abandonment wound was triggered and I couldn’t stop the bleeding. In fact, keeping with that analogy, instead of putting pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding, I kept cutting myself in other parts of my body. I felt as if I was going to die.
A Year Later
I can look back and see where I was a year ago. I can still feel the remaining residue of those emotions. And if I put my energy into the “what was”, my memory can start to relive the physical and emotional experiences I had that day.
And yet, I’ve learned how to manage those thoughts. I can ground myself. I can come back to center.
Of course, lately I’ve been getting knocked off center a lot faster than I had been. It’s that time of year where the triggers start to ramp up. I know it’s the same for my ex. And, for some reason, I sense that my ex and her male friend are getting closer. Is it my imagination or is it intuition? I have no idea.
What I notice is I still harbor the anger. I still harbor the hurt. I still blame.
I still can’t let go of her decisions.
I keep recreating my childhood trauma of trying to “prove” that I have changed. I still hold on to the belief that “if only” she could forgive me for what I did and “if only” she could see who I’m becoming, then we’d be able to reconcile our marriage.
That damn “if only!” It has us looking for answers outside ourselves.
If only thinking has us looking for answers outside ourselves. Click To Tweet
We end up trying to change how other people behave, so we can feel better about our own lives.
Rafiki pointed out the other day that I needed to Take the Beef Off the Grill.
He told me to forgive my ex for her decision to divorce.
I need to forgive that I had to move out of the house.
I need to forgive myself for the consequences of my actions.
And I need to let go of the anger and hurt I feel about the thought of being replaced. Especially the image I have trouble erasing from my mind the day I moved out of my home.
It doesn’t matter if my ex never acknowledges that I have changed. It doesn’t matter if my ex never forgives me for what I did.
I need forgiveness for me.
It’s something I need to do so I stop strangling myself. If I hold on to the resentment, I will prevent myself from truly feeling joy. That will prevent my daughters from experiencing it too.
For me to truly find peace, I need to forgive my ex for her decisions. In doing so, I can finally let her go and find happiness in my life.
But how do I do that?
Struggling with Forgiveness
I think many people struggle to forgive. I’m not alone.
Do we struggle for control? I mean, if someone is angry at someone else, then they can control the relationship; with expectations, justifications, and rationalizations that the other person must act a certain way to earn acceptance, while at the same time always holding that person’s wrongs over their head.
I know I’ve done that. I admit my wrongs and I’m quick to recognize that the reason for divorce was due to choices I made and consequences for those actions. However, I always come back to how I was victimized and the pain that was inflicted upon me because of my ex’s decisions.
Each time focus on my pain and how I was unfairly treated, I diminish what I put her through.
I believe not forgiving causes us to stay locked in the past. And when we’re fastened to the past, we allow that past to define who we are today and who we will be in the future.
When we don't forgive and stay stuck in the past, we allow the past to define who we are today. Click To Tweet
Who we are today is a glimpse of who we will be in the future. Click To Tweet
I’ve heard that forgiveness is not forgetting. You don’t letting someone off the hook when you forgive. It’s not expecting them to change so that you feel better.
Forgiveness is finding peace within ourselves.
I need to forgive to further my search for peace.
Two days ago, Rafiki told me to pray. I have prayed off and on through my recovery. But daily? Twice daily? And to God? Holy cow. That seems like an unattainable new habit for me.
“I can’t do this Rafiki,” I sigh.
“Phoenix, that’s what you said about meditation, stopping the physical pain that flowed through you, and your daily recovery routine,” Rafiki reminds me. “Pretty much any time you need to change, you fight it.”
I try to explain, “In the past when I’ve prayed, it’s always been because I wanted something. God, please help me get a better job so I can be home more. God, please help me come up with a way to pay down my debt. God, show my ex how much work I’ve done. God, bring my ex back to me. I really don’t know how to pray any other way,” I complain.
“Those prayers are “if only” prayers. And since you’re expecting God to do something for you, they will always remain unanswerable.”
“But how do I pray daily?” I ask Rafiki.
Rafiki answers the question with a question. I swear, sometimes he sounds like Jesus. “Have you heard the prayer story about Oprah Winfrey?”
“No, I haven’t,” I reply.
I look online and find this:
-Marianne Williamson on Forgiveness
with Oprah Winfrey
Marianne Williamson quotes:
- “Here’s your homework: pray for that person’s happiness for 30 days.”
- “The greatest way to change the world is the power to change your mind about the world.”
- “All minds are joined. If I pray for your happiness, either two things will happen. Either you will behave differently or I won’t care.”
- “It’s much easier to bless someone, than to blame them.”
- “The Principle of Divine Compensation: If my heart is closed, I won’t be able to receive the miraculous new possibility that the universe is bringing…It’s like a file in a computer. If my heart is not open, I don’t download the possibility.”
If my heart is closed, I won't be able to receive miraculous new possibilities from the universe. Click To Tweet
“That’s pretty powerful stuff Rafiki.” I hesitate. “Like Oprah said, at the beginning praying for someone who you feel has harmed you is really, really hard. How do I do that?”
“Just start it and do it. You don’t have to do it right. You don’t have to know what to say. God will understand. How do you feel when your girls start anything new? Like when they went to school for the first time? How about when your girls first learned to walk? My guess is that you felt joy for them because they were trying. You were there to support them. When they fell, you were quick to catch them. If they got hurt, you nurtured them. That’s how God feels towards you when you pray. Regardless of how you do it, he’s just happy that you are.”
“Ok, that sounds doable,” I finally agree.
“Remember, you’re not doing this to get something from him. You’re doing this to find peace. Just like recovery, just like your blogging, you need to trust the process.”
My First Prayer
Yesterday morning I was up early. I needed to get my bills paid and in order before I went back to work. Less than 24 hours at home, trying to get everything done that normally gets done in a week, while also trying to connect with my girls for the limited time we had together, sometimes seems like an impossible task.
I sat down to do my work. Then the tiger LEAPED!
But I was ready. I felt him behind me. I stepped to the right and he flew right by. With my new staff in hand, I stood my ground to protect myself.
The tiger crouched, circling me. I spun my staff as I had learned from Rafiki. You know, just like he took out the hyenas helping Simba reclaim his title as King. I slammed the staff on the ground in front of me glaring at the tiger.
“Come on!” I challenged
The tiger’s tail swished back and forth. Then with a turn and a spring, the tiger disappeared.
I know I hadn’t scared him. He wanted easy prey, not a fight. He’ll wait until I’m once again unprepared for his attack.
I walked over to the couch. I sat down on my knees placing my elbows on the cushion. I prayed.
“Dear father, please give me the strength to learn how to forgive my ex. Please help me learn to love her as she deserves to be loved. With no judgement for her decisions. With no blame towards her for my own pain. Help me learn to understand what my addiction did to her without putting myself and my aches before hers. Help me have compassion and empathy for the recovery process that she needs to go through to heal from my indiscretions.”
I paused. My hands shook. My gut tightened in fear. The tears started to flow down my face. I took a deep breath.
“Father, I pray for her male friend. Please help me find peace in their friendship, whatever that may be, now or how it could end up being someday. I pray that she’s happy and that he doesn’t hurt her. I pray that I can stop obsessing about being replaced. I need your help to let me find peace with that friendship, that relationship.” The tears became a flood. “Father, I need you. I don’t know who to turn to. I don’t know what else to do. I have come so far, but I’m stuck. Can I lean on you? Jesus, will you come and hold me. I need a father now.”
I let the crying slowly subside. I took a deep breath and climbed up on the couch. I started to tap. Karate chop both hands…
“Even though I feel replaced, I completely love and accept myself. Even though I feel as if my ex’s friendship with her friend is more important than the one we used to have, I completely love and accept myself…”
I continued to tap. I tapped for 7 minutes.
Then I meditated. An Oprah and Deepak guided meditation about Creating Peace from the Inside Out.
As my meditation ended I had a miraculous experience. I quickly called Rafiki.
A Spiritual Event
“Rafiki, I just had the strangest and most cool thing just happen to me.”
“Awesome. Tell me about it.”
“I was following your advice about praying to help me learn to forgive. I had no idea what I was doing. I just prayed to be able to let go. I prayed for my ex and her friend. As I was doing this I started to cry. I was so emotional. It wasn’t like before though. It wasn’t like I was in pain and hurting. It was like, I was being vulnerable and felt for the first time that I was being heard. I felt safe. Anyway, I asked God to hold me, for me to be able to lean on him. I felt weak and I knew I needed support.”
“That’s amazing Phoenix!” Rafiki’s voice beamed over the phone. “When you say you’re going to do something, you put your all into it.”
“That’s not the weird experience though.”
“Oh, ok. Continue,” Rafiki urged.
“Well, I tapped on the fear and pain I had. Then I meditated. Three quarters of the way through my meditation, my mind started going off on tangents. It always does that. Things that need to get done, people I need to call, stuff I want to write about. I kept using the mantra to stop my mind and bring it back to ground. Then I kept going back to my ex, and our relationship, and her relationship with her friend. At one point, I thought about Jill Bolte Taylor’s jump to the right hemisphere. You know, after 90 seconds it’s a choice to remain in an emotion?”
“You remember.” Rafiki sounds impressed. “I’m glad things are sinking in for you.”
“They are!” I respond excitedly. Then I continued, “At some point I went into this sort of trance like state. It felt as if a part of me materialized away from my body and I was lying face down on the floor. It was my inner child. Little Phoenix. He was probably 8 or 9 years old. He wasn’t in complete focus, blurry. His forehead was on his crossed arms and he was crying. Uncontrollably. Sobbing. Alone.
“Then I saw a large hand come down. It was my left arm. My adult reaching out to my inner child. This was clear, in focus. It was like a movie where the camera shot is focused on the near object and the far object is fuzzy. I laid my hand on my child’s shoulder, grabbed him gently, and held it there. I let my child know I was there for him. That he was loved and I was there to comfort him.”
I stopped. My voice got lodged in my throat. I found it hard to speak. I found it hard to admit what happened next. “Go on,” Rafiki urged.
“Rafiki, I can’t explain it. When I came out of the meditation I realized that the hand I saw was not mine. The hand was larger than mine, thicker fingers and much rougher. It looked stronger than my hands. My thought was that it looked like a hand that had done a lot of woodwork. Like a carpenter’s hand.” I took a breath. The tears start to puddle around my eyes. “It wasn’t my adult holding my inner child.”
I stumble with my words. Am I really going to admit this? To admit this means I risk judgement. I’ve had so much judgement in my past. I am done with that! And yet, it seems so real, so true, so right.
I take the risk.
“Rafiki, God was holding onto me. He let me know he heard me and he had my back. When I had that thought that it wasn’t me, but God, I felt this rush of warmth flow through my body. I still had the other emotions, but I felt this overwhelming sense of being loved. That it was ok to let my other emotions just BE. I was safe. I was secure. I was valued. I was finally enough.”
“Phoenix, you’ve started a crack in that wall that has blocked you from truly loving yourself, God, and your former spouse. Keep up the work and your wall will eventually come tumbling down.”
I get off the phone and open an email from DivorceCare. This was Day 298 of my daily emails. Wow! I’m almost a couple of months shy of receiving these for one year.
Here’s some of what was written:
“Forgiveness is getting your heart right with God…When you forgive, it seems like you’re taking that person off the hook. But what you’re really doing is taking him or her off your hook and allowing God to put that person on His hook. As long as you have that person on your hook, you block God from that person and you also block God from you.”
“Your job is to be right with God, and not seek vengeance or retribution, or hold on to blame. You must let go of that person’s wrongdoing so you can be right with the Lord.”
“Holy God, I’m holding on too tightly to things that are only hurting me. Forgive me for blocking Your work and Your healing in the life of my former spouse and in me. Amen.”
I have just taken a baby step to learn to forgive my former spouse.
Stephen Curtis Chapman