This blog post was not easily forthcoming this week. Once I finished sharing most of my awakening backstory with you in previous posts, I wasn’t really sure which direction this blog would go. I just kind of launched myself, like a base jumper, out into the blogosphere before fear could talk me out of it. HA! But after the day I had at work today, I knew what I needed to write about.
Over the past 4 days or so, the topic of forgiveness has skipped across my path… on Facebook, in a favorite podcast, in a book I am reading, in a random conversation I eavesdropped at the coffee shop. (Oh come on… you’ve eavesdropped, too. How can we not? People are fascinating! And most of us are nosey.) At first, the idea of writing about forgiveness gave me a gaggy lump in the back of my throat. All I had learned about forgiveness was tainted by religion, (another holy task to be performed in hopes of making it into heaven), but after thinking about it for a while, I realized that I do know a little something about letting go, which is, essentially, the act of forgiving.
A few years ago I was reading a book about miracles happening in a Jesus Café in England. The author wrote that people would come into the café with all kinds of pains and problems, she would pray for them, and they would be healed… deaf hearing, lame walking, crooked bones straightening, cancers disappearing, that kind of stuff. During one of these encounters, a lady came in to be prayed for, but was not immediately healed. The author explained that most often if someone isn’t immediately healed, it is usually because they are carrying around a wounded, offended heart, and that offense has manifested as a physical ailment or disease. It wasn’t until the lady decided to forgive and release the bitterness in her heart that she was healed.
Long story short – the negative feelings you hold onto cause toxic, energetic sludge to clog up your soul, which eventually creeps into your body causing all kinds of dis-ease.
When I read this account, I wondered to myself if I had any hidden offense in my heart. I didn’t feel like I did, but I asked God to search my heart and show me if there was any bitterness lurking there. Immediately, I saw the face of an old friend flash across my mind’s eye. I felt the deep stab of the old wound as I remembered the event that crushed my vulnerable heart.
“Surely, I have let that go by now. It happened years ago.”
But the pain didn’t feel like it happened years ago. It still felt so fresh, so raw.
“Well… okay then… God, help my offended heart to let go of the pain, to forgive the insult, and to be free. Oh, and bless Cassy, where ever she is. Amen”
That was it. That’s all I prayed. I waited for a second or two, but there wasn’t any thunder, goosebumps, or an audible voice declaring that all was forgiven and I was free. (Well, there was a voice, but it was just my toddler yelling for me to make her a sandwich.)
Three nights later, I dreamed of Cassy. In this dream, our families were gathered together for a barbeque. We were laughing, sharing stories, and enjoying each other’s company. I felt so happy! I was happy to see that Cassy and her family were doing well. When I awakened from my dream the next morning, the happiness lingered. I felt so light in my heart. Even though I had only dreamed it, the new reality was that I felt genuinely happy to see that my old friend was blessed and happy. Even though I hadn’t spoken to this woman in several years, and the thought of her made my heart cry all over again, the new reality is that I felt SO MUCH LOVE for her. THAT, my friends, is forgiveness… THAT is letting go of the bitterness that robs you of joy and life.
I hear you saying, “Well it was so easy for you. You fell asleep and woke with a new perspective.”
Yes, that is how it worked this time, but today I learned I can intentionally let those negative feelings go the moment I become aware of them. Here is what happened at work today…
I work in the kitchen at my kids’ elementary school. I really enjoy it. (Surprisingly, since other people’s kids really aren’t my thing.) We serve 3 lunch cycles, and after each cycle, we have student helpers come in and wash dishes. Today, I was warned by my supervisor that this particular group of 4th grade girls was having trouble getting along together. I logged that piece of information away thinking that it probably wasn’t too serious. Oooh, how wrong I was.
One of these girls has the reputation of being a little mean-spirited, and naturally, she has made a few enemies. When she comes through my lunch line, I avoid making eye contact and hope she leaves quickly without any fuss. She makes me feel… anxious, I guess? Which is weird, right? Here I am, a grown-ass woman, afraid of a 4th grader.
Anyway. Here’s the drama… one girl was telling another girl a story about a party she had recently attended where Meany had apparently done something embarrassing, blah blah blah. Meany overheard the conversation and asked the Blabber not to share that story. Blabber was clearly enjoying the pain she was inflicting, so she told Meany she was going to say whatever she wanted. Meany headed to the corner and proceeded to cry and drip snot into the hand-washing sink. Blabber kept telling her story. I stood there, watching the whole thing, feeling TERRIFIED and seriously considering bailing out the back door to go hide in my car. But then I remembered that I’m a grown-up, (sigh), and my heart was feeling the injustice. Even though I REALLY didn’t want to, I spoke up… “Choose to be kind blah blah blah… Words have power blah blah blah… Do unto others blah blah blah…” Blabber and her pal left the kitchen, but Meany was still crying over the sink. I approached her and asked if she wanted to talk…
“Well, I know a way to make your heart feel a little better. Would you like to let go of this pain, at least for now, so you can finish out the school day lighter of heart?”
She turned her teary, snotty face toward me and very slightly nodded.
“What the hell do I know about helping kids manage soul pain? SHIT!”
But then I remembered that I’m a grown-up (sigh) AND a shaman-in-training AND I know how to breathe.
I asked Meany to place both of her hands on her heart, close her eyes, take a deep breath in, and let it out with a sigh. She looked at me weird, so I demonstrated. Once she knew what to do, she followed along. We took three breaths like this, and then I instructed her to breathe normally. I asked her to imagine her hurt feelings as a ball in her chest, swirling in her heart where she was feeling the most pain. Then I instructed her to take another deep breath in, and on the exhale, to imagine the ball being pushed out of her chest into her hands. There she was, imagining she was holding a ball of swirling emotions in her hands. I told her to picture herself dropping the ball on the ground, and watched her hands let go of the imaginary ball. I asked her how she was feeling. She opened her eyes and gave me the tiniest little smile. I knew she was feeling better… lighter. I gave her my own big smile and sent her to the bathroom to wash her face.
Lunch time ended, but I was still thinking about my encounter with these 4th grade girls. I felt thankful that SOMEHOW I was able to help Meany feel better, but I was still feeling anxious and upset… maybe even a little angry and incensed. Then I realized what was happening… I was reliving my own 4th grade year. Watching these girls interact with each other was like watching my own past “flash before my eyes.” My 4th grade year was the worst year of my elementary school life. Well, 2nd grade through 4th grade were pretty awful, but 4th grade was definitely the worst. My arch nemesis, Mac, made my life a living hell every day. My anxiety became so pronounced that my parents gave me daily doses of antacids to calm my stomach enough to send me to school and to sleep at night. I hated school. I spent most of my time during class imagining I was somewhere else, somewhere I was safe and nobody could find me.
I wasn’t always the victim, though. Sometimes my kid rage would boil over and I was the one inflicting the pain, but it didn’t make me feel better. It made me feel worse than I already felt. I was so angry about being picked on, and so angry with myself for not knowing how to control my own temper or ask for help. I don’t even remember what started this Capulet/Montague sized feud, but I was caught in the middle of it and I didn’t know how to escape. And to make things worse, the adults assigned to my care and education didn’t seem to care. “Jerks!”
After that year, my parents announced that we were switching schools, and I felt the most amazing relief. I was freeee until my 8th grade year when my arch nemesis walked through the classroom door. Dread. Anger. All those 4th grade emotions boiled to the surface. Eventually, Mac and I were able to set aside our differences, (I’m not sure either of us knows what caused our feud to begin with), and by the time we graduated from high school, we were friends. We remain friends to this day.
In the faces of those two 4th graders today, I saw my own face… the victim and the bully. I felt all the emotions boiling inside my heart, but this time I knew what to do with them. (My therapist would be so proud! She was… I texted her right after my shift ended. Haha!) I held my hands to my heart, closed my eyes, acknowledged my kid pain, breathed the ball into my hands, and then I threw that imaginary ball into the sun! I raised my hands and my face to the sky and imagined bright white light filling up my whole body. Every breath I took, I shone brighter and brighter. I breathed in love. I breathed in peace. I breathed in joy. I breathed in gratitude for the awareness to see an offense that I had buried and still held on to. Now, I am free! I can think about 4th grade and about my friend, Mac, without those angry feelings in my heart. I imagine giving my kid self a big hug and my heart explodes with such incredible love and ecstatic joy! THAT is how forgiveness feels.
So you see, I was totally setup… God, the Universe, Source, the Divine, Great Spirit… set me up by sending me messages about forgiveness for several days before I was given the opportunity to actively participate in the act of forgiving. I am so thankful that I possessed the awareness to see this moment for what it was… an opportunity to retrieve a piece of my soul. My heart is soaring!
Love and Light, my beloved friends!
P.S. I have to share a cool story with you all – Before my husband had ever known what my blog was called, or that I had found an old journal entry about wanting wings to fly and published it here, he bought me wings! I tried to take a selfie of me wearing the wings, buuut that was not working out well. (I could have sold tickets to that show.) So instead, I asked my lovely little dove to wear the wings in my photo. I’ve posted it to the top of this blog post.