I’ve made so many excuses as to why I can’t write this post tonight that I thought I would list some of them for you:
1) I’m not done Christmas shopping, I should be Christmas shopping!
2) My shoulder hurts, I can’t type.
3) I need to give myself a gel manicure.
4) I should start reading my new astrology book from Costco!
5) I definitely have IcyHot in my eye.
And while all of the above are true (especially the IcyHot, ugh! Rookie move.) it’s all bullshit. I know very well that I am capable of sitting down and writing this post, and I’ve set aside time to do so - but it’s hard. It’s exactly how I feel about working on forgiveness itself. The actual ACT of forgiveness is hard for me. Gratitude, no problem! I feel like everybody makes such a big deal about gratitude and how good it is for your spirit but for me it’s EASY. I am very quick to recognize the ways that I am lucky and the people that I am grateful for, big and small. While there were certainly times that I was ungrateful (HELLO asshole teenage self!) I feel that gratitude comes naturally to me, not to brag.
But forgiveness, whoa. Things others have said and done that have caused me pain calcify inside me and become part of my body. They become the random headache or stomach ache. They are the bitterness in my blood.
We don’t even realize that we’ve been holding on to this stuff, all of this pain, because maybe you don’t think about it all the time (Not me! I used to think about it ALL the time!) but it’s still in your subconscious or has shaped some story in your life that you’ve been carrying around. Maybe you have trouble trusting in relationships, or being vulnerable with your friends or your partner. There are people in our lives that we see everyday who we haven’t truly forgiven for something they might have done to hurt us, and that can and does hold us back from experiencing that relationship to the fullest.
When I listened to Jen Sincero’s amazing book for the first time, her chapter on forgiveness stuck me like a bolt of lightning. I still remember exactly where I was driving when I had to pull over and SOBBED about how much pain and anger I was harboring (to be fair to myself I was very pregnant at the time and regularly sobbing in my car) that I didn’t realize.
“Forgiveness is all about taking care of you, not the person you need to forgive. It’s about putting your desire to feel good about your desire to be right. It’s about taking responsibility for your own happiness”. Thanks, Jen.
I had never and I mean, NEVER thought of it that way before. Totally blew my mind.
I listened to that chapter OVER and OVER and OVER and I was all “Okay okay I get it…forgive…BUT HOW?” I’m a very literal person. I need a checklist or a Youtube video or something to guide me EXACTLY how it needs to be done.
But how do I sit while I’m forgiving?! What should I wear!? I’M CONFUSED.
Let me help! I have a forgiveness ritual that I would love to walk you through. It’s changed my life and I really truly mean that. I am a very hyperbolic speaker, I realize, and I have already said that a lot of things can change your life in my very young blog. However, if there was only one thing I could communicate, one thing I could teach, one post I could write, it would be this. Before you close your browser because this is getting entirely too weird for you - hear me out. What have you got to lose by giving this a try?
Now fast forward 3 years after the pregnant-sobbing-in-the-car incident. I had been reading a lot of woo-woo self-helpy stuff and slapped together a little forgiveness practice. I’m going to be VERY specific about what I do because that’s what I would want to hear. Then you can try it yourself and take out what you don’t like and add something you do like, etc.
Decide ahead of time if you’re going to be working on forgiving yourself or others. Only focus on one in a given “session”. I do this at the end of the day because honestly I feel exhausted afterwards and usually just want to relax and go to sleep.
Let’s say that you’re going to work on forgiving others, you need to make a list. A pen and paper list of people you want to forgive and the things that you want to forgive them for. I started from the beginning of my memories and worked up until present day. Something like, “Alex for ditching me at Cedar Pointe in 7th grade”. Really, anything you can think of. Some will be big events and some will be small. Some big events you will work on multiple times. Sometimes you think you cleared it all but it creeps back in. It all helps make you lighter and more free so add it to the list.
Now sit in a comfortable place where you feel nice and safe. You’ve got your list and you’re ready to do this. I have a chaise lounge in my room where I sit to meditate, so I sit there, light a candle or two, and put on a meditation type playlist. Since I promised to get specific right now I’m really into the “Dreamy Vibes” playlist on Spotify.
Look at the first item on your list and close your eyes. Take a few deep breaths and clear your mind. If something pops in, I like to picture it in a bubble floating away. Acknowledge the thought and then let it float away.
When you’re feeling relaxed, visualize the person you are forgiving. Then say, outloud, “I forgive you.” Then I visualize myself hugging the person, and when I let go of the hug, I let them float away. This takes like, maybe a minute. Then I open my eyes and look at the next thing on my list and keep on going. You don’t have to cry and scream and make a big 20 minute deal about every little thing on your list. Afterwards I take a hot shower (if you want to get really woo-woo you can think of the negative energy all swirling down the drain) and drink a big glass of water.
You can say other things too…I usually say “I’m sorry” or “I love you” because we are all just trying our best. We’re all just people trying to get by. Even if the hurt they caused was painful and intentional and cowardly it’s likely because they themselves are hurting even worse.
Forgiveness is something you give YOURSELF (remember our self-care talk from last week?). You don’t have to welcome toxic people or estranged parents or problematic exes back into your life, it’s not about them at all. It’s about you and your inner peace. It’s about the emotional scabs that you keep picking and picking. I’d like you to stop doing that. Allow yourself to heal.
I always worry when I’m writing that I sound like I’ve reached some sort of finish line and I’m telling you how I did it, which could not be further from the truth. I’m a messy work-in-progress just like we all are. I have to work on forgiving myself and others all the time, probably more than most people.
What I do want to scream from the mountain tops is that this visualization has helped me and dramatically changed the way that I look at others as well as myself and events that have happened in my life. I feel like I’m clearing a dam, piece by piece, and letting the water start to flow. I’m learning to let go, and clear up some space for beautiful things in my life.