Forgiveness & Fishing

Image copyright: 123rf/Ron Zmiri 

“If I forgive my ex, it’s like I’m letting him off the hook.”

How many us have felt this way, even though we know that forgiveness is in our own best interest?

In a culture where everything happens so quickly, there are those who assume that speedy forgiveness is a sign of maturity, inner strength and a reflection of our character….and that really bothers me!

This is not a race. How about allowing ourselves to be human, to rage and struggle, to be confused and scared, and to wander for as long as it takes to sort through our history? Now that takes true character.

I believe there is a difference between wanting to forgive and being ready to forgive. I also believe forgiveness come unbidden when we are committed to healing, which brings me back to the quote about forgiveness meaning we’ve let someone off the hook.

Imagine a woman sitting at the end of a dock with her fishing pole. The fishing line is in the water, and she may feel a fish squirming on the end of the line, though that may only be her imagination. It may have already swum away.

Forgiveness is not about taking a fish (or your ex) off the hook. But, when we are ready, it’s about setting down the pole and going to lunch.

Though there may be times we return to that dock and pick up that pole, we no longer need to hold onto it for very long, for we have felt the freedom that comes from setting it down.

Self-blame vs. Self-responsibility

The following is a guest post by Yvette Erasmus. 

Some days, I am simply not ready to be a grown up. At all.

Waking up with anxiety recently, I buried myself deeper into bed. Free floating thoughts about finances, major life decisions, relationships and a harsh, critical voice pointing out all my failings and failures wafted through my mind as I lingered between sleep and wakefulness.

Although I decided years ago to stop indulging in self-blame and fear, judgmental and critical thoughts still arise. Regularly.

So, you can imagine my pleasant surprise on this recent morning to discover a gentler part of me speaking up, taking stock and responding to the various complaints with tenderness. “No, we aren’t doing that anymore. What do you need?”

It’s like I had come upon an inner Florence Nightingale tending to my inner suffering. I know she didn’t just appear magically; I’ve been practicing this shift for a while.

I’ve learned to watch critical, judgmental and fearful thoughts arise and then embrace them with compassion, but I simply don’t allow myself to camp out with them anymore. Self-blame is not the same as self-responsibility. It is exhausting and draining.

Grounding myself in the wisdom of being open to outcome, but not attached to outcome, I remind myself to feel my feelings, to attend to my needs and to focus on what will help move me in a direction of my choosing.

Self-responsibility is an empowered way of both perceiving and responding to life. It grows out of disciplined attention to four transformative questions:

  1. What is happening right now? (I am lying in my bed, dreading my whole life this morning. The dog is wagging her tail at me. I am thinking she needs to pee and that, if I don’t get up, she will. Here in my room. This thought fills me with urgency to take her outside.
  2. What feelings are activated in me right now? (Anxiety, fear weariness, heaviness, urgency, activation.)
  3. What is deeply important to me? (Security, clarity, purpose, growth, contribution.)
  4. What will help? (taking my day one step at a time, focusing on gratitude for all that is present now, asking for help, getting the information I need to make high-stake decisions, practicing being comfortable with uncertainty.)

Building inner resources allows me to cope with the heaviness that life sometimes brings, with more fortitude, strength and resilience.

As a soul-friend of mine recently reminded me: I want to respond to life with grace. With love. With faith. With hope. With courage.

The more I practice compassion instead of judgement, self-care instead of self-recrimination, openness to outcome instead of attachment to predictability, the more I am able to truly live in alignment with my deeper values and my more soulful self.

Self-Love: You’re Kidding, Right?!

I was truly flattered when a respected life coach asked to interview me on the topic of self-love. She explained the interview would be videoed and I went to work compiling as much information as I could. I hadn’t even heard the phrase “self-love” until was in my 40’s. It just seemed way too sappy a concept and too overwhelming a request.

During the interview, I shared that my journey to self-love began when a trauma forced me down inside myself. Until then, my focus had always been outward, doing my best to make sure others loved me—not noticing my own heart. I shared that the lack of self-love affected my ability to make decisions.  Often, before taking a step forward, I would wait for all my ducks to get in a row, but not all ducks do that. From experience, I understood that making the wrong decisions, or making mistakes of any kind, put me at risk of being belittled, discounted and losing the love of others for which I was so desperate.

I shared that before I could love myself, I had to shift my focus inward and just be friends with myself for a while. Because of this shift I learned to speak my truth, most of the time. I began to be gentle with myself, some of the time. I practiced saying “No,” when I felt strong enough and my favorite self-love practices were simple: curling up with a good book, being in nature and journaling.

The interview lasted an hour and as soon as the video stopped recording, the first things out of my mouth were “My hair looked terrible! I used my hands too much! I talked too fast! I sounded awful!”

The women who had interviewed me couldn’t stop laughing. “Didn’t you just spend an hour talking about self-love?!”

Busted! What a fraud! Is it possible to be a star-crossed lover with yourself, almost connecting, but not quite?

Now I focus on a simple, three-step approach to self-love:

1. Practice.

2. Makes lots of mistakes.

3. Laugh as often you can!

Do You Feel as Though You’ve Lost Yourself?

The following is a guest post by Dr. Shannon Gulbranson.

Do you feel as though you’ve lost yourself? If the answer is “maybe” or “yes,” then please keep reading. If the answer is “no,” but you feel as though there are parts of yourself that you’re hiding, that you’ve misplaced or that you’ve left behind, then keep reading.

Wherever you are today, there are practical steps you can take to get you, your dreams, your voice and your life back.

First, let me clarify that it’s not so important to get these things back as it is to move them forward. Forward with the you that you’re on your way to becoming, as well as the life you’re creating. Sometimes going back helps us remember what we desire. However, it’s vital to know that going back isn’t where you’re going to stay or discover yourself.

You, my dear, are here. Now. Today. The question is, are you acknowledging yourself today? Please do yourself a favor and try these three sacred steps.

Step #1: Expose yourself

Whoever you are right now, expose her by completely acknowledging yourself. This means your feelings, thoughts, ideas, likes, dislikes and anything (and everything) else. Then enjoy the process of releasing her…

Step #2: Express yourself

Say what you need to say. Do what you need to do. Be who you are now, exactly where you are. Locate yourself, here, not there. Once you do, you can begin to move forward.

Step #3:  Engage yourself fully

This is also known as getting to know you. When you’re willing to accept who you are and where you are, you can begin to become the desire(s) of your heart.

And here you thought that somehow your desire(s) and you were separate. The sacred secret is this: you are your desires. Allowing yourself to become is key.

When you stop exposing and expressing your desire, you stop being fully you. You stop becoming.

Show up and expose yourself today. Speak up and express yourself. Stand up and engage yourself by fully engaging in your life and your life’s work with all of your self.

Are you willing to go all in?

Time to Stop Toughing It Out

The following is a guest post by Theresa Nutt.

As I continue my journey of becoming my own beloved, I have noticed something important: a theme that is really standing out for me right now is the topic of toughing it out. Too many of us have learned to ignore our feelings and other parts of our experience that are not considered acceptable (according to who, I wonder?).

Here are a few of the common symptoms of toughing it out:

  • We swallow feelings and let them fester inside.
  • Others treat us poorly and we don’t speak up.
  • Our needs come last after everyone else is “happy” or comfortable (which never happens).
  • We stop pursuing our passions and wait for a magic someday.
  • Our body tries to get our attention and we just keep pushing on because there isn’t enough time. Eventually, something big happens and we suffer as a result.
  • We are exhausted, but afraid to slow down or rest.
  • Instead of living a unique life that speaks to us, we try to fit in and be more like others around us.

Tune In Instead Of Toughing It Out

The obvious remedy is to tune in more deeply to ourselves and our experience. There are times when the most loving thing to do is notice that life is really challenging. Or, that despite our best efforts we can’t seem to make headway.

There are not enough spiritual gymnastics in the world to help us in certain situations. And instead of admitting we are struggling or instead of asking for help when we need it the most, we start beating ourselves up using our inner critic.

What if instead of all the critic’s responses, you found yourself asking what you needed most instead of how can you tough this out?

Help Yourself First Instead of Toughing It Out

Once you tune in, you have the good fortune of knowing what you most need. Is your inner child screaming for your attention in some way? Are you in need of a supportive friend to listen or give you a hand? Do you need some time in Mother Nature to calm your mind and deepen your breathing?

And in the end, if you could just remember that the love, attention, approval, appreciation and every other thing you seek from external sources is a neon sign. The neon sign is reminding you to stop, tune into what is true for you, and love yourself more fiercely than ever before.