Norbert and I were having dinner last night and we were discussing how people’s reactions to things affect the way they live. I admitted how I was hanging on to a lot of things I did as a kid, the bad stuff that still creep up in nightmares, the stealing, fighting, horrible and nasty behaviour that I would be ashamed to witness if my kids did the same things. I asked him how he could live guilt-free, Norbert wasn’t a terrible kid but he did some things that he was ashamed off, the difference between he and I were that he didn’t let his past affect his present, whereas I lived with it every day, so much regret, so much pain. I could blame the countless people who have hurt me in some way but ultimately I have to admit that a lot of that pain was caused by me, I did that to myself.
Norbert told me that I needed to change my way of thinking, how I needed to forget the past because it wasn’t who I was now, whilst I agreed with him, it did make me think about how my past created who I am now. A lot of the bad shit I did as a kid has made me afraid to even come close to doing the same thing as an adult. Back then I truly believed I had nothing to loose, now, I would say I have even less, but at the same time, I have so much more to loose. It’s such a weird concept, but even though, emotionally, physically, materialistically, I have a lot less than when I was a kid, the things and people I do have, I value a lot more now. That’s the best way I can explain this, make that what you will.
I asked Norbert if he needed to hear everything I had done that I considered, ever misbehaviour, ever lie, every bad thing that had significant, impact in my life, big things that may make him see me for who I was, it would taint the way he looked at me now. He reached across the table and touched my hand.
“I don’t need to know where you’ve been to know where you are or where you’re going. I know enough about you good and bad to know that you’re doing what you can to be a better person. That’s enough for me, I already know I love you, good and bad.”
When he said those words I felt this sense of gratitude. Never has anyone loved the bad, ugly side of me before. It was like that saying ‘why does no-one pray for the devil when he’s the one who needs it the most.’ I’m not saying I was the devil, I didn’t kill or torture anyone, I’ve never abused anyone, I don’t think I’ve ever done anything evil…at least not on purpose. But the stuff I’ve done, I’ve felt like I was a very bad person, and when Norbert hugged that bad side, I felt like he was praying for the devil in me.
My first relationship was quite a bad one, there was a lot of emotion that went into the creation, upkeep and end of the relationship. Neal was my first love, there was a point where I was willing to give up my entire life for him. I thought that we would be together forever, and in some way, I was right because forever we will be bound by the painful fact that we were each other’s first love. My memories of us will continue to live on because someday I will share them with my children, and their children, he will always be my first love and nothing will take that away, no matter how bad our relationship ended.
It ended badly, it really did. It was a joint effort sort of thing, because honestly, we were exhausted. We were together for 2 years and that was the longest time I had ever spent with someone. We did a lot of growing up together. We faced some difficult opposition, from his parents, certain people who were setting us up to fail. We stuck together convinced that love and love alone was enough to get us through everything. Unfortunately, that just wasn’t the case, when my uncle was murdered he did his best to fight the pain with me. He held me for countless nights crying, he tried to give me a reason to live but how could I ask him to do that when I myself couldn’t even summon the will to continue on? How could I expect someone to love me when I just had no love to give myself. I thought misery loved company but actually, I psychologically wanted him to hurt much more than I did. I didn’t think it was possible to be more hurt than I was, I was selfish, but really I made him hurt much more than I was in. I tormented him and in a sick and twisted way, I tried to play the victim. I saw how carefree he was and I craved it, I couldn’t find that freedom in myself so instead I wanted to take it away from him. I didn’t realise that was what I was doing, but it was, it’s like I didn’t think too much about the pain I was putting him through and I felt guilty but that satisfaction to see him hurt was so comforting for me somehow. At the same time, he used his words to hurt me, make me feel like I was lucky to have him because without him I was incapable of going on. He would tell me the nasty things his parents said about me, what people would spread about me. We played this vicious game, who could hurt each other more. Both, only stopping to convince the other we still loved each other, for what? Because what? Maybe it was so that we could come together in order to buy ourselves more time to hurt each other. It was sick, twisted, unhealthy and utterly devastating. I cheated on him. I did, it was the worst thing I did, I did it because I just wanted our painful game to end but I didn’t have the courage, the balls, if you will, to break up with him myself. I loved him, was that even possible? I loved him so much but I was hurting so badly, I wasn’t equipped to be able to make myself feel better, at that point in my life I felt like my world was caving in and I just wanted silence, I felt like the only way I could get that was to be alone. But still, Neal hang tighter. He excused my ultimate betrayal and asked if I still loved him, I insisted I did, but I don’t even know if that was the truth, I think in my panic I realised that I was losing touch with everything I knew and I changed my mind, I wanted one familiar thing.
I wish I’d never tried to keep you.
Neal changed. Even though we stayed together he kept tabs on me like I was his property. I know I had it coming but if I thought the relationship was unhealthy before it was nothing compared to then. I took so much from Neal, I wanted him to fix me and was angry he couldn’t eventually I felt so indifferent that he picked up where I left off. He would berate himself whenever he failed to make me smile. In complete defeat, he cried to me;
“I just can’t make you happy, please tell me what to do.”
I saw the pain he was in, I caused that and instead of feeling an ounce of shame I was angered even more.
“Stop making me feel guilty. It’s not your job to make me happy, I don’t need you.”
I would constantly say, angry that nothing could make me happy as if it was anyone else’s job but my own. I can only describe the last few months of our relationship as each of us giving as bad as we got. We both broke each other so much that I don’t think we ever got back to our old selves.
After we broke up I became so careless with myself. Fast forward to 2013. I don’t know how it happened but we started to talk again, it wasn’t like we were friendly chatting, it was just more, hi, how are you, what’s life been like the last 3 years? Somehow we then progressed to talking on the phone. It was just one phone call, a 3 – 4-hour phone call. At this point we were both in new relationships, we discussed our partners, then eventually we got talking about our history. It wasn’t romantic, it was almost like the closing chapter of the story we had started so long ago.
“I’m sorry for what I did” I said silently, almost afraid for him to hear. I had been thinking about how my failed past relationships were stopping me from really being able to open up with Norbert, he was often frustrated that I was unable to communicate my feelings with him.
“Thank you but you don’t need to apologise” Neal responded.
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I forgave you a long time ago. I needed to forgive you in order to move on.” He said so seriously that I just wanted to cry.
“I’m sorry too.”
We talked about what had happened, he told me how he had spent a few years wondering what he was doing so wrong for me to mistreat him so badly, I continued to apologise, not because he needed to hear it but because I needed to say it. That conversation was the biggest blessing to come in my adult life. Neal gave me what I was trying to find myself. He granted me the forgiveness that I never thought I was capable of receiving. But it also made me realise that for many years I had been punishing myself thinking I had ruined his life when really he had the grace to forgive and forget.
That’s exactly what I needed to do.
I struggle every day to forgive myself for my past discretions. But honestly that night, after Neal and I ended our phone call, I sat up in bed, allowed myself to cry about him, the situation, the broken relationship, just that one last time. I let myself feel this burden I had been carrying for years, but just like that, I felt it leave me. I forgave myself and the heaviness of the break up just lifted off of me. I watched Norbert, so clueless about it, so peaceful in his sleep. I knew that sleeping angel, my angel, he deserved to be loved truly, and now I had forgiven myself for Neal, he was finally going to be able to see that.
But not longer after our relationship began to blossom, more of my past started to creep up.
My issue with my family. I’ve said countless times there have been so many traumatic incidents that have happened in my life, I’ve witnessed horrific and painful things and was never given the opportunity to heal properly. It was almost always brushed under the rug and now the rug was full, lumpy and would constantly trip me up.
I had so much anger, I have so much anger. So much hate for certain people that share my blood. I have so many unresolved issues that many years of therapy were only able to unearth rather than help fix. Someday I’ll go back to therapy, but only when I am truly ready to be completely honest.
Slowly but surely I’ve been trying to grant forgiveness to those who have hurt me. Is it cowardice to say, I am allowing myself to forgive, but at the same time, I will never give those people a chance to hurt me again? Those boys who broke my heart and left me like I was garbage? Well, I forgive them, but never will I give them a chance to speak to me again.
Certain family members, it’s taken many years but I finally feel bonds with them. It may have taken 24 years to get to the point where I am ready to forgive, especially when I spent a big part of my life remembering every single bad thing they’ve done to me. I am ready to forgive because I found someone who was willing to forgive me.
You see, you can go on your whole life being angry at the world and yourself but that is such an awfully heavy burden to be carrying. It gets so exhausting. Eventually, you have to accept that the world has moved on and you can either die with the bitterness or move forward too. I realised I too deserved a chance at happiness. Not only should I be forgiving others but I also needed to forgive myself.
The changes I had made in myself, my attempts to be a better person, they were all because I had learned from the past. I was worthy of forgiveness because I had learned. I had forgiven people who hadn’t even learned from their past mistakes. Old boyfriends who had cheated on me, well they were still cheaters but I found it in my heart to grant them forgiveness, old friends who had betrayed me, still acting selfishly, I forgave them too. Family members who had spent most of my life acting like I didn’t exist, I was now accepting into my life. I had come leaps and bounds in my progress and now was the time to start opening myself to the possibility of a new life.
I’ve spent half of my life feeling worthless and afraid, and then the other half was spent being bitter, angry and hateful. I now want to be happy too.
The hardest forgiveness I had to find was forgiveness for myself. It was the hardest for me because there are still times when I punish myself for my mistakes. I will beat and berate myself until I am back to being that foolish kid making the mistake, sometimes I only have to think about making the mistakes before I punish myself. But slowly I am forgiving myself, accepting that some mistakes were just due to my age and lack of knowledge of how the world really works. I’m just thankful I have someone who is willing to be patient as I continue to learn and change. I am grateful for Norbert and his unconditionally love and kindness. I am so blessed to have my family who are so quick to pick me up every time I fall. I am glad I have strength in myself to keep fighting and keep going, making apologies for mistakes, learning from them and searching for new and better ways to live my best life.
Someday those mistakes will just be memories, small warnings not to repeat them, lessons learned. Someday I will be able to look in the mirror and know that I have well and truly forgiven myself.
I hope that if you suffer from the same internal battle as me, that you will also grant yourself the reprieve. Just know that mistakes can be made by anyone, and as long as you have done what you can to fix that mistake, then you should allow yourself to move on. Being human is about making mistakes, we shouldn’t be punished for living because as we live we learn.
Do yourself the kindness and find it in your heart to forgive, just that one small act will free up so much space in your heart to love and be loved.
Do something to make your parents proud today, your kids proud someday but most importantly, you proud every day!
Peace and Love