November 1st is fast approaching and I’ve made my personal New Year’s practice harder than ever. For my newer readers, I celebrate my own new year on November 1st rather than January 1st. Every New Year I take the full month of November to practice thirty days of something. I’ve done Thirty Days of Giving several times, I’ve done Writing, Running, Yoga, and I think I even did Thirty Days of Selfies one year. (Huge shocker, that one, right?) The premise is fairly simple. Each day of the month I write about how I’m observing the month’s theme and if possible, show an image supporting the observance. I invite readers, friends, foes, etc. to join me, though to date no one has ever accepted the invitation. Or at least, no one has ever let me know about it if they did accept.
Earlier this month I announced that November 2015 would be Thirty Day of Forgiveness. I really thought this was a good idea at the time and although I’m not disputing its goodness now, I had no idea how hard this would truly be. I started outlining how I wanted to approach the first week or two and decided to forgive one person each day and then forgive myself as well. I discovered that while I can easily drum up thirty things for which I’d like to forgive myself, coming up with thirty other people to forgive was not so easy. I got stuck around nine or ten. This is not because I can’t find 30 people in my life to incriminate (honey, please!) but because what I believe about forgiveness is changing. When I say changing I mean in real time—as we speak—my beliefs about forgiveness are undergoing metamorphosis.
Chapter Seven in Rising Strong laid some insight about forgiveness upon me that shook me like the first shift of an avalanche. You know that feeling. Scared to look up. Bug-eyed. Hollow-bellied. Here it comes. Snow has just begun to slide down the mountain. You know there is more coming and you know you can’t stop it. According to author Brene Brown, we don’t just get to say the words and move on. We don’t even get to really mean those words and move on. I give you the avalanche quote from Rising Strong,
In order for forgiveness to happen, something has to die. If you make a choice to forgive, you have to face into the pain. You simply have to hurt.
Brene goes on to say,
Forgiveness is so difficult because it involves death and grief.
Gulp. Well, shit.
Am I prepared to experience death and grief and pain every day for thirty days? Am I actually going to choose that? Who chooses that?
Can I not just dredge up some old wrongs and write the righting of them by slapping an I forgive You + Me on it like I planned? I’m not sure I can anymore. At least, not without feeling like a fraud. A poser. I’m not sure I want to start off my new year with something that now feels so half-assed. Hell, it feels closer to a lie. So you see my dilemma. I don’t want to start the new year by lying. I also don’t want to start the new year by backing away from something just because it is going to be harder than I thought. One compromise leads to another until taking the easy way out is second nature. And I’m all too familiar with that mess. Ugh. That’s not what I want for Me anymore.
You have no idea (well, maybe you do) how sassily I can just populate a list with And today I forgive that girl on my middle school track team who went through my purse while I was warming up at a meet and stole the necklace my stepmom made for me and then wore in front of my face for the entire goddamn meet. And then I can forgive Me for being a coward and letting the thief walk around with my necklace for the entire goddamn track meet without challenging her or even telling on her. And then I can call that a day and feel proud, can I not? Nope. Not.
This is far more serious than I considered when I made my announcement. If do this I’ve got to call up relationships, decisions, experiences, perspectives—all those sleeping dogs–and kill whatever rationalizations I’ve applied to them in the interest of moving on. The prospect of doing that sucks. Hard. Every day for thirty days? Whoa, mama. I catch myself asking, “Why is this even necessary? I’m getting by just fine. I’m over all that shit. Why not leave well enough alone?” Because when I made my initial list of people to forgive there were still people to put on it (+ Me). Because I have been angry for the last four months. Because I still mentally rehearse resolutions I’ll know I’ll never get to facilitate. Because my new understanding from Chapter Seven is that I can/may come out a better person on the other side.
My new understanding is that to be forgiven is to be loved, ergo to forgive is to love. These are Brene’s words, of course. And there are more of them associated with what she calls rumbling with forgiveness. Words like clarity and wisdom. Those are things I do want for me and they are things I want people to receive from me.
…forgiveness is not forgetting or walking away from accountability or condoning a hurtful act; it’s the process of taking back and healing our lives so we can truly live.
So now it’s not just a list of whom to forgive (+ Me) and for what. Now I have to question:
- What must die in order for me to forgive Them + Me? Expectations? Victimhood? Dreams/demands? Blame? The way it is supposed to be? The need to be right? Awesome stories of how I was wronged? Awesome stories of how I screwed up?
- If to forgive is to love, am I ready to love Them + Me? I mean really, there are some people we have no interest in loving—ever! Am I right? You know I’m right. I know I’m right.
- What pain must I face in order for me to forgive Them + Me? I’m sure the first question will fill in that blank easily enough.
- Am I willing to write publicly about it? Insert string of profanity that illuminates how much I don’t want to make myself look bad on my own blog. But I also don’t want to replace this with Thirty Days of Cope Out. (heavy sigh)
Brene’s words again; I’ve got to choose to be courageous rather than comfortable. So this is also Thirty Days of Courage. Bravery. Work, dammit. This sounds about as much fun as ripping all the plumbing out of my house because the kitchen sink is clogged. But I suppose I didn’t choose Thirty Days of Fun, now did I? (Smooth move, yo.)
This is also fair warning that I don’t expect any of this to be pretty or witty or bright. You might want to find some other blogs to read until December if this ain’t yo thang. As for me and my house, deep breath, we are rising strong.