Friday, January 7, 2011

My word of the year: FORGIVE

I subscribe to a blog by Christine Kane, and all her posts recently have been by women who, instead of creating a list of resolutions for the year, came up with one word that they would use to steer their intentions: one word that helped them achieve what they wanted to and become more aware of what was leading them to make the decisions that got in the way of achieving their goals and finding happiness, whatever that meant to them.
As I read through her blog post on the subject, I found myself becoming inspired – that was it! Instead of making a list of resolutions, I would choose one word that would help me. In fact, I had already thought of that word – er, actually a phrase – SLOW DOWN. Kane had made a list of potential words to use, however, and I scanned it, looking for a succinct and single term to describe what I was looking for. It immediately jumped out of the screen and whacked me across the face: FORGIVE.

No, I am not mad at you. Really. I’m not mad at anyone anymore but myself. But believe me, the anger I feel is all-consuming, and every day it starts burning away at me and it takes everything I have to try to put it out.

But I think I’ve been going about it the wrong way. Trying to bury the anger that I feel toward myself or just let it go (great advice that means jack sh#@ when you’re trying to calm down) does nothing for me. What does mean something to me, however, is acknowledging the anger, sitting with it, perhaps stoking the fire a bit, then forgiving myself for feeling that way.

My problem is that I expect a lot from myself. My problem is that I try to accomplish much more than is necessary. My problem is that I think other people care more how much I get done than they actually do. My problem is that I get so caught up in all the things that I think I can do that I completely ignore the truth. When I work too hard for too long, my body starts to give out, and my optimism wanes with my energy level. All of a sudden I am dragging myself through the days instead of enjoying them; I’m pushing myself not because I want to, but because I think I have to, and I have only myself to blame for it.

I was talking to a friend of mine on the phone, and I told her that my very least favorite social interaction is a first date. I can travel the world alone, speak in front of thousands of people, teach children to ski, and sell a cookbook idea to people who have no idea whether I will follow through with it. I can do all that, but my stomach turns to knots and I chatter away uncontrollably on a first date because I feel so uncomfortable.
“Wow,” my friend said, “You actually are human.”

Of course I’m human, I thought. I am more than human. I make mistakes, fall down, get back up, fall down, lie listlessly in the fetal position, and whine for someone to pick me up and carry me. I fear I will never accomplish anything, fear I am wasting my life, fear that I will always be a wayward wanderer and someday wake up to regret the choices I have made. I am incredibly human, I thought to myself incredulously, but only in my head.

I am too caught up in portraying my own perfection. Please don’t misunderstand me: I do not think I’m perfect, but for years I have tried to give an impression that I have all my shit together. For years I have forsaken friendships, relationships or jobs if they meant that people would see a less-than-perfect side of me. I have hidden my pain and sorrow, my sensitivity and my real feelings in favor of showing a brave face to the world when I didn’t feel so brave. I have pushed myself because I thought I had to, but ultimately I was the only one who expected these things from me; just like I just want my friends to be happy in their own skin, I know the people who really care about me want nothing more than for me to be happy with me.

So I need to forgive myself. I need to admit it when I can’t handle anymore, and instead of pushing through it, take a day off. I need to let go of what others may think of me (if they’re even thinking of me at all) and simply do what makes me happy, not out of defiance, but because I want to. I need to forgive myself the need to get other peoples’ approval, the need to be everything to everyone, and I need to let go of the idea that the world would crumble if I were not shoring it up with my own shoulders. I need to forgive myself for being human, not just to me, but to everyone else; I need to stop trying to prove my super-humanness to others, because any impression people have of me is one that I gave them through my own actions. I need to forgive myself for giving people that opinion, and start showing the true, real, very human, me.

I need to forgive myself for not being able to accomplish it all: writing another cookbook, finishing my novels, making enough money to support myself off my writing, buying property, exercising daily, eating healthy, teaching Spanish classes, marketing my book and my name, keeping my house clean, doing my dishes, putting away my laundry, keeping my car clean, watering my plants, learning Quickbooks, writing poetry, meditating, not being patient enough, regretting past decisions, agonizing over future decisions, and cooking delicious meals every time I try. I need to forgive myself for not being able to write funny blogs anymore, and for never quite managing to post my blogs on a regular basis. I need to let myself feel whatever I’m going to feel without trying to change it, and I need to remember that all these things make me part of the human race and don’t set me apart from it. I need to let go of the idea that people care how much I can accomplish, and if they do care that much, maybe it’s time for me to care less about them.

I need to forgive myself for writing epically long blog posts, and only hope that the people who make it to the end think it was worth it. Even if they don’t, however, I’m going to work on forgiving myself for that, too.

Love and forgiving kisses
Morgan