It was not until recently that I noticed I have been holding onto a lot of pain, anger, guilt, and resentment from past relationships. Going back as far as high school, I’ve been storing all of these emotions in their respective boxes on shelves in my brain and tucked away in my heart.
Relationships, I am FINALLY beginning to understand, have a much bigger impact on our hearts and psyches than I ever gave them credit for. When we enter into relationships, we open our hearts, make ourselves vulnerable, and hope for the best. And it is impossible to avoid uncomfortable feelings if we want to have honest and authentic relationships.
I see old patterns play out in my current relationship, in dynamics with friends, and even in work. It’s the quintessential definition of “living in the past.” I hold onto limiting beliefs about myself and the way others perceive me based on stories from my past.
I never gave (most of) these relationships – their start, middle, and end – the attention they deserved. Especially the end. I have always had a lot of pride in my ability to recover quickly from a breakup – as if moving on to the next person (a new boyfriend) or thing (a triathlon) were the ultimate example of resilience.
What I’m coming to terms with is this: My pattern of brushing unexpressed emotions under the rug is not resilient and it certainly is not forgiveness.
It is a relief to finally understand the importance of forgiveness – to not only forgive the men I have been in relationship with (or friends I have let drift out of my life) but to also forgive myself for behaviors I am not proud of because I now KNOW these behaviors do not define me.
Forgiveness, it turns out, has almost nothing to do with the person you are forgiving and almost everything to do with you. When I forgive someone, I allow myself to acknowledge how I feel AND release myself from that feeling. And often the forgiveness, I’m noticing, is not about something someone did maliciously. Often I need to forgive someone for making a simple choice that had nothing to do with me.
This practice of forgiveness is not limited to romantic relationships – I recognize it’s going to be a lifelong practice and commitment. For now though, the light shines on the relationships that have shaped so much of the last 15 years of my life – since I was 17 I have been in and out of relationships. And I don’t regret it for a second but I have been on cruise-control. I let things slip through the cracks and did not do the full work of building my emotional resilience and allowing myself to really go deep. To be uncomfortable and really feel the pain, anger, and sorrow and to release myself from the grasp of guilt, or worse, of shame.
The thing is, if I don’t go through this process and forgive and forgive and let go and release, then I am not being true to myself and I am not making space for any current or new relationship in my life – romantic or otherwise – to really take flight and reach new heights. Sweeping old pain under the rug is limiting and emotionally paralyzing. It is living in a fear state.
My boyfriend drew the connection between what I’m going through and the movie High Fidelity. It’s the one where John Cusack plays an adorable curmudgeon of a record store owner who revisits his top 5 breakups. I can’t even tell you how many times I have seen this movie and it’s not until we watched it a few weeks ago that I finally understood why on earth someone would do this!
It’s to find freedom.
I’ve never been in prison, but I’ve been behind emotional bars and it’s time to start knocking them down one at a time.