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Written by St. Jude

A few weeks ago I decided to run away from home for a few days. I received some really bad news. So bad that when I heard it, I began to shake and then just kind of went numb. I ran away to my sister’s house and announced to her that I didn’t want to talk about it.  She was amazing and let me stay as long as I needed to. I wanted to stay forever, but eventually you have to grow up and go home and face life. Somewhere out along the I-10 it seemed like the closer I got to home the more the numbness began to wear off. The shaking returned along with uncontrolled tears and anger. I didn’t deserve this, and I knew I didn’t. I wanted to pull my car off on to a dirt road out the middle of the desert and get out and scream at anything that would listen, a lizard, a snake, a scorpion it didn’t matter. A thousand and one thoughts raced through my head. I glanced up at a sky that looked completely void of life or anyone or anything who cared and with every cell in my body I yelled “F____! I proceeded to “F this, and F that.” In the back of my head I realized I looked like a crazy women; 50 years old, driving through the dessert yelling profanities at a universe that probably wasn’t listening. And it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter that no one saw my dance of insanity out in the desert, or that no one showed up with any answers to my problems. It was like the freedom you feel when you are alone; dancing to the radio, completely lost in the melody. Having no partner to dance with is hardly the issue.  But, the thing of it is, I felt better. Well, most of me felt better, my throat hurt for 3 days.

This one event made me feel so much better that I started wondering what else I could do that might make me feel better about life. To answer this I had to ask myself what doesn’t make me feel good about my life.

What I ended up with was a list of everything I have never forgiven myself for. It amazed me the things I was still carrying around. I had managed to still be feeling guilty about things I had done at age 9. And as ridiculous as it was, the feelings of guilt were no less real. I totaled up 28 things I had not forgiven myself for. Looking at the list was depressing. It really doesn’t do a lot for your self-esteem to put all that down on paper. “Well that’s great.” I thought “Now what? All I have to show for this list is a clearer perspective on how much I suck.” On my list I saw people who I wished I could apologize to. Some I had apologized to but I still carried it around. A few I had even asked for God to forgive me for, and yet they still stuck with me. After all this time, I couldn’t help but wonder if forgiveness is even possible or is it just a nice thought that makes our own regrets seem more palatable. Looking at this list made me realize that if there is a God, he may or may not forgive me, and there really isn’t much I can do about that other than lay it at his/her feet and say “Thy will be done.” When it comes to asking for others to forgive us some will, and some won’t. There are no guarantees there either. The only thing we have control over is the ability to forgive ourselves.

I decided to dance with my list. To really look at each issue and confront it for what it really was no matter how uncomfortable it made me. I promised myself I wouldn’t make excuses or place blame on anyone else. I would own all 28 of them.

What started as a really uncomfortable honest look at my life, turned into something I would never have imagined. I came away feeling as though I was perfectly flawed, as if my life was not being lived if it was mistake free. In any given moment I am making choices based on the tools I have in that moment. What will turn out to be an obvious stupid choice to me 10 years from now probably isn’t so obvious to me now or I would be making a better choice. These are my mistakes and my lessons and I felt happy to have lived them, and to have learned from them. These mistakes are what make me who I am and you who you are. The good choices we make are part of who we are, just as the bad choices we make are part of who we are, but the bad choices can only go from being a burden to a gift if we face them, live the lesson learned and let it go.

When I finally finished dancing with my list I ran to the store and bought 4 helium filled balloons. On each I wrote the things I had forgiven myself for. Where I wrote someone’s name underneath it I wrote “thank you” because I realized that I had learned a valuable life lesson from how I dealt with that person, even if the lesson was I will never treat someone like that again. Or maybe it’s because the people I meet in my future will benefit from the mistakes I made while I knew you. And that’s a gift I wanted to thank them for giving me. On the top of each balloon I wrote “let it go”.

I waited until it got dark before I released my balloon. I didn’t want to watch them slowly fade in the distance, to me that was like trying to hold on to something I no longer needed. In the dark I could let them go and they would be gone. As I walked into the field I told all the people on my balloons that I could no longer carry the blame or the guilt on their behalf. I had done it for too long and they could forgive me or not, but it was time I forgave myself.

We dance with complete abandon when no one is watching. We can scream at the universe when no one is listening, and we can free ourselves when we seek forgiveness from the only one who can truly give it.


Kiley said...

This is beautiful. Soooo beautiful. Thank you for sharing this. (I do the balloon thing in a way too. I make paper airplanes and go to the capitol building and throw them off the top.)

Unknown said...

I am almost 49 and your story could be me. I ran away about a month ago, but in a different way.

I struggle with exactly what you described. I am going to do the balloon thing because I really need to let things go right now.

Thanks for sharing your story.

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