Concluding 2018: My Intention Recap

The theme for me this month was to reflect on the Intention I set at the beginning of the year last year based on the Soul Map I did this time last year in December. I recently re-read and re-did my Soul Map, and looking back it’s crazy to see how much I’ve grown in the past year. Based on my Soul Map, my intention for the year 2018 was to regain or to “find my power.” It’s crazy how much more powerful I felt once I let myself feel all my feelings, work through them and then let them go. It feels like in 2018 I did one huge life detox! I had to step away from life for a bit so that I could heal past wounds and I decided to share my experience along the way via this blog. I realised this year just how much you gain from vulnerability and just being real. This was probably the most powerful lesson I’ve learned this year. There is strength in numbers, but no one can really join your team or be there for you when you need them if you’re not honest about who you are and what you need.

I knew I would heal so much faster if I was just honest about how I was feelings about everything. Why hide so much about yourself from people? What is that going to achieve? I have realised more now than ever before that this is causing more harm than good. I feel much healthier, and capable in my life now than I’ve felt in a really long time and that’s only because I have been working so diligently on my own healing. Because I’ve taken myself more seriously; in all aspects of my life, I feel so much more important, and powerful. I forgot just how many people give a fuck about me! Writing this blog always reminds me of that. People contact me via social media, in the comments of this blog, via text, via phone call, or a one on one hangout to tell me that they have taken the time to read my blog and how much they’ve felt like they could relate or that they enjoyed it. Man! Knowing that makes my heart want to burst right out of my chest. In a Care Bear kind of way… Not in some gross American Horror Story kind of way. 

I’m so happy that you read and care about me but also to know that what I’ve been writing has helped you in some way. You have no idea how much that inspires and motivates me to do more?! There is nothing in this world that I want to do more than to help others. Again, it reminds me how much stronger we are in numbers. How much we gain from relating to one another. There’s so much you could learn from your neighbour if you just took the time to reach out, and extend a little love. Genuinely ask people how they’re doing. Show them you care. Call them, and ask how are you? And if you’re not satisfied with how that person answered that question, ask them the same question in another way. Listen to them. They will open up once you’ve built that trust with them. Once that person sees how much you genuinely care about their well-being they will be more forthright with their feelings. I’m so glad that I could create such a community of trust and mutual love around my blog. For myself and for those who take the time to read it. My gratitude towards you all is so great you don’t even know. The good vibes around this space is so good, and that is so great because it hasn’t always been so easy to be so vulnerable and transparent on this website. I did my best to protect the people involved but I’m glad that I was able to share my story. I will continue to share my stories because it has been such a great tool for mutual healing, I’m not going to let the fact that I can’t control how people interpret my words stop me from being honest about how past traumas have impacted my life. I know that these stories impact more people than just myself, and that’s why I speak only about my love and forgiveness. I never mean any harm when I write, I just want to heal. 

Writing this blog has always been such an empowering tool for me and it has been monumental in helping me grow as a human being in more ways than just one. I’ve been taking workshops about how to improve my web content and how to extend my reach. This blog and the people who read my blog are the reasons why I take my writing so seriously. It’s helping me and others and I know that what I’m beginning to create here online is such a powerful tool. I know that my stories are valid. I want to validate other people, especially women. Women need find ways to validate their own feelings and personal stories. It’s okay to be honest about how you feel. It’s okay to talk about the parts of our lives that we don’t feel so good about. Not talking about it only makes the situation worse. It keeps us isolated from one another. The more you don’t talk about your unhappiness, the more you try to repress it to “save” someone else from hurting their feelings is only pulling you apart from those you love. When you speak of your unhappiness, it’s not a reflection of yourself or the people in your life. What you are speaking about is a common lived experience and your perspective on what happened and how it affected you. Because you have a different lived experience than anyone else involved, you will have a different perspective on the events that occurred. It does not make you “wrong” if how you feel about a situation differs from someone else. If we continue to try and punish one another for the pain we’ve caused each other we will never be able to move on and grow in love. 

Lack of honest communication, as well as forgiveness towards yourself and everyone involved is the reason the pain festered and grew into the toxic monster that keeps everyone apart. If we were able to express our feelings more freely, in a way that was loving and not abusive, we would probably still have more relationships with the people we used to love so much. These are the things that I’m trying to move further and further away from. There’s too many people in my life that I love with all my heart that I would never want to continue to feel any sort of distance from. The closer we allow ourselves to get with one another the stronger we become as a community. As they say, it takes a village to raise a child. So think of the children that are coming to your families or circles of close friends. These are the next generation of adults. It is up to us to show them what love and compassion is. If we can’t do it for ourselves, how are they supposed to learn? 

My intention for the coming new year is to grow my love. Grow my love for myself, my friends, my family, and generally anyone I come into contact with. I’m going to do my absolute best to try and be the best version of myself to everyone, even if they are not necessarily the same towards me. I will still have boundaries. I will not accept people’s negative behaviour but I will not allow their choices affect my behaviour. At least in theory. This is going to be my greatest challenge. It is really hard for me to not be so reactionary. I was raised in a way that if you didn’t have a big reaction to something you “didn’t care enough.” So much drama. I am a dramatic person, but I’m sure I would live a happier life if I choose to listen before reacting or becoming defensive. If I choose to breath before freaking out. If I choose to find the love in the situation instead of becoming defensive. Like I’ve said before, there is so much strength in numbers, and to grow your numbers you need to create a space and community for love, compassion and forgiveness. That is what I want to continue to do for myself and others. I will grow love through presence, listening, and understanding, or at least I will try my best. I’m sure there will still be some drama in my life, but I hope that through the intentions that I’ve set out for myself, I’ll be better equipped to handle them. I don’t think this is a one year sort of intention, but neither was my intention from last year. They are starting to become my life mantras. Decisions that I’m making for how I want to aspire myself to be as much as possible for the rest of my foreseeable future.  


The Four Step Process of Forgiveness

I’ve talked a lot about forgiveness on my blog, and forgiveness has been a major theme for me this year. I did not realise until this week that there is an actually process to forgiving someone, especially someone who you felt has deeply wronged you. This past weekend I was reminded of the deep seeded anger that I felt towards someone who I felt had deeply wronged me in the past. I thought that I had forgiven this person but the anger I felt told me that I was wrong, and I still had some work to do. So, I logged back on to BetterHelp, the online therapy tool I’ve been using and saw that there was a “forgiveness worksheet” that my therapist had given me that I never completed. I took a whole day to complete the worksheet, and then the very next day I was listening to my favourite podcast Dissect where the major theme just happened to be forgiveness. At the end of the show, the host talked about The Enright Process Model of Psychological Forgiveness. The very same process model I used the day before! God has a strong sense of irony, and I took it as a sign that I’m on the right path and that this is something that I should share with others as well.

So, without further ado, I will explain the four step process of forgiveness. But first, let me explain what forgiveness is. According to Enright, forgiveness is the “foregoing of resentment or revenge” when the wrongdoers actions deserve it and instead giving the offender gifts of “mercy, generosity and love” or “beneficence” when the wrongdoer does not deserve them. In other words, when people forgive, they basically give up the anger to which they are entitled and give to their offender a gift to which he or she is not entitled. How long and painful the forgiving process is all depends on the seriousness of the event, and how long the person has lived with and/or denied the severity of the harm caused. I decided to explain what forgiveness is first before describing the actual process of forgiveness because a common and major obstacle to forgiveness is misunderstanding what forgiveness is. “Forgiveness stands on the truth that what happened to me was unfair, it is unfair, and it will always be unfair, but I will have a new response to it.”- Robert Enright. Forgiveness is a moral virtue like patience or kindness and it must be practised on a continual basis with everyone we meet. It takes strength, courage, and discipline to decide to forgive and to continue to practice forgiveness every single day despite the injustices we may face. It is easy to respond to injustice with malice, revenge, anger, hate, even if those feelings never get expressed. I tend to repress these feelings as a way to make them “go away” so I can go on as if this person never hurt me and I’m “okay.” No. Forgiveness is feeling those feelings, understanding where they came from, deciding to forgive them or let those feelings go; then find compassion for the person who hurt you by trying to understand where they might be coming from, and then accepting the fact that despite the injustice of their actions, we cannot change it and the only way to heal is to have love and compassion for all parties involved. 

Step One: The Uncovering Phase 

It is during this phase that you confront the nature of the offence and uncover the consequences of having been offended. It is during this phase that you must objectively as possible describe who did what to whom. You cannot forgive an offence that did not occur, however, you may be able to resolve the anger aroused by a perceived offence when the actual nature of the offence is understood. This part I did with my therapist, someone who is objective. I highly suggest doing this, because it’s hard to look at the event itself and sometimes it’s hard to look past the traumatic event to see all the consequences you suffered. Especially if you’re the type of person who tends to repress your negative feelings. In order to uncover the consequences of what happened it is important to see not only the original unfairness of the event, but also your reactions to the injustice and how it has affected your life. A therapist can help you see the connection between not having forgiven and the experience of various physical or psychological difficulties that are the result of suppressed or repressed anger. This may involve discovering and working through various layers of pain in addition to justifiable anger. These layers of pain may look like: shame, guilt, obsessive thoughts about the offender and/or thoughts about the offence, temporary or permanent life changes due to the offence, and changes in one’s view about the justice of the world and of God. Lastly, when you uncover the pain and trauma from past events or injuries caused by an offender, you learn that you cannot psychologically forgive certain actions like abuse, or drunk driving but you can forgive the offender for the secondary consequences of their actions; emotional pain, distress and loss. 

Step Two: The Decision Phase

During this phase a person gains an accurate understanding of the nature of forgiveness and makes a decision to commit to forgiving based on this understanding. Forgiveness is and must be a free choice. For me, I decided to forgive my offender because I realised that what I was doing to try and overcome the harm and suffering caused by the offence was not working. I was still angry, I still held resentment and even though I have no direct contact with this person, when I would learn of their continued attempts to hurt me all of my anger would come boiling up to the top. I would get so upset and concerned with the fact that they couldn’t see the harm they were causing. I would get upset at the fact that I was not doing anything to cause them pain yet they still felt the need to cause me harm. I would get upset over the injustice of this all. I finally realised that this person may never stop trying to cause me harm, but I can choose how I react to their attempts to cause me harm. The more I react with anger, the more damage is caused to my well-being, and the more time and energy I waste being upset over something that may never change. That is why I have decided to forgive them. Not because they deserve it but because I deserve happiness. 

Third Step: Work Phase

This is the phase where you actually work on forgiving. In this phase a person gains a cognitive understanding of the offender and begins to view the offender in a new light. For me, I have no real relationship with my offender and to be honest I don’t know much about them. This lack of understanding was a major roadblock in my ability to forgive them. In order for me to gain some understanding and compassion for my offender, I had to ask one of the people closest to them for some background information. When you begin to try and understand your offender and see them in a new light this results in a positive change towards the offender, the self, and the relationship as a whole. It is during this phase that you begin to see your offender as a human being and not as “evil incarnate.” Once you start to think differently towards your offender, you can begin to feel more positively towards them. This leads to feelings of empathy and compassion for those who have hurt you most. You courageously bear the pain caused by the offence and eventually you bear the gift of forgiveness to your offender. This phase is called the “work phase” because it is the most challenging phase but also the most rewarding. Forgiveness is difficult but it is impossible without understanding and compassion for the other. Don’t feel like you need to rush through this phase. Take your time. Just be honest in your attempt to see your offender as human. 

Fourth and Final Step: The Deepening Phase 

I would say that I am currently in this stage of forgiveness, especially after all the work that I did recently in trying to understand my offender and where they might have been coming from during the offence. This is the phase where you find increased meaning in the suffering you endured. You begin to feel more connected with others, you begin to experience decreased negative affects and, at times, a renewed purpose in life. I would say that this is currently how I feel. It is through the process of forgiveness that I have put myself through for all the traumatic experiences I’ve had in the past that has given me a new sense of purpose and connection to others. It is through this blog that I’ve found connection and healing, which is why I continue to share my experiences. It is through my writing that I deepen my forgiveness and compassion that I feel towards others.

It is during the process of forgiveness that you may find release from the emotional prison of choosing not to forgive, of bitterness, anger and resentment. It is through the deepening phase that you may find meaning in the things you suffered from. You may even find yourself asking for forgiveness for the pain you may have caused others, or even your offender if it applies. For me, I’m not sure if I’ll ever have the opportunity to apologise for any harm I may have caused my offender. I do take responsibility for my reactions to the injustice I felt I was experiencing at the time. Either way, I am choosing to forgive, to learn, and to move past those experiences. 

Those are the four phases of forgiveness. Like anything in life, the process of forgiveness is not necessarily linear. You may find yourself oscillating back and forth from one phase to another. The objective is to choose forgiveness, to try to find understanding for the other, which will hopefully lead to some compassion and empathy towards your offender. This will eventually lead to forgiveness, and then a deepening of that forgiveness which comes from a deeper sense of meaning for all the things that happened. 

“‘Men who lack conscious will even lie to themselves. A friend once said and I even found it to be true, that everyday people, they lie to God too. So what makes you think that they won’t lie to you.’ The dishonest people Ms. Hill speaks of, live a life based on a complex series of lies. First, and most importantly, they lie to themselves falsely justifying their behaviour and character which allows them to lie to their family, partners and friends, and God. Ultimately this passage lends insight to one’s ability to forgive. If we view the malice of others as acts of ignorance. As acts rooted in their own self deception, insecurity and unhappiness. We realise that their behaviour is unconscious expressions of those insecurities and unhappiness. With this understanding we can evolve from viewing these acts as completely unrelatable. Rather, they’re extreme representations of emotions we all experience. This provides a pathway to empathy. And with practice we can pray for rehabilitation not retaliation. We can empathise rather than exasperate or escalate. We can forgive but not forget.” Cole Cuchna Dissect Podcast MS1E6.


Forgiveness

You’re looking for the explanation, the loophole, the bright twist in the dark tale that reverses your story’s course. But it won’t reverse – for me or for you or for anyone who has ever been wronged, which is everyone. Allow your acceptance for the universality of suffering to be a transformative experience. You do that by simply looking at what pains you squarely in the face and then moving on. You don’t have to move fast or far. You can just go an inch. You can mark your progress breath by breath.

Cheryl Strayed

Ever since I got into fitness, I’ve thought about how much it relates to real life, and this quote above explains both life and your workout. Working out hurts for EVERYONE! No matter how much you workout, or for how long, workouts will make anyone sore (if you’re doing it right). Life just like your workouts don’t get easier, you just get stronger. No one chooses pain, of course! But you have the power to choose how long you will suffer. Everyone is going to experience pain at some point in their lives. No matter your walk of life, we are all human beings and because of this we all hurt and we all love. Life, just like your workouts, you can only mark your progress breath by breath. You cannot workout for long if you’re not breathing just like you can’t be living for very long if you stop breathing. It’s so easy to see the negative when you’re hurting, it’s so easy to see all the places you’ve “failed” in life. “Failed” relationships, “failed” career attempts, I can go on. There are twenty-four hours in a day. That’s a long time you can spend focusing on all the things you can’t do, or don’t have, or will never have, how little you have, etc. “Worrying never changes the outcome.” The only thing that brings about change is action. Just like in life, you need to MOVE in order to bring about change in your physical body. You need clear and concise actions geared towards your success, both in the gym and in life. Your lifestyle needs to support your efforts in the gym, and your efforts in the gym need to support your lifestyle. That’s balance, that’s happiness. Everything is connected. Just like Lauryn Hill says, “everything is everything.” Now you might be thinking, what is she rambling on about?

Well, I realized this year that fitness has always been a guiding light for me. No matter how bad things got in my own life, I always knew just how much taking care of myself was important. Fitness taught me that. It taught me about the importance of taking care of myself. This is the greatest gift that God has ever given me. I’ve forgotten that for a bit while I was busy trying to figure out why God was punishing me so much. So busy wondering why I deserved the things that happened to me, but at the same time pretending that they didn’t cause me pain. Trying to be normal, happy, because I realized that no matter how much I tried, there was no one that I knew personally who could help me. And looking back, it’s unfair that I would expect that. How could anyone I knew personally help me? Most of them were going through the same things I was. They couldn’t possibly give me the things I needed because they were busy trying to figure it out for themselves. It’s no surprise that I found myself in this unhappy place earlier this year, or that I’m in the place of healing that I’m in right now. If I was so busy trying to help and take care of all the people around me, hoping that they will do the same for me, who was around actually taking care of me or my needs? Plenty of my loved ones have found the professional help that they needed, and they are where they are in their lives because they got the help they needed. It just took me a little bit longer. I had to tire myself out first by focusing on everyone else except myself; I can be a prideful stubborn little Bitch! Once I exhausted myself, I had no other choice but to put myself and my needs first. I needed to heal myself, I needed to take care of myself. I needed to go back to my roots and figure out what makes me, me. What speaks to my soul, what is my truth.

A big part of doing that, is letting go of my losses, and the stories I’ve told myself about those losses. These stories only created fear and unhappiness in my life. It’s hard to see your light when all you can see is darkness. You can’t possibly be genuinely happy until you learn how to accept your past, forgive, and move on. “When you recognize that you will thrive not in spite of your losses and sorrows, but because of them, that you would not have chosen the things that happened in your life, but you are grateful for them, that you will hold the empty bowls eternally in your hands, but you also have the capacity to fill them? The word for that is healing.” (Cheryl Strayed). I realized this year through finding professional help, that I needed to let go of my childhood. I needed to let go of the pain that my family had caused me, especially the pain from my Father’s side of the family. The thing is, the same people who caused me the greatest amount of pain, have also given me the greatest gifts. There was only a tremendous amount of pain because there was also a tremendous amount of love. I loved everyone who has caused me the greatest amount of pain, that’s how they were able to cause me such pain in the first place. These things still weighed heavily on my life because I was never able to really come to terms with the things that happened to me. I never understood them. I never understood why it happened? Why I deserved the things they did? The thing is, I may never fully understand what happened. I loved them, they loved me. In our own way we were doing our best to love one another. We are human, and we make mistakes, it hurts the most when these mistakes are so close to the heart. But it’s the fact that we are all human that I was able to find a way to forgive the people who’ve hurt me in the past. I had to remember that even though I loved them, they were human beings who are imperfect. They will make mistakes, and they will most definitely hurt us. They will hurt us when they themselves are hurting. When we are in pain, we end up causing others pain. Especially if we haven’t been able to find a healthy way of dealing with our pain. Denying your pain will only postpone the healing process. Eventually your pain will become unbearable. I know, because I’ve been there. I had to let my pain literally kick me down for me to realize that I can no longer pretend I’m okay. I needed to heal.

I learned about forgiveness as a child. Jesus taught forgiveness, and I was taught the teachings of Jesus growing up. However, there are examples of forgiveness all throughout my life. Life gets harder as we grow older, and so does forgiveness. The more we repeat the pain of our childhood, the harder we become, and the harder it is for us to forgive ourselves and others. A lot of the most powerful/influential people in our world teach forgiveness. Buddha, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Beyoncé!!!! We put these people on a pedestal, as if they are an exception to the human race. They’re not human, they’re superhuman! But that’s not true. Beyoncé is a human being! An exceptional human being, no doubt. But she’s human. She gets hurt. I think that’s why so many people like to cut other people down. Especially people who seem to “have it better.” It seems like we enjoy reveling in the suffering of others, because for once someone else seems to be hurting more than us. However, that’s not how we should be treating ourselves and one another. If you want to find suffering it will find you! You will see it in other people’s lives because it exists in your life. Soon, your entire life will be surrounded by suffering. Other people who are suffering, who complain about their suffering and you won’t grow. You will shrink. You become small when you think small. Instead, think of the bigger picture. If Beyoncé can survive a very public and humiliating affair, and still find it in her heart to forgive the love of her life?! Well, that’s just beautiful. And it turned into some of the most beautiful works of art too. Like I said above, the greatest pain in our life comes from our greatest loves. That’s why it hurts so much. Jesus suffered and died on the cross out of his love for humanity. He loved us, and because of this he suffered. Some of us did not understand him or his message. Instead we caused him a long and painful death, however, he still found a way to forgive us! While he was dying he asked God to forgive us. We are all human beings, we are all made in the image of God. We all have God within us. We all have good within us. Remember that when you hurt the most. You are a good person, and bad things happen to everyone. The bad things that happened in your life don’t make you a bad person. You don’t need to continue to punish yourself anymore. You can do the best for yourself because you deserve the best. Show the people who hurt you the most compassion, and you will be able to give yourself the same. It is through the most trying times in our lives that show us what we’re made of. We’re made of love and if you can find that within yourself, you can find it in others.

YOU WILL LEARN A LOT FROM YOURSELF IF YOU STRETCH IN THE DIRECTION OF GOODNESS, OF BIGNESS, OF KINDNESS, OF FORGIVENESS, OF EMOTIONAL BRAVERY.

BE A WARRIOR FOR LOVE.

Cheryl Strayed

I became a warrior for love, for myself. Eventually this love for myself, grew to love those who’ve hurt me. One day my love will grow to more people outside of myself. The more I love myself, the more love I will have for others. That’s how it works. You only get what you give. It is the same in life as it is in fitness. The more you give to yourself, the more you will receive. Eventually you will have a surplus where you can then give to others without having to sacrifice yourself. That is the goal. Through the love that I was able to show myself so far this year helped me to see through my pain. It helped me to realize that my Father’s side of the family, even though they may have caused me the most pain, they gave me the greatest gift. They taught me the gift of taking care of myself. In more ways than one! My grandparents took a lot of pride in themselves. They always looked nice. My Grandfather used to dye his hair! I know where I got my vanity from LOL I’ve always admired him. He took care of himself first, so that he can then take care of his family. He’s worked out and has been highly active my entire life. He took care of his health and his body. He is turning 88 this September but you wouldn’t know. He has arthritus in his knee and a pace maker but he doesn’t have a cane. He still gardens, and goes for walks. He is the primary caretaker for my Grandmother who has dementia. I’m inspired by him every single day. He is a good person, who has a tremendous amount of love to give. I know that because he gave it to himself first, and then it spilled over into his life. He’s been living a long and healthy life because he took care of himself. If you take good care of yourself, you will be better able to enjoy life! And that’s really why we’ve all been so blessed to be on Earth! We were put on this Earth to enjoy this world and all it has to offer. The only way to do that is to love yourself, honour yourself everyday by doing good things for yourself, the more you do this, the better your quality of life. When I was writing the “Remembering Who You Are” pieces, I guess you could say this is the final chapter (for now). My past and the people in it have all contributed in a huge way to the person I am today. When you go through shit you learn how to either kill yourself or how to take care of yourself. So far, I’ve chosen to take care of myself. I chose love.

.


Heroes

June and half of July has been a roller coaster for me. So many amazing things happened! I also learned a lot. I guess that’s why I wasn’t able to be as consistent with my blog writing this past month and a half. I was in the thick of life. I finally feel like I have processed enough of what happened so that I can sit down and write this next piece.  I’m calling this blog post heroes because I’ve learned a lot about what it means to be a “hero.” I remember that I used to say “Oh God, please save me,” a lot. Up until very recently this would be a common reaction from me when I was stuck in a very awkward or uncomfortable situation. A situation where I felt that I had absolutely no control over. I’ve realized over this past year that the only thing that I actually have control over is myself, and my life. I have control over my choices, my thoughts, and my feelings. With the help of a higher power, God, the universe, whatever you want to call it, you can achieve and do absolutely anything. For a lot of us that is very hard to believe. Especially when you feel trapped in a very dire situation. A situation that seems like there’s just no way out. It is very easy for us to be convinced of our limitations, rather than our powers.

This year, I set the intention that I wanted to rediscover my power. Everyday I’ve done my best to “save myself” from my own despair. Everyday I’ve done something good for myself. I’ve become my own hero. I’ve looked both within myself and to those around me for their wisdom and positivity. I realized that if I want to change my life for the better, I cannot assume that I have no power in the situation. I cannot continue to assume the role of the victim. There is nothing wrong with asking God for strength, but ultimately it is up to you to make a change. Throughout this year, I’ve been writing a lot about my past. Your past helps to inform you of the person you presently are. It does not however, inform you of your future. You do not need to repeat the past, and continue to live in a cycle of unhappiness if you don’t want to. Living in the past does bring unhappiness because it keeps you from the present, and you miss all the amazing things around you. It has been said that depression has you holding onto the past, and anxiety has you fretting about the future. They are two sides of the same coin. Either way you are not living in the present. I’ve been writing about my past and posting these stories on this blog as a way of letting go of the things that were keeping me from being present. The things that were preventing me from my own happiness. Once I hit my own bottom; I realized that I’ve been repressing these stories of my past and my feelings about them. I was doing my best to pretend that they either weren’t real, or that they weren’t as bad as they really made me feel. It is this denial, shame, and guilt that brought me to my knees. It was the most humbling experience of my entire life. It was then that I realized that I needed to surrender to my past. I needed to allow myself to actually feel my pain. To grieve for my losses, and let them go, so that I can make space in my heart for the love, and happiness that I deserve. I also needed to stop blaming myself for what happened in my life. I’m not a bad person, these things didn’t happen to me because I deserved them. Far from it. These things just happened, I didn’t choose it. However, holding on to this pain has you gravitating towards the familiar. It has you unconsciously choosing to relive this pain over and over again. It has you convinced that you deserve whatever happens to you because it keeps happening to you.

This is simply not true. You know that because through this process of healing, you are starting to see the role that you play in your life and the choices you’ve made in your life thus far. It is through your healing that you’ve begun to realize that all these “bad things” aren’t just happening to you. In fact, there are many people out there who know the pain you’ve experienced. It is comforting to know you’re not alone. It makes it easier for you to feel and express your pain openly and honestly. The more honest you are with yourself about the things that are happening in your life, the more aware you are of the “problems” the better you’ll be able to solve them. You can’t fix something that you’re not aware is broken. And you know what? Maybe I’m not broken after all! Maybe there’s nothing wrong with me, maybe my feelings, my thoughts, my emotions, are all completely normal reactions to the things that I’ve been through. I’m human just like everyone else, I just seem to have forgotten that fact. The most loving and genuine thing that I have been able to do for myself is to openly talk about my pain, it has allowed me to forgive myself for what happened, it has humbled and humanized me. Giving up my power in this way has slowly helped to align me closer with God, closer to real power.

I came to the realization that for the past six months I have been going through the grieving process. It wasn’t until yesterday that I fully realized that I haven’t properly grieved for my past losses. I have had some major losses, but I never gave myself the chance to fully embrace all of my emotions, thoughts, and feelings at the time of loss. Unfortunately, I have been conditioned to repress my feelings. I have always been an emotional person, and I have always been shamed for it. This never helped me to cry less. This never helped me move forward. This never made me become a healthier person. Being teased and made fun of for my emotions has been a regular practice my entire life, from my parents, to teachers, to my grandparents, and so on and so forth. Imagine being a child and never fully understanding your emotions and your feelings, so you cry because that’s all you know how to do, but at the same time you’re being told in many different ways to stop crying. That you’re a baby, you’re “sensitive.” As if there was something wrong with you. Now imagine internalizing that, telling yourself that you don’t need to cry. That everything is going to be okay, when it really doesn’t feel that way. Imagine repressing your anger, fear, guilt, sadness, and grief because you didn’t want to cry. Because you didn’t want to feel weak. You didn’t want other people to think you were weak, or that you can’t handle it, or that you’re not okay. Imagine convincing yourself that you’re fine, lying to yourself enough times that you began to believe it. Then one day, all of these feelings that you never had the chance to fully express and let go of come tumbling back? That’s exactly what happened to me. It was extremely overwhelming at first. When I broke down on New Years Eve, that’s exactly what happened. The flood gates opened and all my emotions came pouring out. I could no longer ignore it, I could see it coming too. My emotions were boiling over in December. I just did my best to keep them back, something I’ve been doing for years. However, the New Year came and I could no longer hold them back, and that was it. I finally surrendered and let myself feel things I haven’t felt in years. You could say that I had become comfortably numb, and disconnected from myself and my life.

My New Years Eve 2018 experience was a gift. I had no choice but to surrender and be honest with myself and my loved ones. I was not okay. I was hurting and I was in pain, and I’ve been in pain for a really long time. I just never really knew how to get rid of the pain, I just kept doing what I was taught. Repressing my emotions, and taking care of others. I had become very codependent. I was the classic “hero” and caretaker, because of this I was never fully able to grieve my grandmother’s death at eight years old. I do believe that’s when this whole codependent thing started. My Mom lost her last parent, and found out she was adopted all in one year. Crazy right?! Imagine how hard that would have been for her at the time. Imagine, how hard that would have been for my Father who is not very emotionally intelligent (most men of his generation aren’t) who felt helpless at my Mother’s time of need. He wanted to help her but had absolutely no idea how. Either way, no one could help her, grief is a process you have to go through on your own. I’m sure he could have been more supportive, but what’s the point of playing the blame game now? My parents did their best to process the death of Nonna Battaglia, and so did I, but my Mom did lean a lot on her children. I guess she felt as though we were all she had, and her soul’s purpose for living at that point. That’s a lot of pressure. I, only being eight at the time did not fully understand what was happening but I did know that I was needed. I was needed by my family, and that made me feel loved.

Ever since Nonna died I was given more responsibility, maybe more that an eight year old could handle? I don’t know, but growing up I definitely felt a sense of duty and responsibility towards my sisters. I had to help take care of them, look out for them, this was my responsibility. I also felt responsible for my parents, and to some extent I still do (it’s something I’m still working on). I could see the pain that they were in, and I wanted to do everything and anything I could do to help. Because of this, I don’t think I really got to process all of my feelings about what happened until I wrote my letter to my grandmother earlier this year. I finally let go. Looking out for my family, putting their needs before mine was a survival mechanism. If I kept my family happy then I would be happy. My family would be safe, and I would be safe. That was the logic. I never wanted anything to break my family apart, and so I did everything in my power to protect them and therefore myself. I don’t think I could handle my family falling apart, and trust me there were some scares growing up! I don’t think I would have become so codependent if there wasn’t a real threat to my family life, and my well being.

You see, once Nonna Battaglia died, my family on my dad’s side were the only blood family that we had left, and they definitely made sure that we knew it too. Family was used as a tool of guilt, manipulation, and emotional/verbal abuse by my Grandparents. My Mom was constantly reminded that she was adopted, that she had no one, and so on and so forth. She was made to feel unworthy. This was damaging to me, and my family. My Grandparent’s on my Dad’s side were very toxic. Not only did my Grandmother die at 8, everything I knew and loved about my Dad’s side of the family was beginning to fall apart. No matter how awful things have gotten between my aunt and grandparents on my dad’s side, I still love them. That’s what hurts the most. I loved them and yet they continued to hurt me. At first the anger, and mutual hatred stayed contained within the adults of the family, however, the grandchildren eventually took notice. That’s when I started to come to the defence of my mother and father. Almost every time we went to visit my dad’s side of the family or they came to visit us, I always felt as though I had to be on defence. Another survival tool. I felt like I had to fight for my family. I constantly put myself in the line of fire to protect my mother, to protect my family, and most importantly to protect myself. Because I was always speaking up for my family and for myself, this caused a big rift between myself and my Dad’s side of the family. It didn’t help that I am so much like my Mother either. My Dad’s side of the family for whatever reason never fully accepted my Mother. This conditioning has made me a very reactionary person. It’s not hard to get a reaction out of me, but this is not me. This is how I’ve been conditioned to be.

Looking back, I did a lot of fighting in the past, a lot of yelling, a lot of crying. I was living in a lot of fear, and the thing is, so was the rest of my family. We all became very dependent on each other. We needed one another. In a way I’m grateful. My family is so close and loving, but we’ve been through some real shit, and none of us could really help one another get through it all because we were all experiencing it at the same time! We were all being victimized by my Grandparent’s (mostly my Grandmother). My Grandmother unfortunately has always been a very negative and unhappy person. I’m not sure she had ever been able to realize just how much power she had being the matriarch of our family. Fear, guilt, and manipulation was how she kept us around for so long, but it is also the same thing that drove us all apart. The saddest thing is, we all wanted out. None of us were happy being apart of that family, including my aunt and cousin, but when the anger escalated on Christmas Eve to a major fight, the ending of our relationship with one another, I was blamed for the entire thing. How is that fair? I was born into this family, I did not choose it. The anger and hate between my parents, grandparents, and my aunt existed before I came into being. In fact, my cousin, sisters, and I are the real victims of what happened.

Yes, that Christmas Eve when my Aunt started laying into my Father the second we walked into the door, I quickly came to his defence. He did ask me prior to arriving to my Grandparent’s place to help him “deal” with his sister, and I agreed. I agreed because I felt an obligation to my Father, and I also felt like he couldn’t do it himself. I forgive my Father for asking me, and if I’m going to be completely honest I probably would have come to his defence whether her asked me to or not. I was in university when this all happened, and at that point I was at my limit when it came to the abuse. I had enough of putting up with their bullshit and being blamed for it. Once I came to my Father’s defence that night, I couldn’t stop! Insults flew out of my mouth like rapid fire. My anger flowed out of me like a volcano and there was no containing it.

I regret that it had to come to that, however, I’m not sorry. My relationship with her, and my grandparents was extremely toxic and it needed to end. For a few years after that I stopped speaking to my Dad’s side of the family. I was way too hurt by them. For my entire life I did everything I could to have them love me, to notice me, but nothing worked. No matter what I did I was never good enough, and then to eventually be told that because I look like my Mother I’m a hateful and awful person who destroyed the family? Well it was just too much for me to bare. I never realized how much this all affected me. My Dad was just trying to make it all go away. He wanted everyone to forgive one another and be a family again, and I think part of him still wants that. At the time, the fact that he would even ask me to see my Grandparents again was extremely hurtful to me. It was as if he didn’t recognize the amount of pain they had caused me. I started to feel like maybe I am fucked up? My sisters were able to see my Grandparents again with my Father. It was only my Mother and I who couldn’t bring ourselves to see them. Maybe they were right? Were we both hateful and awful people? It certainly felt that way at the time. We seemed to be the only ones still hurt and angry about what happened.

I never went to see my Grandparents again, until I realized that my Grandfather had to get a pacemaker, and my Grandmother was diagnosed with Dimentia. I made the choice to see them again because I knew their time on earth will be coming to an end soon, and I don’t want to still hate them when they leave this earth. When I went to see them, and every time since, the past was never brought up and they never apologized to my face for what happened. It was like it never happened. I never realized how much that hurt me until now. It was like my pain, my suffering wasn’t important. It was like I wasn’t important. It was only until recently that I realized how much this effected me. Thank God I found a therapist who made me feel normal. For the first time someone acknowledged my pain, and let me know that my responses to what happened was completely normal. All I needed to know was that I wasn’t a fucked up person and she let me know that. Such a relief! You have no idea. My entire life I was asked to put myself aside for the sake of the family. I can no longer do it anymore. I’m exhausted. I need healing. My entire life I’ve been fighting and trying to save everyone else, meanwhile, all I really wanted was someone to come and save me. I never knew until now that I can save my damn self and it feels so good! I’ve been saving myself this entire year. I’ve finally allowed myself the space to be with myself and my pain. I’ve asked my friends and family for space so that I can finally take care of myself the way I need. I’ve allowed myself to live my pain and express it in a way that was healthy and productive. I’ve grieved the loss of Nonna Battaglia, my abortion, my abusive ex boyfriend, my rape, the loss of my relationship with my Dad’s side of the family, it will never be the same, and now the loss of this old version of Alex that no longer serves me.

I’ve written letters to my Dad’s side of the family and burned them. This past month I’ve learned to let go of my anger towards them, and towards myself. I’ve learned to let go of the blame, shame, and guilt that I’ve been holding on to. I did the best I could with the knowledge that I had. I felt very threatened and I did whatever I could to protect myself. Now I realize that I no longer need to fight anymore. The fight is over, and I need to let it go. I’m sorry for what happened, but I don’t take any of my actions back. I forgive my Grandparents. They were in pain, we couldn’t help them, and for whatever reason they couldn’t help themselves. I forgive my aunt and my cousin. They were in pain and suffering too. None of us could be the best versions of ourselves with one another because we didn’t know how. I’m sorry that things turned out the way they did, but maybe it’s for the best. I’m sorry Alexandra Rinaldo. Your feelings matter. Your pain matters. You’ve been through a lot and it’s okay to be sad about it. I’m so proud of you for going through the grief process even before you realized that’s what you’re doing. I’m so glad that you found the help you needed, and now it very much feels like you’re on a new path. You know that you’ve become very codependent but now you’ve been given the tools to get yourself out of the codependent zone and into a healthier version of you. It feels so good to finally understand what happened to you and why you feel the way you do. It feels good to know that codependency was a survival tool for you, but now you no longer feel the need to survive. You want to thrive and I think that you’re well on your way to doing just that. Working on your codependent tendencies is the final frontier to a happier life. You’re the hero Alex in your own life’s story, you never needed anyone else to save you, you’ve saved yourself with help from God.