How do you begin to forgive yourself for being unforgiving?
How do you begin to forgive yourself for being unforgiving?
Forgiveness: Peaceful Surrender
When I started my work on Life Poems, I wanted to explore my life in a unique way that I have never thought about before. For each year of my life I am writing a poem that is based in something significant at that time. It’s fascinating to look at myself in this way; to sit down and type out 0-45. Zero is birth and 45 is the next step; 1-44 are the traces of each year I have lived. I figure I’ll be ready for 44 and 45 somewhere in the Fall, once I know what this year will certainly bring.
My last Life Poem jarred me, not because it was shocking or difficult. It caught me off guard that I had not shared all the details of my grandmother in years. I hadn’t really even spoken of her. It’s sad because she was and is one of the most important and influential people in my life.
The experience of writing that poem made me realize that my memory is soft. I often can only recall generalities. I lose the details that are so utterly important. I don’t know why. I asked myself recently to think a specific experience that was special to be about a loved one. A white washed picture came to mind. I was searching through the fog and could not find any specifics. It was incredibly frustrating. In this poem the details of my grandmother are vivid as if they happened yesterday so why are these more recent memories so faded. How do I explore that?
I would say the memories become cloudy somewhere through college or just after. I have many details from that time, not as clear as I would like but they are full. I know how, where and when I met my closest friends. I remember key shifts and changes in my path in art and theatre. I in fact remember many things I would actually like to forget. Somehow thereafter I fell asleep.
If a memory it isn’t incredibly close, it’s faded. I know it’s there in the back of my mind somewhere I can literally feel it, but the clarity doesn’t come. I count on my husband and friends to remind me and fill in the cracks. I don’t want to be asleep any more. My life is too amazing. There is too much to accomplish, too many people to love. It’s time to be present, not just sometimes but always.
It’s time to wake up.
I’m not sure why this letter is so hard but it is. I have been wanting to write it for years. I always hesitate. Perhaps its because I fear I did something terrible, or perhaps its the fear that you won’t care. I don’t know really because its all made up in my head at this point.
I want to say I am sorry. Sorry for not being there when you were sick. For not being around in the hard times of your life. I don’t truly know how to explain why I stayed away, but I will try. Know its not to excuse myself, but simply to explain.
The day I heard you were sick, my first reaction was to jump in my car and show up at your door. My heart was pounding I didn’t know how to feel. My husband told me do it, go you don’t want to regret it. Something inside me was so afraid to show up unannounced and uninvited. I didn’t hear about you from your mom or dad or wife. I heard about it in a distant way that led me to believe I wasn’t supposed to know. We hadn’t been connected in quite a while and our annual traditions slowly went away. I questioned my place.
I know time creates shifts and having our own families makes time spent harder. Others become a priority. Family groups seem to get smaller and distances more wide. I’m sorry I let my insecurity get it the way of my heart. I miss you. I regret that I don’t know your family. I regret that we never see each other and I fear too much time has past to ever be close again.
Pictures of you and your beautiful family make me smile, thank God for Facebook (I never thought I’d say that). Knowing how successful and happy you all are makes me proud. I miss you and everyone else especially each January when the memories of playing soldiers and wresting until we laughed ourselves exhausted fill my being.
Our distance may have nothing or everything to do with me not being there for you, but either way I hope you forgive me for not being the person I want to be. I hope you know how much I love all of you. I think of you often and hope that your lives are everything you ever imagined them to be.
Some day I hope to be brave enough to actually send this letter to you. Until then I send my love and energy through distances and time.
All my love,
I have no idea how many years its been but I know I think of you often. It was a strange relationship we had. Some would say you were a father figure, but those who really knew us knew it was unique, a close family friend who played a huge role in my life.
When I think of you so many memories come to mind. I grew up with you. Many of my childhood memories not only included you, but were because of you. I would never have seen so many places, learned I loved theatre or simply had a color tv if it weren’t for you. We were a strange little dysfunctional family unit and I am so grateful for all you gave me.
I saw Canada; Montreal and Quebec, Virginia Beach and Disney World. I had weekends in Vermont and New Hampshire, and I first experienced NYC with you. I saw My Fair Lady with Rex Harrison and Camelot with Richard Harris! Who can say that. I went to the ballet and took classes. I remember Christmas caroling with your daughter at the senior homes and getting in trouble for inappropriate laughing in church by you mom. I remember weekends going to see singers who were your friends, at the local Chinese restaurants. I remember bowling and end of season banquets, I have trophies because of you.
You took care of us more often than not and helped us through hard times over and over; though you weren’t the best at showing emotion, I know your heart was good. I thank you for these gifts and I think of your grandchildren often hoping they are well. I wish it was different in the end, that you hadn’t given up and checked out. Reckless with your health you ensured your fate and it still makes me sad. You were more distant and more cold. I know how hurt your were by your daughter. I wish it had been different, that she had been different because I know how much you loved her and how damaged it made you.
I hope you knew how much I cared for you, how appreciative I was and am for everything you did. You ensured I never felt as poor as I was and that I didn’t go without. You were one of the most influential men in my life and I just want you to know I miss you.
As I think about things that are important in my life, one that comes to mind is the idea of regrets. I have often in my life said that I have no regrets, but it’s not true. Though I may not regret most of the decisions I have made in my life for they have led me to be the person I am now, all too often I have left words to loved ones unsaid and this I do regret, my goal is to change that and this is the first step. In some cases these special someones are still here and other times sadly they are not. I believe these unsaid words are what hold us down and hold us back. That said, Saturdays will be “Letters to Loved Ones”.
I miss you no less today than I did over ten years ago when you left this world. I wish I could describe how beautiful you were; sleek hair with salt and pepper on your chin, long powerful legs and a child’s excitement that made the world around you laugh. I don’t know that anyone could live up to the kind of love and loyalty you shared, but I do wish I had. So often you waited for my attention and my time, and so often I didn’t give the same in return. I loved you I know you knew that, but I was young and self-absorbed; too busy going through my own drama to give you the attention you deserved.
I want you to know that through the years you have been with me every step of the way, you were my first true regret. I don’t say that to be negative or cause hurt I say it because it changed me. I am a better person for learning to never take love like yours for granted. I see the gift I was given and have taken it forward in my life. I have grown for loving you, knowing you, and learning what true unconditional love is from you.
I look back and wish I had spent more time lounging on the floor and playing. I wish I had answered the phone when I was called over and over. I was avoiding someone else and in turn I missed saying goodbye to you. The hardest words I ever heard were “he waited for you as long as he could”. I’m so sorry and I will regret it for the rest of my life.
Know that because of you I never ignore multiple calls, I always seek compassion and I never take for granted love sent in my direction. I wish I could say I was now the person you thought I was, but I promise that each year I forgive myself a tad more and I will always strive to be who you saw in my heart.
Thank you for loving me, I miss you.
So, I am embarking on a new journey and I’m asking you to come with me. I will be reaching out via Facebook and Twitter asking for your input to help me with a new interdisciplinary art project entitled, Who Am I?
I wrote a poem I have yet to share, I will at some point but not yet. It is one I wrote while researching Langston Hughes, one that reached down into the depths of me and my past to share my history, my journey and who I am becoming.
Oddly as an artist, I started this way. My foundation was visual art then I discovered theatre and fell in love. I became passionate about stories and in doing so loved disassembling them and re-envisioning them while mixing disciplines. I always wanted live music, dance, startling visuals, powerful words and voices. I wanted to make a physically emotional impact with my art.
I am here again, starting again but in a whole new way. I am a producer, I underlined that because over the past couple of years I constantly wanted to avoid the term. So many were looking to me as a producer and somehow it made me feel as though it subtracted the “art” from what I was doing. Now I am seeing it differently. I am embracing this talent and understanding its strength. I have the ability to bring together a vision and people to make something noteworthy and extraordinary. For the first time in a long time I am incredibly exhilarated and inspired.
Funny enough, it is the subject of this project that has made me look back and look deep. To ask, why I have made certain choices? Why do I question what I do? Sadly I have a deeply personal admission: my body image keeps me from my success. There I said it! What seems to be such a simple issue, one I have been ashamed of because it feels so trivial, but in actuality is so commanding that it holds me back from everything I know I am capable of. I have to reach inward and ask sincerely, why?
I have spent a lifetime working to be the “image” of myself I have created in my head. My personal expectations of myself have only continued to become less attainable. The tedious phrase, “If I…then…” has played on repeat in brain for more years than I’d like to admit. The reality I am facing now is that by not accepting myself as I am today imperfections and all, I am disrespecting everything I have worked so hard for and negating everything I have achieved in my life. Sadly this only perpetuates my perceived personal failure that I have seemed somehow determined to achieve.
Its time to change and my change must start with me.
Who am I? How many women ask themselves this question not because they are in a transition, but because they looked in a mirror and made a judgment of themselves that they carry with them throughout the day, each day. Today I am fat, yesterday I was my hair or my skin, the day before my shoes and so on. This mirror we seek our reflection in is not real, but the reflection promoted to us by the media and the brainwashing we have done to ourselves in our denial; too dark, too light, too fat, too thin, too old, too young. When are WE enough?
It doesn’t seem to matter how many forms of proof they show us that airbrushing is rampant and inexcusable, that celebrities wear hair extensions, that “natural” is a color we paint on and no longer what we actually are? We need to stop seeing our reflections on the television and in magazines; comparing ourselves only to the “idealistic” forms sold to us. Its time to start looking around at the beautiful, real people who live among us every day.
Today I choose to step up, look in the mirror and not see only what I look like but who I am; a talented leader, artist, performer and activist. This is not easy to do I wish I could say it is, but I am saying for the first time with true conviction that I will fight each day for myself. To look in the mirror and silence the voice of irrationality and say out loud that I am ready to accept the awesomeness of simply being me!
The Who Am I? project is about women; how we are seen in society and by ourselves. It is about how we affect men and how they affect us. It is about communication. It is about embracing our personal, individual power while opening our minds and sharing ourselves, our truth with the world. Beauty has so much less to do with what we look like and so much more to do with the light we shine, the light we can only ignite if we are willing to release falsehoods and accept the magic of who we are. This takes time and dedication BUT this will change our lives and every life we touch.
Please take this journey with me and look in the mirror and ask each day, Who am I? Then remember who you really are.
Please watch this inspiring video of Lupita Nyong’os‘ speech from the Essence Magazine Awards. It is both heartbreaking and rejuvenating. I watched this and couldn’t help but cry because I remember asking god to give me the strength to change and be something different from what I was not because I was bad, but simply because I believed I wasn’t good enough. I know so many young girls have done this over and over and the older I get the more devastating it is. Society needs to start teaching our children, girls and boys this definition of beauty Lupita talks about and stop perpetuation the deception that breeds self-hatred. We as human beings deserve more.
There is something about sitting in the grass or an Adirondack chair on a sunny day with the mountains or a lake in site. I go there in my mind when I can. It’s a memory, but also a vision. A vision I use when my mind gets lost in some messed up version of my day.
It would be amazing to wake up each morning and sit on that grass, do yoga and meditate as the birds serenade and the wind blows seductively against my skin; a kiss of cool in the warmth of the sun. Or to sit in the night looking at the stars, the soft music of the trees whistling. Laughing with friends and loved ones.
It is possible.
They say that balance is a myth. Is calm a myth as well? Perhaps constant calm would be boring, perhaps it doesn’t exist? I have found it here and there and it is wondrous! To feel my own breath, for my brain to be quiet and my body accepting in its groundedness.
It is possible.
Why do we fight what is in our own hearts? Why do we not just dance with joy at the challenges? Why is suffering in our nature…or should say, my nature. Who am I to speak for others, though I know so many in lust with chaos. Those are them that I’d love to dance with, to engage and share a calmness with.
Imagine a shared moment; quiet and without expectation or limits. What a dance that is.
It is possible.
Calm is not just the grass. It’s a state of being; an acceptance of the moment. It is a willingness to release the struggle, the chaos – to hand over the reins and say…”okay…” and for that moment to truly know; I’m okay right now. I’m okay as I am. I am enough.
It is possible.
© Nichole Donjé