“Rather than letting our negativity get the better of us, we could acknowledge that right now we feel like a piece of shit and not be squeamish about taking a good look.”
~ Pema Chödrön, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times
About a month ago, I came down with the flu and spent four solid days shuffling myself back-and-forth between the bed and the bathtub. A few days later, Mercury went retrograde, which I celebrated by doing exactly what is typically frowned upon during these times – I took a trip.
I should have known better, really. And I certainly shouldn’t have been surprised when the trip turned out almost nothing like I expected it would.
I won’t go into details about the trip itself. Let’s just say that a weekend away with the potential to be at least somewhat romantic actually became more of an opportunity to learn a variety of unexpected things about myself.
Not all of which I was particularly happy to learn.
So, what did I do upon returning to Portland? Went directly into hibernation. Seriously. My capacity for social interaction was at zero and the only thing I wanted to do was spend quality time with myself.
Which, in reality, meant doing absolutely nothing.
I felt ridiculously guilty about this for a few days before finally deciding to surrender to the fact that my body – and mind and spirit – was unmistakably calling out for rest and retreat and about a million deep breaths.
And so I started breathing deeply and declining social invitations and carving out massive amounts of alone time.
And then, just as I was settling into my solitude, eight (yes, eight) exes – ex-boyfriends, ex-lovers, ex-flings – resurfaced after weeks and months and sometimes years of being almost entirely out of my life.
So that was fun.
Except not. Because these interactions triggered a variety of emotional responses I was in no way prepared to handle. And caused me to act out old patterns of thought and behavior I believed I’d long ago left behind.
Like finding myself drawn to men I absolutely know are wrong for me, but feeling powerless to prevent this from happening.
Sigh. The heart wants what it wants.
And sometimes, the heart wants what it had.
Or at least it thinks it does.
Eventually, these ghosts of relationships past exited stage left, and I was left sorting through some unexpectedly heavy and poorly-packed emotional baggage.
And having to repeatedly remind myself that I am not going to end up alone.
Because when the Universe gives you a “This Is Your Life” moment by parading a plethora of exes past you without warning, it’s like shining a huge floodlight on your neuroses and your fears and your complicated relationship to partnership.
And then saying, Good luck meeting someone who’s gonna put up with your shit.
A million deep breaths, indeed.
So yeah. June was an interesting month.
Ultimately, I’m grateful for every single unexpected ex encounter to which I was subjected this past month, as coming face-to-face with the past illuminated just how much I’ve changed for the better since ending things with each of these men.
More than that, however, being forced to revisit relationships in which I perhaps wasn’t my best or bravest or most authentic self has required me to really cozy up to forgiveness.
Because seriously. I have abandoned myself and made myself small and swallowed my feelings and feigned indifference and ignored my own needs all in the name of love. (Or, you know, lust and/or infatuation, at the very least.)
And I look back on some of these relationships and the me who was a participant in them, and I just feel embarrassed and ashamed and appalled at my behavior.
And absolutely determined never to repeat those mistakes.
Which is all well and good, I suppose. But I’m realizing now that perpetuating these feelings of shame and disgust towards this slightly-less-wise version of me really isn’t doing the me of today any favors.
Because when all I feel is horrified by or disappointed in the Cayly who might have once gotten lost in a relationship or been taken over by love or passion or attraction, partnership seems pretty unappealing.
And (spoiler alert!) I would actually like to try that whole relationship thing out again at some point.
Maybe even in the near future.
But I only really came to this conclusion after I (confronted eight exes, yes, but also) decided to forgive myself for being kind of an idiot sometimes.
Because guess what, you guys?
We’re all idiots sometimes. Yes, even you.
But if you beat yourself up and feel ashamed for not always doing the smartest or wisest or even the kindest thing, you sort of impede your ability to truly learn from your mistakes.
Just like shaming past me for occasionally losing herself in a man prevents the me of right now from moving on and embracing self-awareness and exploring partnership in present time with eyes – and heart – wide open.
Which I feel like I’m finally ready to do.
And so I suppose I’m encouraging you to be nicer to yourself. To forgive yourself your idiocy and your less-than-ideal actions and even your apparent failures.
To realize you will always make mistakes and behave imperfectly and be a flawed person.
Because if you continually stockpile grievances against yourself, your ability to grow and evolve and move forward with grace will be weighed down by unnecessary emotional baggage.
And think about how many puppies you could carry if you let go of all that shame.
Just an idea.