Re-blogged from Rock Your Bliss
There is so much bliss in forgiving someone.
When I finally forgave my Mom, when I decided she was no longer wrong, responsible, or un-forgivable…I got my Mom back.
I grew up in an abusive home. A house filled with secrets, and I became an expert at lying. As a 5-year old, I could whip up a tale complete with story lines I had practiced in my head as soon as I saw the look of doubt of someone – a neighbor, a family friend, a teacher. I was convincing enough that no one ever asked any bigger questions.
Show me a house full of secrets. And I’ll show you a family full of liars.
Alcoholism, physical and emotional abuse, and total and absolute unpredictability were woven into the walls of our suburban home. A green dodge caravan, a basketball hoop, and a $500 Maltese dog named Muffin were also part of this home.
Show me a family full of liars. And I’ll show you their props.
6-7 years ago, if you asked me to tell you about how it was, I’d cry. No, like sob. About all the shit that went down. About coming home late from a volleyball game at the age of 17 because we ran into over-time. And how when I walked through the door, I couldn’t wait to tell my Mom about how I scored the winning point, and she charged at me full of fury and worry and not able to tell the difference in her own body. She wanted me to feel as bad as she felt. She backed me right up against the front door and screamed in my face. When she did this, there was no other way to distinguish the look in her eye other than hate. As usual, I would apologize profusely. Eventually, I learned if I said nothing, it would be over sooner. This feisty Asian momma of mine would just keep winding back and blow-by-blow try to transfer all of her pain onto me. And I’d take it.
I’d take it because it meant she’d leave my sister alone. I’d take it because my dad was passive and on the back porch pretending like none of this was happening, which is very much reality when you’re 9 beers in on a Tuesday. I’d take it. And when she was done, I’d find my $500 dog that was hiding underneath the table, scoop her up, and go into my room. I’d break down, finally cry, and press cold washcloths against my eyes, so that the next day during 2nd period I could speak conversational Spanish (instead of the truth) and no one would ever know.
Show me a kid who can’t make eye contact and has all the answers all too quickly. And I’ll show you a kid who’s scared as hell.
So that’s a snapshot for you of what it was like. I write that, and I can feel in my body that there’s still a slight charge there. There is a charge to memories distinct and different from a charge into action.
Said another way, I used to find my behavior of being an unaccountable, judgmental, unpredictable, impossible-to-please, sometimes bitch, not only excusable but also my birth-right. I mean, I grew up in an ABUSIVE home. We were KINDA POOR. I’ve been financially independent since I was FIFTEEN. I practically RAISED MYSELF. Blah blah blah.
Show me an adult with excuses. And I’ll show you a kid who learned to survive by being a victim.
So let me get you up to speed here. How did this path to forgiveness begin? Well, when I was 26 (I’m 33 now), and things by all account were pretty damn good. I was banking quite a bit of dough as a pharmaceutical sales rep, running 6-7 miles a day, had 4/6 visible abs, all my friends were good-looking, successful, and always down for a happy hour that turned into happy 8 hours with hilarious cab rides home. We had resources. Fancy loft apartments. And high-tolerance levels.
I could have easily stopped there. I had overcome what I thought was the biggest hurdle at the time: finances, and I was set up for a cushy life that I very much enjoyed. But every once in a while, things just got really fucking dark. I’d see one of my friends with their mom, who they absolutely adored, or other friends going to dinner with their parents, and they couldn’t wait to get there. And I’d think about my own mom who I hadn’t talked to in months or my dad who I’d avoid talking to because the slur in his voice infuriated me. I’d think about how when I did pick up the phone to call them, I’d have to close my eyes and take giant breaths before hitting send. My entire body would react, and my stomach would clench, and I’d prepare myself to “take” whatever mood my mom was in – from telling me she loved me to telling me I was a selfish bitch. You just never knew. I’d hang on to the “I love yous” like million dollar bills. I never knew when they’d come again.
At the age of 26, I ended up in my first Baptiste Power Vinyasa yoga class. Hung-over. Slightly on a dare. And just wanting to check the box. I’d try any workout. I was on a 10-dollar mat from target with a half-filled water bottle that I found in my trunk as my life-line. The class was 75-minutes, but it felt like 750 minutes. I loved it. Every crazy second of it. For the first time in 26 years (truly), I began to breathe. When it was done, everything in my body said: this is it, this is it, this is it.
7 years later and after many trainings, world travels, career changes, thousands of yoga classes, a move across the country, hours and hours and hours on my mat, I took a look around at all the amazing, beautiful, saved-my-life people I met along the way.
I am so certain, so positive about the truth in this statement: yoga saved my life. Would I still be living without it? My guess is yes, I think so. But here’s the deal guys: I have zero interest in just living. In just getting by. In living alongside my reasons, excuses, and complaints.
My first ever teacher was Baron Baptiste, and my first 200-hour training was back in 2008, and in so many ways, this was the beginning of everything. Again, my life was GOOD, so good, but it was just surface-level good. Like I still had hate in my body good. Like I still found my past a noble excuse to live a mediocre present. Like there were people in my life who I wished were dead, good.
What a good life right?
If you’re reading this, there’s a chance. I’m guessing that a yoga mat is a place you are familiar with. What I’m asking you to do is get in a love affair with that thing. Honor the time you spend on your mat, breathing, reaching, falling, flowing. Also, I totally respect that for some people yoga is…a hike through the mountains. A Sunday morning in the park. A plane ticket to go surf some waves. A morning spent snuggling your baby.
I mean: AMEN.
Yoga means union…to yolk. And the physical practice with the mat is one small part of that. If you have a banging yoga practice but you’re still kind of an asshole and don’t treat people well, have fun with your handstand on the train to Crap-ville because you’re going there alone.
What yoga has done for me. What my trainings through the Baptiste family have done for me. What spending every dispensable dollar I have on travel, workshops, and drop-in classes have done for me…it’s cleared a space for me to see and breathe.
Nothing changed with my parents or how I grew up. The facts are still the facts. But at one point, I was asked in a training to look at my life and see how I could be completely and absolutely ENTIRELY responsible for everything that’s ever happened in my life. At first, the kid in me is like WTF, how could I be responsible for x, y, and z? THEY’RE responsible. I’m right. They’re wrong. End of story.
But slowly…I started to get it. And by slowly, I mean fought the process with all my might (and I have a LOT of might). Slowly, I started to look at every relationship now and see how all these feelings, the complete lack of forgiveness to my past, and the people in it were totally getting in the way.
I started to have a completely new, never-felt empathy for my mom. Somewhere along the way in her life, when she was a kid, she learned to express herself like this, and she could never see another way. I was making her lack of seeing another way completely unforgivable. Because she was the mom and I was the kid, and she should have known better…etc. etc.
But it’s actually on me because I know better. Because somehow, thank god, this path opened up for me to walk upon to practice yoga. To heal. To forgive. To grant to me this lineage, especially of women, around me. Leaders, sisters.
Now did this look like my Mom and I sitting down at the kitchen table over a cup of Folgers talking all this through and hugging it out at the end? Um, no. It’s looked like ME being completely responsible and taking what I’ve learned and being gentle with her when we talk. Seeing all the beautiful beautiful characteristics of her. Seeing all the amazing ways she’s passed down her strength to me. My deep commitment to inquire, thrive, connect, and make a difference every single day may not have been as deep if it had just all been easy. If I was given the space and permission to feel and ask questions as a kid, I probably wouldn’t be as committed to doing that now. I learned to not just see the struggle but appreciate it and be grateful ’cause heck, I made it out alive, and I get to break the pattern now.
Also, it wasn’t obvious. I didn’t call up my mom and be like Mom. I forgive you. a) she’d be like ‘for what?’ and I’d just be pissed and b) that’s not the language my mom speaks. So what it looks like is that every time we talk, I just keep breathing in and out the presence of forgiveness. When she triggers me or says something absolutely crazy or hurtful, I don’t react. It works. 8.5/10 times. And that’s progress. I just try to see her as a beautiful woman who did and is doing the best she could, and when I’m generous like that, I know she feels the difference because she talks to me longer and is lighter in her tone.
When you can get to the forgiveness piece, in comes the light. It’s odd. My sister and I remember completely different things. I’ll remember everything – the details of the day, what we were wearing, and where we were exactly. She remembers broad strokes. I’ll call her and be like HOLY SHIT JENA. Do you remember that time Mom pulled the car over and beat the crap out of us with her big ass purse (the whole 1980′s momma’s gonna get you from the front seat, flailing her purse toward the back-seat, driving with the other hand) because we got the wrong donuts? I remember so many nights at the dinner table where my Mom would just rage and go off-on us. You’d be eating mashed potatoes one minute, happy as can be, and the next minute, your mashed potatoes were being thrown in the garbage because you “made a face.” I used to have boot-camps with my sister where I’d try to teach her to protect herself. We’d go through drills. One of these was me shimmying up the hallways (literally straddling two walls and climbing up), and launching myself from 10-feet from the ceiling toward her like a ninja yelling, PROTECT YOURSELF! Now, at the time, I was dead serious; she needed to learn some skills. She’s two years older than me, but she’s always been slender, a straight-A student, singing in the choir. Me? I’ve always been built like a brick-house and always got an A in gym and art. I saw it as my role to protect her. Looking back, this is HILARIOUS. I mean, my sister and I weren’t sitting around making friendship bracelets and learning to braid. We were trying to make it out of there alive. And we did. And that’s what matters. With forgiveness came the light.
We are lifetimes and lifetimes of the history of those who have come before us – most directly our parents but so many generations before that. We are born into what we need to work through. I truly believe that. We are born into what we need to examine and make choices on. We are born into a history that we will either change or perpetuate. It’s called a lifetime. It’s honored in sum by the word legacy. And it is entirely up to each of us.
I know that when I have babes, I won;t ever lay a hand on them. I won’t ever scream in their faces. I will say I love you as many times a day as I can to make up for the few times a year I heard it and believed it. I won’t ever hold my babies responsible for my life…because my life is on me.
I don’t know what that will be like or what it will feel like. I wonder what it’s like to be a momma that grew up herself in abuse. Does it all wash away? I don’t know. I can imagine when I get there, just knowing my depth to feel, that it won’t be simple. But I have everything I need.
Most of all, I have forgiveness. There is no hate left toward my parents where there once was. Ocean-sized and unforgivable. I resigned myself to a life without them. A ‘fuck-that’ kinda attitude. But when I started to see them as humans, way bigger than the role of mom and dad, I started to forgive and heal.
My relationship with them is not perfect, but it’s one million times better. And also, I love them. I wouldn’t choose 2 other people on the planet to call mom and dad. I’d say we’ve come far.
Forgive someone. Forgive yourself. You get this lifetime to do it.
Oh the sweet bliss of forgiveness.