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Warning: naughty language ahead!
An Instagram post greeted me one recent Tuesday morning with this phrase: “Let them go; you deserve better.”
The next read, “The toxic person that walked away from you is giving you the space for what the universe has waiting.”
These are great quotes with empowering messages. That is, unless they are referring to you.
When you are the toxic person, these self-affirming memes stab like little daggers into a broken heart.
I am ashamed to admit it, but I betrayed the trust of a man I loved and who loved me. My actions were cruel; I said words and did things that broke his heart—and not just once. How could I do that to another person? I often wonder if I will ever be able to trust myself to be in another relationship.
I want love and to be worthy of love again, so I have spent the last nine months reading self-help and spiritual books, journaling, and seeing a therapist (three, actually) trying to set myself on a better path. I do not want to repeat the choices I made in my last relationship. I want to be better in my next relationship, if there is one.
This journey of self-examination has been a road filled with potholes, construction, detours, and not enough rest stops. Journaling (potholes), being analyzed (construction), crying (detours), repeating the shitty scenes over and over again in my mind until it has come to a point where I don’t sleep (not enough rest stops). It has affected every single part of my life, stripping me down to the bones of my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.
I am naked.
You wouldn’t know that I was struggling if you saw me walking down the street, teaching a yoga class, or even out with friends having a glass of wine. I smile, laugh, practice, teach, and perform my day job well. I try to have faith that if I keep traveling down this road, I will reach a point where I feel whole again, but I am impatient.
I work toward this miracle day when I will feel an honest sense of well-being, and in the meantime, I keep a cheerful exterior. Internally, I am a fucking mess.
It’s easy right? The therapy world and the spiritual world tell me to “forgive and let go.” “You cannot change the past.” “Do better next time.” Honestly, it all feels like bullshit when you are in the middle of it. I have been doing all the right things, but still no forgiveness for myself. What the hell?!
Three weeks ago, I decided I had had enough of myself—I mean, enough. During one of my journaling sessions, I remembered a teaching from a text I read during yoga teacher training called the 4 R’s: remember, regret, repair, and refrain. I decided to try and apply these to my situation.
Step 1: Remember all the shitty things that were done and said. How I felt during and after the words were said and the damage had been done. (Seems pretty easy.)
Step 2: Feel the regret; acknowledge that nothing would make me happier than to take back my actions and words. (Also, easy.)
Step 3: Repair—try to make amends for past actions. But how do I repair what has already been done? Apologies seem so empty, especially if once you apologized you did the same thing more than once.
Step 4: Refrain. This is the tough one. I didn’t get to the refrain aspect of this lesson the first time. I repeated the offense, which makes me feel like shit. (So, what to do?)
I stopped, took a deep breath, and decided to create a healthier atmosphere where I could finally heal. I unfollowed the groups and individuals that put those posts on Facebook and Instagram. I already do a great job of punishing myself; I don’t need social media doing it too. I may re-follow these people when the pain is a little less raw and it doesn’t feel like they are screaming my name in each post.
Then I try the 4 R’s again. I allow myself to keep remembering until I can get to the point where I remember what happened without the self-loathing and obsession. I allow myself to regret my actions—deep in my soul regret—to feel it and realize this relationship ended because of my behavior. I think it is less about regret and more about responsibility. Next up is repair—the tough one. They say if the person you hurt does not or will not speak with you, write a letter you will never send, or maybe send it (if you aren’t sure, check with your therapist).
And this: I want to own this repair. I want to be as raw and as honest as Caroline Myss when she spoke, beautifully and honestly, in a podcast with Oprah Winfrey: “Myths and Truths About Healing.” These are her words:
“I need to speak with you; I need to tell you something. I consciously knew what I was doing. I consciously knew it. I have to call it something else—I have sinned against you. It was a sin. I heard my conscience tell me not to do this and I didn’t listen. And it didn’t matter to me and I know that my actions redirected the course of your life. It was conscious, that was a sin, because it was conscious and how much it hurt you did not stop me. This is not a boo-boo, this is not an apology. I am confessing my soul to you and I am asking for your forgiveness.”
So, this is not an apology. I am not apologizing. I am asking for forgiveness. There are some things in life that cannot be apologized away. Maybe if you do not believe in God or sin, insert a different word in there, like misdeed or offense. In my world, “sin” sums it up perfectly.
Refrain—the final step. If you have confessed to someone and felt those words deep in your soul, I believe that you will refrain. You will have felt their pain and their betrayal. It will not be hard for you to refrain. I know it will not be for me.
We all make poor decisions during our lifetimes; we say hurtful words or act in ways that are cruel, some conscious and some unconscious. Either way, there is no excuse for hurting another person. Remember, regret, repair, and refrain—practice repeatedly, until you get it right.
Am I better? I am getting there. I can remember without hating myself for what has been done, though I will always regret deep in my soul what happened. I will always be sad that I threw away the opportunity to be loved by that man, and that our relationship is lost forever.
To repair, I will write that letter to him and it will say: “The words may have come from Caroline Myss, but she articulated what I have felt in my heart for so long but didn’t know how to say.” I don’t know that I will ever send the letter, but I will check with my therapist.
And I will make a conscious choice each day to refrain from hurting others intentionally.
I took a peek at Instagram this afternoon and the first post that came up was: “It all feels so heavy. Have you tried letting go?”
Dear Instagram, I am trying to let go. Thank you for the reminder.
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