I Dreamed of Forgiveness
Learning to let go will change your life
My father died when I was 9 years old. Pancreatic cancer. It took just 3 months from when he was diagnosed. My parents believed that children should be told the truth, so we knew what was going on and what the inevitable outcome was. As far as that goes, they probably handled it as well as they could. I do agree that honesty is best, even with small children. However, I still ended up being angry. At my father. For dying.
Yes, as completely irrational as that sounds, I spent the next 10 years being furious with him for leaving. Apparently, this is pretty normal for kids who lose a parent at about that age. My anger turned inwards- I was a mess of furious insecurity- blaming the world for something I logically knew had no reason.. I knew it was only one aspect of my life.
Twice as a teenager I had a dream. I don’t remember exactly how old I was, but I remember the dream as if it was yesterday. Somehow, my father had come back to us. We were living, Swiss Family Robinson style on an island (completely irrelevant!) and he had somehow talked God into letting him come back. Everyone was completely thrilled and was having a huge loving reunion. Except me. I was still so mad at him for dying that I refused to talk to him at all.
Same dream- at least twice that I remember- in my mid to late teens. It was a disturbing dream. It added guilt and overwhelming sorrow to my anger. I didn’t want to be so mad at him, but I couldn’t figure out how to get past it.
A few years later, I had the dream again. My father came back. I forgave him. I didn’t have to think about it in the dream, or work on it, it was just there. Forgiveness. It turned out he had been a Nazi spy (in the dream!!!); it didn’t matter- I loved him and accepted him anyway. I remember waking up sobbing. I sat on my bed and cried for about 10 minutes, letting out all the anger and sorrow and remembering the love. The joy and relief at finally letting go was so huge.
That dream changed me forever. Instead of being a person who clung on to anger, I became a person who could let go of things. From being the angry teenager who watched grief swallow her mother and swore to never love, I finally become someone who fell in love- completely, deeply, unconditionally- and consciously chose to. I became a friend who, instead of stubbornly holding my friends to impossible standards of suiting me, accepted others for who they truly are, honestly not minding if that did not always suit me.
OK, so I had a few more episodes along the way that took me a while to get over, but I did get over them. I became someone who could let my beloved husband leave because that’s what I knew he needed to do for his own happiness. I am someone who looks behind the critical words my sister writes and sees the love and concern behind them. I am a person who makes the first call, reaches out, apologizes, stays calm and gives hugs.
When my mother passed away a while back, the letting go, the moving on was pretty much instant. Not from the grief, but from all the wanting and yearning. I had wanted her to be a more attached parent, a more nurturing mother, a more selfless person. She could be none of those things- she could only do her best, which was pretty emotionally limited. But I remember the weight of wanting something different from her simply dissolving in the days after her death. She could no longer be anything other than what she was, so I let go of my side as it no longer had anyone to play against.
Forgiveness sets you free. It truly has very little to do with the other person. Whether or not they ‘deserve’ it, whether or not they even know about it, the person who will grow, who will live, who will be happier is you. OK, so I had a dream to help me the first big time, but you can start without that.
Maybe just start small- forgive a slow waiter, be cheerful with the kid who gets your change wrong at the store, hug your mother or sister when they question your career choice instead of getting defensive- they are really just communicating their love and concern for you. Forgive as if you were also not perfect.
One of my tricks is to genuinely consider if I have ever done the thing I could be mad about too. I nearly got hit on a pedestrian crossing the other day. The guy just sailed through without looking and if I hadn’t paused, would have mowed me down. I could have yelled. I could have gotten indignant. I could have been self-righteous. Or I could remember those time when I was not paying as much attention as I should have been. I could remember that time- just 3 days before- when I couldn’t see around a parked car and didn’t stop at a crossing when someone was there. I could wave him on and hope this reminds him to pay more attention.
Forgiveness is a change you can see straight away. That saying about how resentment being like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die- so very true. Stop drinking the poison. Letting go of all of those stories about who did what when and how it wasn’t fair- the only person you are hurting is you.
Forgive because you choose to. Forgive because we can’t force anyone else to be anything else and the only person you can change is you. Forgive because it will truly make you happier. Forgive because it is way better to be kind than to be right. Forgive because you can.
You can’t choose how other people behave or choose most of the big changes in your life. No matter how much you want to. You can only choose what you do with it. Rant, cling, gripe and fester? Or forgive. Let go. Be happy. Forgive, because it will change your life.