befriending my teenage self

I’m so glad I didn’t burn my journals.

I’ve only read up to age 16, and already so much is illuminated. I see patterns emerging from a young age. Seeds of self-doubt are being planted, forming the roots of what I’ve struggled with for many years. I see a growing disillusionment with female friendships. And at 16, rage is rearing its head.

Before this point, I tried to minimize my anger – even within my own journal. When I was upset with a friend or family member, I immediately felt ‘bad’. I tried to see their point of view. I apologized to my own diary for being negative! Anger was unacceptable to me – but at 16, it spilled out on the written page.

During my twenties, the anger didn’t dissipate, despite my sincere attempts to understand it. I would lash out at those closest to me, especially my best friend and my boyfriend. I would then try to ‘make up’ for it, only to have it happen again. It was a vicious spiral and I felt powerless to stop it.

I endlessly analyzed where my anger came from. Was it because I’m a woman? Because in Indian culture – at least the household I grew up in – women were not encouraged to express anger? Was it karma, past life issues, taking on others’ suppressed emotions, too much sugar?

None of that seems relevant anymore. What I see clearly now is that, at such a young age, I didn’t have a safe outlet to express the feelings I considered negative. They were perfectly understandable feelings, but I felt such guilt and shame about them, and they festered within.

Was I ever really ‘angry’, or was I hurt and confused, particularly when it came to my friendships? I experienced what I perceived as ongoing disappointment with girlfriends. I felt abandoned, deserted, competitive…rejected. I see now that this probably mirrored my own (lack of) relationship with my biological sister, and led me to attending many women’s circles in the years to come.

These gatherings helped, but still today, my relationships with women can be strained. If the Divine Feminine is indeed returning to the planet (not that she ever really left), it makes sense that all this would be coming up to heal.

As I read my diaries, I’ve also been going through old photos of myself in my teenage years. In most pictures, I am smiling and look happy. To read about those years, and simultaneously watch the story unfold through pictures, has been a tender process. I had forgotten so many details and events, yet I can feel myself right there, back in that space and time, feeling exactly how I felt then.

Our past experiences are still very much alive within us.

I’d thought that burning my journals would clear away all my stories, help me become a phoenix rising from the ashes. But the phoenix can’t rise if I’m trying to escape the more painful parts of my journey. I must claim the entire story first.

And something good is happening. My journals have given me a second chance to re-live those years. I was so hard on myself. I can now bring in the self-compassion I couldn’t before.

In revisiting those painful emotions, I’m also re-discovering parts of my younger self that were pretty freaking cool. She was perceptive, sensitive, and spunky. I laughed out loud many times, reading her entertaining musings. She’s still here, and her inner fire is being rekindled through my presence and attention.

I’m going to enjoy being friends with her.

on forgiveness

A few years ago at a yoga retreat I attended in Tulum, Mexico, one of the participants was inspired to create a special memory for each of us in the group. Towards the end of our time together, she asked everyone to write down two positive, memorable qualities about every person there.  A couple of weeks later, we each received a personalized card that listed those qualities.

I thought of this card a few days ago as I was on my way to visit a close family member with whom I’d been experiencing some tension. Or, more accurately put – I was feeling some major hostility and was very distressed that, no matter how much I thought I’d forgiven the (perceived) wrongdoings of the past, resentment had reared its ugly head. Yet again. With a vengeance.

In the days prior to this, I’d felt drained and depressed.  The same old conversations and injustices replayed in my head, as they’d done for so long, in a seemingly never-ending loop.

Why could I not surrender, once and for all, into lasting forgiveness? Shouldn’t ‘forgiveness’ – if it’s true and authentic – be a one-time deal? How can we decide one day that we’ve forgiven, and change our mind the next?

The morning of our visit, I thought, ‘I’m a slave to my anger’.  Immediately I felt the wrongness, the off-ness, in that thought.  That’s when my friend’s card popped into my head.  I remembered all those beautiful words used to describe me…my fellow yogis’ impressions of me.

There is a tendency, when other people are being kind or pointing out our positive traits, to resist.  We deflect, we brush it off, we think there is some ulterior motive.

Or we think they’re wrong, that we’re an imposter.  That we’re not worthy of it.  They don’t know the real me.

In remembering that card, some part of me – my spirit, my soul – was showing me what is, in fact, ‘real’. It was showing me that others see in me what I often cannot see in myself.

We get so caught up in our limiting self-definitions that our perception of who we are becomes totally skewed and distorted.  We box ourselves into unbearable constriction and pain.  Internally describing myself as a ‘slave to my anger’ was so disheartening that I was prompted to remember, and draw strength from, those elevating words. To trust them.  To allow a greater vision of myself.

Sometimes we feel a sense of power in withholding forgiveness.  It gives us a charge, or makes us feel like we’re in control.  But how can something so ‘powerful’ be so draining and painful? It’s a false power.

It’s getting too hard for my physical vessel to house anger and tired old resentments.  This doesn’t mean I negate my emotions, or suppress the anger that is temporary and useful to feel/express.  It means releasing the stagnant, hardened energy that keeps everyone locked in a state where no one can truly expand and be free.  It releases others (and ourselves) from the grip of our impossible standards of perfection.

I think about all the positive (Abraham Hicks) stuff I write about, and sometimes – often – I couldn’t feel further from that feel-good state.  The process of becoming lighter – more aligned with spirit, with love – can feel like the complete opposite.  Like going to the depths of extremely unpleasant emotions, unearthing them, and pushing them out.  Phew.

But then…a levelling off occurs. Something settles, and we are in a new space, with a new vantage point. Setting the stage for the next wave of expansion.

***

I want to thank my friend AM for having the generousity of heart to create those cards.  Mine showed me the kind of woman I want to be.  And it is the woman others see in me.

There is real power in that woman.  That woman is capable of forgiving, once and for all.