Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven

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You may remember that in August this year, I did the Ventura Storytellers Project, where I shared my story with a room full of strangers who somehow through those moments of sharing vulnerability, joy, struggle and victory became friends. One of the other storytellers was a man who shared the horribly poignant details of a terrible childhood, and yet he went on to get married, have kids and be a productive member of society. He talked about this:

Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven.

It’s a really strong statement and one that truly gave me pause. Intellectually I could see how that was true. Forgiving someone for something that they had done to you, no matter how horrible could truly help assuage age-old, long-buried emotions, and truly help you move on.

But, I didn’t understand it in my heart.

Until today!

I came across someone from my past who, for whatever reason decided that she needed to come clean to me about how she had treated me over a decade ago. This was someone I had the deepest respect and admiration for. Someone I could say was like a role model and mentor to me. She was a tough one, never shied away from doling out tough love to help me learn lessons of life. She had changed her perspective about me and therefore had changed the way she treated me through what I had perceived was no fault of mine. Or at least, none that I was aware of. She had made our relationship tenuous, but I never knew what had caused that to happen. Things got so tough, that I just had to cut her out of my life because it was affecting my health and my life. I had a little toddler at home, and couldn’t afford to be stressed out and miserable all the time. Since I couldn’t get a straight story out of her about why our relationship changed. I eventually moved on. I resented her for quite a number of years thereafter. I wondered what I had done to deserve this. I didn’t have the skills then to ask the right questions to get the story out of her, or to understand things from her perspective.

She went on to tell me about a couple of other women in our circle. People I considered friends. Women I would have done anything for. They had colored her judgment of me by feeding her blatant lies (her words, not mine) about me. They had been literally building a case against me to drive a wedge between the two of us. And it worked like a charm. So, this woman, this second mother figure, decided that she was going to take their words as truth, and not give me a chance to tell my side of the story. Although till today I don’t know what story I would be telling. She wouldn’t tell me why they decided to do this.

I had hairs rise on the back of my neck as I flashed back a decade and thought of these two women; both of whom I considered close friends. I had shared so many moments of vulnerability and weakness with them, I had let me guard down with them.

You see, when I first moved to this area, I had no women friends at all. I had moved from New York to get my MBA at Pepperdine, where I had hoped to form close friendships but didn’t. I was a commuter student like most of my classmates, so while we did do things together socially, I somehow didn’t get to form much wanted long-lasting college buddy friendships. From college, I started working for a very small organization where all the other people were nearly twice my age. No opportunity to form friendships there either. So when these women started entering my life, I was ecstatic. Women friends have always been important to me as an adult, perhaps just because I didn’t have a lot of girlfriends growing up. Needless to say, I was shattered when my friend had so abruptly turned on me without any indications why.

Now here she was; she said she had carried the hurt of this in her heart for all these years and she just needed me to know. She said she has watched me from afar, and is proud of the life I have built and the relationships I have nurtured over the years. She hopes that I would forgive her.

Ahhhhhhh I get it now. Forgiveness is for the Forgiver, not the Forgiven.

Yes, of course I forgave her. I had forgiven her years ago. I had made my peace. I knew that if I ever saw her again, I wouldn’t hate her, I wouldn’t wonder why, I would just embrace her as if none of that had happened.

But she had lived with this for over a decade.

She hadn’t forgiven herself.

I had moved on.

She hadn’t.

Her heart still hurt from the role she had played in sabotaging our friendship.

The ripple effect in my life of moving away from that relationship had been astounding.

To say that my life flourished thereafter would be an understatement.

I learned so much about myself through that whole process, and I also learned my boundaries.

I learned that people will treat you the way you allow them to.

We have to train people the way we want them to treat us.

I learned so much about what goes into a good relationship.

I learned about being a good friend and not being a pushover friend.

I learned it was okay to say NO.

I learned to say YES to myself always.

But most of all, I learned that my gut has never let me down.

And that in the noise of the outer voices of people’s opinions about me, I had drowned out the whisper of my inner voice; And the latter is the only one that mattered.

So, as is always the case, the toughest critics, the biggest backstabbers, the most challenging situations are always the people, places and issues where we have the biggest breakthroughs in our lives.

So the next time someone challenges you, irritates you, upsets you or plain annoys the heck out of you.

Say thank you to them silently.

Then go sit with yourself and ask yourself…

What am I to learn from them?

If you’re quiet enough for long enough, you’ll get an answer.

I promise.

 

 

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Roots and the Way of the Universe

Can you imagine what it must be like to live somewhere for 19 years without ever feeling like you’ve put down roots? That’s me! I moved to NY from India in 1994 because ever since I was 12 I knew I wanted to live in this great country. In NY I always felt that I was there just to do what I had to do, to get to where I was supposed to go, then I moved to California to get an MBA at Pepperdine University and living in Woodland Hills was just while I was in school. Then I met my husband and we moved to where we live now, but I never thought of VC as home – always thought that we’d settle somewhere else; that this house isn’t where we’ll put down roots, even though both our kids were born here. Do you know how exhausting that is? To always be living as if you’re just here temporarily – till wherever you’ll go next, only to do that again, and again. I never quite settled into my home – and we’ve been here over 8 years. I feel like I haven’t actually made it my own. Ever since I moved in with my husband 13 years ago, I craved a sense of community – craved girlfriends who lived close enough that we could meet for coffee or wine, or get our kids together for play dates as an excuse for us to get together, to have a rotation of homes to go to for the different holidays, for summer fun activities – you get it! And don’t get me wrong – I have A.M.A.Z.I.N.G girlfriends the world over – and that’s just it – they’re all over the world. Hong Kong, India, Australia, Iran, London etc. and here in the US, San Diego, Portland, Seattle, Rhode Island, Santa Barbara, New York, Los Angeles and other cities, but no one within a few miles of me – until September 5, 2012. That milestone day was the day my little girl started kindergarten, and a community of new kinder parents began to form. The universe was finally answering my prayer…here was evolving a small subgroup of the kinder parents who’s kids got along, but the parents REALLY got along…not just the women – but the husbands too!

Memorial Day Monday this year – we gathered at one of the homes, a beautiful home on a hill with an incredible front yard at the bottom of a gentle slope. We parents sat watching as the kids ran free and wild with nowhere to go that would be out of sight – but with so much space to run that one full lap would have exhausted them all! Beer, guacamole, cheese, fruit, burgers, hot dogs and incredible conversations. This is by far the best Memorial Day I have ever celebrated in this country. I can say that about New Year’s Eve, Cinco de Mayo & Easter too – lots of laughter and fun, and the incredible sense of community that I have craved and sought even without realizing it, for most of my adult life.

So with this sense of finally settling in came the realization that although I LOVE working in Santa Barbara, no – under no circumstances do I want to move there anytime soon (which is something I thought I wanted for the past 5 years). This was so freeing. For the very first time, since 1994 I feel like I am settled. I am HOME and I love it.

And here’s where the Universe does it’s thing in strange ways…

Monday May 27 – Memorial Day BBQ with friends and this realization of community hits home hard.

Tuesday May 28 – grandfather would have turned 91 – I definitely think he was hanging out with me that week.

Wednesday May 29, 6:06 am as I meditate, I think that I hear my husband’s voice loud and clear from the top of the stairs telling me ‘It’s time for work‘ – so as not to shout back up – I text him and tell him it’s only 6 am (our household doesn’t wake till 6:30). I go upstairs to start getting ready at 6:30 am and he joins me in the bathroom groggy and asks me why I texted him. I remind him that he yelled down at me half an hour ago – and he looks at me like I’m inhaling an illicit narcotic! No, it wasn’t him he says. I heard it LOUD and clear! It wasn’t him – but I heard these words in a male voice that I assumed was him because there are no other adult males in my house at that hour of the morning.

Later this day, I receive a job offer and am scheduled to attend an interview for a different job later in June. Both these are in VC – the County that is my home, and the County that I have been trying to get out of for the past 5 years.

June 1, 9:00am – I attend an Arbonne training with my dear friend Mel and we are both rocked in our shoes with the incredible energy – we are both ready to roll up our sleeves and seriously get to work! I want my free White Mercedes for Christmas!

So yes God – It’s time for work – I get it, loud and clear! I’m here, and ready when you are!