Joy Should Never Have Guilt Attached To It.

NOTE: Originally posted in January 2017

ritchie-valens-43343I’ve been mostly MIA on my blog for nearly two years, but up until a week ago, I really didn’t know how to explain my absence to anyone. I wasn’t ready…until now.

Let me backtrack a bit:

On June 3, 2010, our beloved newborn, Cora Jane, died after picking up nosocomial pneumonia in the hospital and my life was turned upside down and sideways. The road of grief was long and winding and lasted years for both my husband and me. It fundamentally changed both of us but we eventually found solace on different paths – me in roller derby, he in motorcycle adventures. We lost each other somewhere in the meleeand I never quite found my way back.

On March 14, 2014, nearly four years after losing Cora, the stress of grief and life got to me and became really sick. I died a little bit and had one hell of a wickedly, wickedly, wickedly, awesome Near Death Experience (NDE) where I hung out with my dearly departed mom for an entire day and we chatted about the meaning of life and soul contracts. I learned more about myself in that brief blip in time than I had learned in nearly 40 years.

During that experience, mama told me something that I inherently knew but didn’t want to admit to myself: I was not in love with my husband any longer and our relationship was no longer viable. When she said it, I knew it as truth.

However, when I awoke in the hospital and my husband welcomed me back with a floodgate of tears and love, I just couldn’t bring myself to accept my mom’s revelation.

I was full to the brim with love and peace. My experience had opened up my soul so completely that I couldn’t fathom not loving my husband (and everyone else in my life), so I put those thoughts to the very back of my mind and got to work on loving everything. I spent the following six or seven months living life in a bubble of pure bliss, loving everyone and everything and understanding everything about the world. I was in a state of euphoria and it was the most magical feeling, aside from being dead, that I have ever known.

Then, one day in October 2014, it all crashed down around me when I opened the front door and was blasted by a shock wave of negativity that left me sitting on the floor, panting and panicked. It was the first time in my life I had what would later be described to me as a major anxiety attack, and so began the boomerang of the NDE survivor spectrum, extreme empathy. I began sucking up all the energy around me, especially the negativity.

For months, negativity plagued me. I would feel it everywhere I went and it would just keep building up inside. Anger would “jump ship” from someone else to me as I passed them on the street. Frustration would creep up on me if someone in the vicinity was frustrated about something. Despair, antagonism, fear, worry, stress, anxiety…you name it, I absorbed it. I was a Sham Wow for any kind of crappy feeling or emotion and just kept pulling it all in with no means of wringing it out until I was nearly bursting. It was debilitating. I started staying in the house for long periods of time (sometimes up to two weeks), shutting out the world and completely at a loss as to how to stop it.

I stopped working. I stopped hanging out with my friends. I basically stopped living. I was stressed out and afraid all the time. I couldn’t sleep more than an hour or two each night and I was so moody that I would erupt like a volcano over nothing on a regular basis.

I actually thought I might be going crazy and I thought I needed meds to bring me back to sanity.

Through all of it, my husband was really understanding and took care of me —working all day and then stopping for groceries, cleaning the house, making excuses for our friends and family for my constantly skipping functions —and the entire time, I felt resentful of him. I resented him for being so nice and kind to me. I resented him for loving me so much. I resented him for being so nice when I was being such a stone cold bitch and didn’t really appreciate any effort he was putting into our relationship. Nothing he did was good enough or, well…enough, period. I couldn’t understand why he was such a huge source of my anger when he was doing everything he could to make me happy. The guilt of it was all-consuming.

I was more despondent than I have ever been in my entire life, even after Cora died, and everything became a downward spiral. I started losing friends because I couldn’t keep up relationships. I lost business because I couldn’t find the energy to shoot anymore. I alienated my husband and kept him at arm’s length at all times. I just shut down.

At the time, I didn’t understand anything that was happening to me and I didn’t know how to clear the energy out of me or block it from getting in, so I just retreated into myself and grew more miserable every day. I was stuck in a dead end and I felt like I was constantly beating my head against a wall.

One night while my husband was on a motorcycle trip to Mexico, I was laying in bed asking my soul guides for help and my mom’s voice came through loud and clear. “Jo, remember what I said? It’s time to stop pretending and get moving.”

And just like that, something clicked. During my NDE, my mom had also told me that those moments in life when we feel like we are at a dead end and are beating our head against a wall are moments when our soul guides are trying to steer our feet onto a new path and we are resisting. She said that when this happens and we continue to resist, life gets harder and harder until our vibration gets so low, nothing but pain and misery get in. Sometimes we find our way back—if we realize what we’re doing and trust our guides to help us out of it—and sometimes we don’t. Laying there, in that moment, I realized that everything I was feeling and experiencing was coming from my own resistance to the truth —I was no longer in love with my husband. I loved him, yes, but only as a friend. I had been forcing my heart, in vain, to find its way back to something that no longer existed. I had denied the truth in my heart and it had finally caught up with me and kicked my ass. My own resistance had backed me into a corner and forced me to face up to my fears or stay lost forever.

And just like that, I knew I couldn’t pretend anymore. When he called me the following day, even though I knew I was going to hurt him so much, I told him that I was leaving him.

Not only was it an awful feeling, but it was also, remarkably, a great feeling too. The moment I got the words out, I felt the weight of all of that negativity shift and begin to dissipate and I knew that I was doing what I needed to do to save my own sanity. The entire situation sucked moldy ass crackers, but for the first time in a few years, being honest with myself, and him, felt so liberating.

And, suddenly, the world came back to life for me. My vibrations started to rise and I started surfacing from the mire.

Fast forward 20 months to where I’ve gone through some hugely significant changes, all good for me.

I have moved to another city and slowly begun to establish myself here. I have learned how to control the way I take in or block other people’s energy and I no longer get bogged down with it. I also pay close attention to thoughts and feelings that come up within me and I honor and acknowledge all of them.

But up until last week, I wasn’t ready to let go of the guilt I’ve been carrying around for so long.

I couldn’t shake the guilt of not being able to love my ex the way he wanted me to and of disrupting both of our lives to follow my heart. I knew we were both better off because it is so unfair to pretend you feel something for someone that you don’t, but it was still eating me up inside.

Last week, Greg (my new guy) and I had a conversation about how I seem to keep my life with him on the down low. He also said he thought it was because I was trying really hard to be sensitive to my ex’s feelings. Even though I didn’t actually realize that I was doing that, as soon as he said it, I knew it for truth and I acknowledged and sat with it for a couple days.

I, indeed, stopped blogging about most things in my life because they have involved Greg and I was being sensitive to my ex’s feelings and didn’t want him to think I was throwing my happy moments in his face. It had been 20 months since we officially separated and I was still trying to censor my life to avoid hurting his feelings. I was, in essence, subconsciously suppressing myself because I was unsure if my ex was happy and I didn’t want to hurt him more by admitting to my own happiness.

My ex is a good man and I want him to be happy too, but his happiness isn’t my or anyone else’s responsibility. His happiness depends solely on his outlook. I have been burdening myself with too much guilt for following my heart, something that has brought me great joy and anything that causes a person joy should never have guilt attached to it.

So 
I have only just chosen to forgive myself and embrace my new life and all that it is.

I feel like I am home, in all ways, since I moved to the Okanagan. Back in a small town, living with the guy I fell in love with the moment I laid eyes on him when I was 17 (true story), and happily struggling through the ups and downs of the day-to-day.

Chugging forward with an open heart full of gratitude and newly lightened shoulders, I can’t wait to see what amazing things this year will bring for me, my life, and my relationship with my new guy.

I wish you all dragonflies and let the blogging begin again!

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Forgiveness. What the f$@k does that even mean?

I am on a spiritual journey. Cliché, I know, but true nonetheless.

Part of this experience has been a seemingly endless uphill climb toward learning to live from a place of love and remembering that my actions and words affect more than just the person immediately receiving them because we are all connected through energy.

When you become aware of the oneness of the universe and you start to literally feel (not just figuratively feel) that connection to all things, like-minded people somehow find their way to you. And when they do, common themes keep popping up and challenging the way you think, act and interpret the world around you.

I’m now very aware. I now have so many connections with other spiritual people that I feel as though I have a whole new section to my family. I am now being challenged, more so than ever before, to think about my effect on the rest of the soul pool.

But there are days – OH! There are DAYS!!!!- when I question the meaning of things I hear all the time because I really have no fucking idea what they mean.

Days where I discuss being hurt by someone whom I believed to be a friend and my spiritual friends say, “Just forgive her and let it go.” Or days when I see somewhere that a guy beat his puppy to death because it wouldn’t stop barking and my spiritual friends say, “It’s his lesson to learn, not yours. Forgive him and let it go.” Or days when the odd client slips through my usually keen sense of “this is a gooder” radar and turns into someone fighting a huge battle against the world and probably herself and she goes out of her way to make me feel like a shitty photographer because she’s not happy with herself. And, once again, my spiritual friends (which make up most of my close friend pool these days) say, “Forgive her and let it go.”.

Have you ever tried to forgive someone and let it go? How do you go about it? Do you just say to yourself, “Hey self! That person has not been very nice to you and has done some nasty things and really hurt your feelings, but it’s all okay. Today, you choose to just forgive them for doing such shitty things to you and let go of all the hurt and unhappiness that they have caused you.”? Does this work for you? Because I have tried this technique many times and the next time I see that particular person, I immediately feel shitty, remember all the hurt they have caused and also immediately wish that someone causes them the pain that they caused me. Then I immediately check myself and remember that I have already supposedly forgiven them and let it go. And then I beat myself up a bit for not truly forgiving them or letting anything go. Clearly, this technique doesn’t work for me. If I never see the person again, it might, but what if that person is in my life on a regular basis?

I’ve tried other techniques too. Contacting the person to let them know I forgive them for whatever I feel they’ve done and also letting them know I’m forgiving myself for any part I had in it. Nope. Doesn’t work. I still feel instant angst when I see them or hear their name in conversation.

I’ve tried blogging about how I’m forgiving them and hoping that since I launched it to the universe, I can let it go and get over it. Nope. No dice, homies.

I’ve poured out all my anger and frustration and nasty scum hatred feelings to my counsellor or my girlfriends and hoped that it will be enough to get it out of my system and move on. Nu-uh.

Basically, up until the last couple days, I had no friggin’ idea what forgiveness actually was. Nor did I understand how NOT to hold a grudge (even though I foolishly tell myself that I’m not holding them). When people hurt me-whether it’s intentional or not-forgiving them for the pain they cause is not as easy as just saying, “Abracadabra! I forgive you for being a Grade A Asshole and I’m letting it all go.” and shrugging it off. Once you let the pain in, it takes work and a shit ton of effort to actually get rid of it. And, if you’re not on top of it, ALL THE TIME, it seeps back in and infects you time and again.

Today, I had an epiphany and I, not a word of a lie, hit my knees at the beach in a completely stunned moment of pure awareness. I stayed there on my knees for a full five minutes, with my eyes closed, grasping the full meaning of what forgiveness truly is.

Forgiveness can never be given if it’s accompanied by fear and fear is what wounds us the most, not other people’s actions or words.

For example, if someone says or does something to me that I interpret as nasty or painful or hurtful, I can guarantee that the pain stems from fear. If I think this person’s words or actions will make others think less of me or think that I am someone who I am not, I am coming from a place of fear. Our ego always wants everyone to know that we are awesome and how hard we work at being awesome. It foolishly tells us that one person, out of the hundreds we have contact with, will ruin us with their words and actions, so we go into overdrive-defending ourselves to anyone who will listen and trying to prove that we are not who this other person says we are. Even when we are extremely on top of this part of ourselves and we recognize it easily, the ego can still take over and mess up our heads.

If, on the other hand, the same situation happens and, instead of reacting with fear, I simply choose to react with love, the pain never enters me in the first place. It can be something as simple as telling myself that sometimes, no matter what I do or say or how kind I try to be to others, it just won’t be enough for some people. And, you know what, that’s okay.

That was just one example of the effect that fear can have on us. Fear comes in many shapes and sizes and it causes a whole host of negative emotions and actions – hatred, anger, revenge, phobias, frustrations, etc..

The thing about forgiveness is that you are never really forgiving others, you are actually forgiving yourself for letting fear get the best of you. If your shittastic ego gets the better of you and catapults you into a place of fear, the mere act of recognizing is forgiveness enough. In the above situation, if I recognize my fear and tell myself that I’m afraid of how others will see me or what they’ll think of me, just admitting my fear dissolves it and helps me remember that what other people think of me is none of my business.

If there’s no fear, there’s nothing to forgive.

[Let me digress here for a moment and talk about forgiveness of heinous acts such as rape, murder, abuse and other appalling acts of violence. I can’t even begin to understand the fear that these types of trauma would cause, nor can I say that it would easy in any of these situations to recognize the fear and learn to forgive by recognizing it, but I do believe it’s possible, with time, to come to terms with any kind of brutal act of violence or loss. I believe that we choose our path before we come to live our human existence and some of us choose to go through awful shit in order to learn the strongest lessons our souls can handle and to teach compassion to others and ourselves. So, most of the forgiveness I’m writing about here is small beans in comparison to, for example, forgiving the guy who stabbed your mother to death in a home invasion or recognizing and conquering the fear that lingers from being brutally raped.]

While I’ve been writing this, words have appeared before me, as they often do:

“She is who she is, but I don’t have to like who she is or keep her in my life.”

Basically, let people be themselves. Let them fumble along their own path, in search of the lessons they are meant to be learning and they are most likely struggling with their own fear. However, if people make you feel shitty about yourself or as though you are incomplete and always striving to meet their expectations or that you are never good enough, loved enough, cool enough, liked enough, wanted enough, etc., get away from them. Do everything you can to distance yourself from them. Do everything you can to ensure your paths don’t cross often. If that means giving up time with people you really enjoy, so be it. Those people will find a way to you if they are meant to still be in your life. If you can’t avoid the people who drag you down, guard yourself against them when you are near them by reminding yourself that they are struggling with their own journeys and they aren’t as aware as you of how their behaviour can affect others. Remind yourself that love, not fear, directed at them, may not have an immediate result and may feel like a useless effort, but every little bit they get from you will help them figure out how to come from the same place (or closer to it) someday in the future. And, if all else fails, you can always hit them upside the head with a shovel and casually dump them into the holes you’ve dug in your garden for “excess compost”…Just kidding. Seeing if anyone is actually still reading this.

And, in case you haven’t figure this one out yet (because sometimes it takes us many, many years of living to get to the point where this becomes second nature), do everything you can to surround yourself ONLY with the people who lift you up, make you feel loved, make you feel whole, accept you for who you are and respect the journey you are on.

No fear means no need to struggle to forgive. It really is as simple as my spiritual friends make it out to be.

After all this, I’m hoping tomorrow’s beach excursion will bring an epiphany of being less judgemental, another aspect of life I struggle with every damn day.

Enjoy the holidays. Merry Christmas and all that jazz.
One Love, peeps. One Love!

p.s. I did not even remotely proofread this, so if my grammar sucks and my punctuation is misplaced, I don’t really give a…