Ready to forgive?

forgiveness

A wise woman once told me that forgiveness is acceptance that the past cannot be different. When we forgive, we have to accept. And that’s where we all tend to get tangled up.

I am certainly not a champion for forgiveness. I’ve fought against most of my life. It just wasn’t something I could entertain. How could certain people deserve forgiveness?

So I heard a lot from others about how forgiveness is something you have to do for yourself, not the person. That if you don’t forgive then you are subject to hate in your heart, and that hate will just weigh you down. Maybe. But for me, not forgiving you doesn’t mean I hate you. And it also doesn’t mean I’m still hoping things will be different.

So how do we forgive? How do we move forward? We can all attempt forgiveness. I’ve said it out loud on numerous occasions. I’ve reconciled that the past isn’t going to be erased. But in the end, it’s not 100%. Forgiveness doesn’t clean the slate. It doesn’t give anyone a free pass to hurt you again. That’s maybe why they say forgive but don’t forget.

There’s no innocence with forgiveness. It doesn’t rectify the hurt. Ultimately, forgiveness may mean something different to each person who has the capacity to forgive. When I have forgiven, it helped me stopped playing the past over and over – waiting for a different ending. It stopped the blame. It’s way too easy to blame yourself for everything, especially when you are a kid. As children, we aren’t sophisticated enough to understand we are not the cause. When something traumatic happens, a child can’t comprehend the way an adult can. It’s either blame the adult or blame yourself. Children blame themselves. To blame the adult would seem unfathomable for many kids. Because we usually love and trust the adult. This creates an internal struggle and a rejection of self-love. We don’t learn to love ourselves. We learn to blame.

I’ve blamed myself for much of what has happened to me. It’s a vicious cycle, often hard to correct. I’m better than I was, but the question is, have I forgiven myself? And this may be the hardest part of forgiveness. I’ve come to realize that forgiveness for myself is the first step. Everyone else had to wait.

Self-awareness can empower you to forgive. It can help you see the logical side of any internal argument. I’m still my biggest enemy in many ways. To forgive myself, I have had to accept my actions and choices; some of which were really bad. I can’t change the past. I can only hope that I honestly believe now that it cannot be different.

I’ve forgiven exes. Most of which didn’t ask for it. I once wrote a long email to a man I had loved. I had ended the relationship well over a year before. It took that long to heal. It took that long to forgive. I think he needed my forgiveness. It wasn’t easy to give. When someone hurts you, someone that you love, it can be hard to come out the other side. I did, although with some wounds that may never completely heal.

I’ve forgiven friends who have hurt me, knowing that we all make mistakes. I’ve forgiven my mom for not being perfect. I’ve forgiven my former bosses for treating me terribly. And yes, I have forgiven myself a million times. I’m sure I will a million more times.

But I haven’t completed my forgiveness journey. I still find it not within my current grasp to forgive one person. This person let me down my entire life, never there when it mattered. This person isn’t in my life anymore and hasn’t been for some time. No matter how much I want to forgive, there is something that stops me from being able to completely. There’s never going to be any resolution; I know that. Nothing will change the past. And I don’t have to ever give this person another chance to hurt me.

For now, the forgiveness is still a work in progress, as am I. Eventually, I think I’ll be at 100%. Forgiveness is not something this person ever asked for, and at times, I think it’s something undeserved. I’ll let go of it all one day. I’ll be brave enough to forgive.

When people hurt us, it’s hard to recover. It’s hard to stand back up and pick all the little shivers of pain out of your palms. When we are hurt, it changes us. Forgiveness doesn’t change us back. It simply helps us from wishing every day for a new ending. History cannot be rewritten. I will keep trying every day to forgive a little more.

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Football and America

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There’s a quote that I read that has stuck with me about football. “Baseball is what we were, and football is what we have become.” It was said by Mary McGrory, an American journalist. In those few words, it says a lot about what these sports meant and currently mean in American society.

I’m not a baseball fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m not interested in what that sport represented to society. Baseball is rich in history. It has been seen as just as American as apple pie. But the excitement and electricity has clearly shifted away from baseball to football.

I am a football fan. Let’s be clear: football is violent. Baseball has little violence and interaction. It’s a slow game. Football has a much higher tempo, although with all the replays, challenges and penalties, the game has gotten longer. Do we long to watch because of those violent interactions and crashing bodies? Is this who we are?

I am not a fan of violence. I am desensitized to it. I can appreciate a good hit, but I don’t want anyone to get hurt. Injuries in the current format of the game are followed, tracked and discussed in detail. Whereas 30 years ago, they just “rubbed some dirt on it” and kept playing according to Justin. Now any hit, we all freeze for a moment and hope it’s nothing serious. Football in many ways is about who can survive and stay healthy until the end.

Football does mean a lot to me. It is how we do Sundays. Sundays are much better when my team is winning. Haven’t had many of those Saturdays this year as a Carolina Panthers fan. This year has been a series of disappointments. Unfortunately, as a longtime fan, I’m use to it. I won’t turn my back on my team just because they are losing. I also won’t say they deserve to win based on how they have been playing. You can’t win games with four turnovers. You can’t win games when you let an offense produce over 400 yards against you.

But Justin is having a brighter season. His Cowboys are looking pretty fierce this year so I found myself in unfamiliar territory: cheering for the Cowboys. I do really like Dak Prescott, the rookie QB. I have no idea what they are going to do about the Romo situation. The current team has a great chemistry; Justin argues that they have a bigger playbook with Romo and his football IQ. We went to a game a few weeks ago. It was certainly next level.

But my season isn’t over. We sit currently at 1-5, which sounds awful. I was on the train to work last week when a jovial passenger launched into a pep talk about how it’s not over. I’d like to believe that. Something is certainly amiss. There have been injuries on the offensive line, impacting both the running game and protection for Cam Newton. Cam hasn’t played to the level he has in the past. He’s not playing awful. He has been injured. They aren’t executing many designed quarterback runs. This has forced him to stay more in the pocket. He just hasn’t always been as accurate as we’d all like.

Cam has been a controversial figure for some time, long before he became a Carolina Panther. He’s made mistakes. He has not always acted with the class I’d hope. But I don’t really have anything negative to say about him. What I do really appreciate about him the most is that it is obvious that he loves the game.

The Panthers have some amazing talent and when everyone is clicking it can be electric. I’m not sure how to right the ship. People are throwing the secondary under the bus and grieving the loss of Josh Norman. Norman is a phenomenal corner, but the collapse isn’t just because he’s no longer in the lineup.

Last year, there were some magical plays. It was fun to watch. Now it’s been painful at times. There has been yelling and air punching. I’m a passionate person. I get emotionally involved. It’s nice to root for something.

But football is violent. People get hurt. There is blood. Fans can be extreme. The Dallas fans I encountered a few weeks ago were dedicated to say the least. That’s history; that’s a shared feeling of triumphs and defeats. So maybe football is what we’ve been all along. Baseball just seemed like the more American choice – at least how America wants to see itself. It’s hard to say what exactly the reality is – are we football? Baseball? Both?

Maybe what matters most is that we want to be remembered. We may not remember what people say or exactly how something played out. We always remember how it makes us feel. Football makes me feel alive in a lot of ways, and I suppose very American.

I am more than my body

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Since I can remember, my value as a human being has had a lot to do with the way I look. This is what it’s like to be female in this society or possibly planet. The first compliment to come out of someone’s mouth has always been about being pretty; not smart or funny or any other deeper quality. But for the record, I just want to say that I am more than my hair, more than my blue eyes, more than my shape, more than my skin.

However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t want to be pretty. Of course I do. I wear makeup. I get my nails done. My hair is colored. I strive daily to lose weight. I wear clothes that show off my shape and heels that make me taller. I’m all in on beauty. My thirst for it has never been quenched.  I will never not want to be pretty.

Yet, no matter what I do or what I restrict, I still have doubts. As I get older, the doubts are looming larger. Although I’ve been told I’m pretty thousands of times, it’s not something I say to myself very often.

What I can and do say to myself is that I am smart, creative, accomplished, ambitious and a fighter. These qualities have nothing to do with what I look like. I know I am these things because of what I have achieved. I worked hard to be these things. They are much harder to question than beauty. I should probably be more pleased. Maybe I’m not because when I look in the mirror, these qualities aren’t easy to see. All the things wrong with the way I look are.

I still want to be more than my body. I made a decision about 10 years ago to do something that many women wouldn’t. I had a breast reduction. I’m pretty sure breast enhancement is the most sought after surgery, and here I was wanting them to be smaller! But there were a lot of horrible things about having such a large chest. No matter what I wore, all you could see or focus on was my chest. I’m not sure if anyone ever looked me in the eye. My shoulders and back hurt all the time. I couldn’t wear any type of shirt that was a button up. I once had to order a dress four sizes too big to get it to fit my chest. By the end of alterations, there was enough material for another dress. It was miserable.

Luckily my insurance paid for it because they realized this was a real health concern. The surgery itself was fine. It was outpatient. What took the longest to heal from was just being able to reach out my arms. I have scars. They aren’t so bad 10 years later but still apparent. Depending on what I have on, you can see them. But it changed my life for the better. Now, my chest fits the rest of my body. My neck and back hurt a lot less. I can wear clothes I never could before. It was truly one of the best decisions I ever made.

But I think I’m on the minority on this one. But to me, my breasts don’t make me a woman. They are simply part of my anatomy. I’d even prefer them to be smaller. They just get in the way sometimes. My breasts don’t have any purpose like being a vessel to feed a baby. Even though most men seem to be obsessed with them (unless of course they prefer another body part), I could care less. If I never had to wear a bra again, I’d be happy.

I’m not sure how women get past being more than their bodies. Men often won’t let us. But we share some of that blame as well. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be proud of their bodies. Show it off if you want. Pose nude if you want. I’m not condemning or judging anyone. I just want the conversation to move forward. I want women to be viewed just as much by what’s inside than outside. I’m not sure what kind of shift will need to happen so that this can be the norm. My hunch is when more women become leaders and are truly treated equally – meaning we get the same pay and the same opportunities – a shift may occur. It’s amazing to think that at 50% of the population, we are still the inferior sex. Many men still want us to think this (been called sweetie or honey lately?), but women do, too. If we don’t believe in ourselves then there’s no way we will ever leave the shadow of men.

So my ask of you, brilliant, feisty women is to really believe we are more than our bodies. It doesn’t mean we have to stop wanting to be pretty. It just means we need to want everything else, too.

Conflict and Kindness

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Conflict is a part of life. No matter how much we’d like to avoid it, it’s inescapable. After all, we are all different and unique. We can’t all agree on everything. Nor should we because that would probably be a very boring world.

But when we disagree, does that mean we have to be enemies? Does that mean we have to be hateful? It seems pretty simple to say of course not, yet that doesn’t seem to be where we are as a society.

Before the advent of social media, we probably kept our opinions and our beliefs a bit more to ourselves. Now everyone has a platform. And everyone has an opinion, which is fine because you are entitled to your opinion. Just remember it’s yours. That’s right, it’s your opinion. You can’t make it be someone else’s. Opinions aren’t facts. They are what we believe about a certain situation, which could include a lot of different things, including bias.

I have lots of opinions and beliefs. And I have plenty of people in my life who have polar opposite opinions and beliefs. This includes in my own home. Justin and I have a great love for one another and also respect. But we are different. We came from different environments and have experienced different things. On the core, non-negotiables, we are pretty aligned. Other things not so much, including politics. I loathe politics. I feel like we have a very dysfunctional system. So does he. We just have different thoughts on how to fix it. Yet, we can live together and be happy. With the current state of the country, it’s hard to miss all the hate and rage being supplied by both parties. We try to keep our differences on these matters out of sight. Although sometimes, I can’t help myself. I will honestly admit that I threw a dog treat at him a few weeks ago. I apologized. Not my finest moment.

So here we are cohabitating, not arguing. Because I know what matters is that he’s a good man who treats me well, is a great father and is respectful of everyone; not who he votes for. Although, I’ll be honest, it’s sometimes been hard to separate the two.

Apparently, we are the only ones that seem to be able to get along. People are spending hours on social media being vicious and disgusting to one another. Why? What will this solve? I don’t post anything on social media about my political beliefs. This is private. The only thing I will publicly speak out on is the discriminatory and unconstitutional passage of HB2. If you want to attack me because of this or no longer be my friend, I’m okay with this. I stand proudly with all those in the LGBT community and their allies. I will never support anything that chews away at the basic human rights of any citizen. Not to mention the financial ruin it has caused this state and how it makes us look to the world.

Other than this, I’m going to keep my thoughts to myself. It’s funny how people will just assume you are on their side about something and begin spewing away. Don’t ever make assumptions about how others feel. You’ll be wrong. I am reminded of a dinner I was at many years ago with friends and acquaintances. A controversial topic came up with many at the table saying some terrible things about anyone who was on the other side. I did not join the conversation. I simply got up and went outside. I came back later. The conversation had moved on, but it changed the way I felt about some of those people that day. It made me realize that if I didn’t want to get attacked, I should probably keep a lot to myself.

I’ve also been sickened by the way people have taken down those in the public eye for having an opinion. If you are a celebrity or famous, you do have a platform. You can use it as you wish. My girl Sara Bareilles has been vocal about her vote. It’s her opinion. It in no way impacts her music or the amazing, talented person she is. But she’s got people almost threatening her for having a voice! Just unfollow her if it bothers you so much, but why hate her and tell her she’s scum because she has a different opinion than you.

So as we head into the final few weeks of this election, can I please persuade you all to be kind? It’s not too much to ask. I don’t have to agree with you or even like you to be kind. At the basis of human dignity is kindness. I am not your enemy because we disagree. I am not delusional, despicable or repulsive because of my opinions. I know they are mine. I don’t plan to force them on anyone. So take all that energy you are using to fuel your hate and do something wonderful with it. What kind of world could we really live in if we practiced kindness? It’s not a rhetorical question. It’s a possibility.

What I Learned from Getting Old

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From the What I Learned Series

I don’t really think I’m old. Except when everything hurts for no apparent reason or I realize I go to bed now at the time I used to arrive at the bar. We are a culture obsessed with youth. We will do anything to retain taut skin and banish fine lines. But it’s not just our appearance. Being young is a state of mind: it’s about being active, decoding technology and using the current lingo and diction of the kids.

In many ways I’m holding on fiercely to my youth. I’ve been able to dismiss any signs of crow’s feet, not only due to my healthy skin regime but also slightly because of my resting bitch face. I’m pretty tech savvy and for the most part, I’m active. But I refuse to adopt the vernacular of youth. I don’t use the terms fleek, bae or YOLO. Not going to happen!

Yet I do “feel” old sometimes. It seems not that long ago that I was 16 and desperately wanted to be older. Well here I am, “older” and with age of course comes maturity and wisdom. Sometimes it also comes with regret. Regret for all the things you didn’t do when you had the chance. Even though my responsibilities as an adult don’t include children, there are still a lot of reasons I can’t just go do what I want: dogs, work, lack of funds, etc. The one great thing is I’m well aware of all the things left on my list to do. I may have less time to do them, although we have no guarantees no matter our age. So regret is not something that bothers me or nags at me. I accept that I’m no longer young but to me that doesn’t mean my options are any less.

So I wanted to write this list of reasons why I think I’m old and probably unhip (exhibit one – using the word unhip). I don’t think of this as a negative. Sometimes it’s better to be old and unhip.

1.    I don’t wear heels every day. For most of my 20s and early 30s, I wore heels every day. I was actually known for wearing inappropriate shoes. I love heels. They still make up the majority of my shoes. But I just can’t do it anymore. My feet hurt. I have to walk a lot. I usually wear sneakers or flip flops to work then change to my pumps. I opt for my cowboy boots over stilettos. My feet thank me for it.

2.    It’s very rare now that I seek out a fashion trend. Trends are typically meant for teens and 20-somethings. Trends are not likely to be universally flattering. They aren’t usually going to be pieces you can keep in a wardrobe over time. If I do try a trend then I don’t spend much on it. My taste is classic with a modern twist. At this point, I know what looks good on my body type so I gravitate toward that. It doesn’t mean I don’t love the look, I just know it won’t be a good fit for me.

3.    Social media is actually not really my thing. I spend a lot of time on social media, but the majority of this time is for professional reasons. It’s important for me to understand social media and how it impacts marketing. I need to know how to optimize the social media presence of brands I work for and my own brand. I use it a lot to promote my blog. But personally, I’d rather spend time with people in person. I’m glad it’s allowed me to reconnect with people and keep up with them, especially if we live far apart. But I’m fine to go days without checking it. It’s not an impulse for me. I could appreciate it more if it was a place of mutual respect and sharing of perspectives. These days it just seems like a negative, trolling environment. I don’t want to be part of that.

4.    My idea of a night out has changed dramatically. Social scenes were often awkward for me. Not really in high school, but college was hard. But I pushed myself to want to be part of the party. All through college and right after, I went out most every night: bars, clubs, house parties, whatever. From what I recall, I think I enjoyed it most of the time. After my divorce, I went through a party girl renaissance and lived it up in downtown Charlotte. I don’t know how much fun I had the second time around. But going out was just part of my life for many years. Now, I can’t imagine going to the club. We still go to bars or to see live music. My club days have long passed. Besides we have a rule, we won’t go anywhere that we could possibly run into Justin’s kids. What an embarrassment that would be. A great night out to me now is dinner with friends, possibly some live music or a nice walk. As long as home by 10.

5.    I don’t look forward or back as much as I did in my youth. In my youth, I was always waiting for something to happen or change so that my life could really start and I’d be happy. Or I’d look back at every little thing and wonder why I’d made such a mistake. Even though I had been through more than most at a young age, I still spend so much time second guessing everything. I still wonder what the heck I’m doing most of the time. I haven’t figured anything out completely. I just try really hard to stay in the present. Nothing needs to happen so I can be “happy.” I am some days; some days I’m not. I still look back but in a different way. Now I want to remember things as they were instead of trying to re-envision history. Time allows us lots of perspective. And that’s usually a good thing.

Youth is fleeting. We only get it for a little while, which is probably a good thing. When youth slips away, it leaves experience. Experience comes with a price; it will be written in wrinkles on our face but also in lessons on our hearts.

What Love Means to Me

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I once thought love was about finding someone you couldn’t live without; that loving someone was the same as your need for air. Because this is what I learned about love, beginning with fairy tales and reiterated by rom-coms and just about everything else I absorbed as a young girl. Popular cultural has been teaching girls for ages that love is something that envelops you and sinks down into your every pore. And that without it, you’re nothing.

The reality of love is far different. But it took me a long time to come to the conclusion that love is really about finding someone you can live with, flaws and all.

I am not an expert on love. I have been an utter failure at it most of my life. I do know that my thoughts have changed, and even though love has been heart breaking at times, when it’s right, it’s a wonderful thing. I’ve only been in love three times. Here’s how I found my own meaning of love.

I was probably always a little boy crazy. Most of the time in elementary school I had a boyfriend, whatever that meant. Although I do recall kissing in kindergarten during nap time. In middle school, I bloomed and got noticed more by boys. I never had a problem with boys liking me. I just usually liked a different one! Pop culture allowed me to believe that someday I’d get the boy I wanted; after all Molly Ringwald did.

But I never really had real heartache until high school. My first serious boyfriend was much older and more experienced. And for some reason he liked me. I felt special. I thought he really cared for me, and he probably did. But I was naive; life had not hardened me yet. I still remember when he broke up with me at the movie theater. I cried for days. I didn’t understand why. Hadn’t I done everything right? Hadn’t I been the perfect girlfriend? It was a good learning experience about “love.” I didn’t really love that guy. I did trust him and cared for him deeply. It changed me. It made me realize that I should protect my heart more, and that’s about the last time anyone broke up with me. Many years later he apologized to me, and I really appreciated that.

The only guy I really loved from my adolescence was a guy I met when I was dating his friend. Then he and I realized we had feelings for each other. We didn’t date long. Instead we stayed friends. I went on to date others, but my heart was always his. What I remember most about him were the late night phone calls that lasted for hours when we were really honest about everything. A few years later when I was in college, I told him I loved him. He told me he loved me, too, but he couldn’t be with me. He didn’t think he was good enough. I didn’t know what to say so I put some distance between us. And in that distance, he met someone. Not long after, he told me he was going to have a baby and was getting married.  That summer was brutal. I still remember him telling me; nothing was ever the same. 

A few weeks later, I spent the last night in the house I grew up in with him. But he still got married and became a dad. He still called me all the time until one day I said stop. I didn’t want those calls to stop, but he had made his choice. I needed to get on with my life. I never stopped loving him or thinking there might be a time for us in the future. Then he died. I hadn’t seen or spoken to him in years. I knew his life was kind of a mess. I only hope that he always knew that someone loved him.

I didn’t really fall in love again until my 30s. My early 20s were full of lots of non-commitment then I met my ex-husband. But as I clearly know now, I never really loved him, at least not romantically. I was not in any condition to love at that time, which is why I married a man I didn’t love.

This next love was after him, and it was a train wreck from the start. We were co-workers. I was still married when we met. We were just friends at first. After separating, he and I knew we couldn’t start something. It was too soon. But there was something very intense between us. And honestly, I had already fallen in love with him over the many months of long conversations at the office. I tried to move forward and not think of him. I started dating; met some guys I liked. It was him I wanted though, and we couldn’t stay away from each other. About a year later, we finally made a go at it. It was never easy. There was a lot of baggage. There was fighting and anger. I loved him fiercely. I stepped on my heart until it burst to stay with him. Slowly, I fell out of love with him and had to go so I could save myself. I’ll always care about him. I have forgiven him. He wasn’t my happy ending, no matter how bad I wanted him to be.

After that, I needed to just work on me. It took a long time to heal from that heartbreak. I was fine being alone. And when I was in a good place, something amazing happened, I fell in love for the last time. We were friends at first. I wasn’t sure where it would go, and that was okay. When you’re older and wary from what you’ve been through, you have a different expectation, which is that you don’t have any expectations!

He won me over with his easy way about him that’s just so relaxing to my soul. He is bright and kind. He is a good father and a wonderful partner. I never knew it could be so easy to be with someone. There’s no drama; our only fight is what to have for dinner (and that topic itself could be a blog – coming soon!).

What he has taught me about love is that it can be unconditional when it’s right. He lets me be me. I let him be him. Yes, we still have to work on our relationship, but we do that every day by talking to each other or not talking. Regardless, it’s honest and sincere. It’s a really nice way to live. I once had this checklist of what I thought love would be. It’s long in the trash! That’s not how the real world works. As I get closer to becoming his wife, I absolutely believe we will make it because he’s the one I can live with.