Forgiveness is artistic, in the way that painting a giant abstract painting is; messy.  The end result is beautiful and deep, but there’s a giant mess to clean up each time you work on your painting.

There are so many colours that go into a painting, and even more colours that get mixed together to create other colours, and even shades of colours. Forgiveness is the same. So many feelings and emotions, and they all overlap at some point. And each time you come back to work on it there is a clean up involved. Repeat this a million times and that’s what forgiveness looks like.

It takes a creative eye to see something on a blank canvas before anything has been painted. Sometimes it takes hours of staring at a blank canvas before you can even start, because you’re not seeing anything yet and not sure what you want your painting to be. So you sit and stare, looking for a starting point. Sometimes it takes too long and you walk away from your canvas, but you end up coming back to it a hand full of times hoping that something, anything, will show itself on the canvas so you can start. And then seemingly out of the blue, the next time you stare at it, you finally see a starting point. Much like forgiveness.

I don’t think any of us intentionally want to stay in anger towards anybody, or ourselves. Anger is all consuming. It overrides our nervous system, and it can be set off just by the thought of the source of our anger. We carry it around in our hearts all the time. Sometimes it’s dormant. Other times it’s raging. If we could give our anger away and be done with it, I think most of us would glady part with it. We can’t just give it away though. It’s ours.

Our anger is usually directed at other people, but there is also the kind of anger we have towards ourselves. They overlap, just like the colours in a painting. To release anger towards other people, we have to find a way to work towards forgiveness and it’s exactly the same for ourselves. You can’t have one without the other. Whichever comes first doesn’t matter, whether you forgive yourself or others, the two go hand in hand.

My personal experience has taught me that most of my anger towards other people started with me; I didn’t set boundaries, I put other people’s needs ahead of my own, I didn’t speak up for myself. I have had anger towards people for not knowing what I needed, but I never told them what I needed. When I realized that, I got angry with myself and I got angry with my parents for not teaching me how to deal with relationships, how to speak up for myself, just angry. Coming face to face with anger and deciding that you don’t want to carry that around inside of you, in my opinion, would be the first step to forgiveness. It was the first step for me.

The rest of the steps are just like a colourful abstract painting, messy. It will look different for everyone, just like no two abstract paintings are the same. My steps were hyper focused on me and my actions, and an exhausting commitment to learn how to stop repeating the same cycles; there were A LOT of books on self-improvement, hours of talks with girlfriends to sort through all the crap I felt, hours of talking with my therapist, there were anti-depressants, anti-anxiety medications, an honest look at my own part in my relationships and taking accountability for myself. After a lot, a lot, a lot of reflection and honouring myself I got to a place of forgiveness for myself. From there I was able to start seeing the source of my anger in other people in a gentle way. I could see the humaness in other people, I could see that people are not all good or all bad, and that let me shed my anger. It's is slowly leading me to forgiveness, which is slowly leading me to feeling more whole.

In working on myself, I’ve been able to forgive people that never said they were sorry. I’ve been able to forgive myself, too. Through forgiveness I feel more love than I have ever felt. The anger took up so much space, and tainted every aspect of my life, and having let go of most of it I’ve opened up space for love and kindness. I feel more whole. It was messy though. VERY MESSY. Paint everywhere, even on the ceilings, messy. I’m still cleaning it up, but I am starting to love the abstract that I’m creating.

Forgiveness for me has meant having no contact with some of the people that have hurt me the most. It has meant setting boundaries and working on myself, loving myself more and protecting the peace I’ve been able to create in my life. Forgiveness has made me more gentle, more open, more loving. I feel more peace than I ever have, but the process is rough. I’m realizing the process is always messy, but worth it. It won’t look like that for everyone, we’re painting abstracts here, but I think forgiveness is more for ourselves than anybody else. And even if it takes years of staring at a blank canvas, it’s worth it to find that starting point and to get messy, so that we can come out more whole at the end.

This has been a long year. We have all had to adjust our thinking, our way of living, and make adjustments we never thought we’d ever have to consider.

This has been an earth shattering year for me. At times if felt like I had actually shattered into a million pieces. That I was staring down at my soul, shattered all around me. It felt like I was stepping in shards of shattered glass for most of the year, and having to tend to open cuts all day and all night. For most of it, I was not sure that I would actually be able to clean up the broken pieces or heal the cuts.

I sorted through as much as I could until I got overwhelmed and then left it. Just like when a piece of glass shatters, you always find more pieces later on. It gets everywhere. You find it everytime you move something. It was the same with my soul. I just kept finding pieces everytime I moved something within myself. It was frustrating, I would get cut, and feel like I was never going to be able to clean it all up.

The universe eventually sent help. It brought beautiful people into my life that gave me the tools I needed to clean it up. It didn’t do the work for me, but presented me with an opportunity to connect and learn from people who had what I needed to get through the mess. I had done as much on my own as I could, and when I needed help the universe showed up for me. Like it always does. I don’t think things happen by chance, I think we’re all connected and we all have something to bring to the people we meet.

I’ve managed to put the pieces of my soul back together, but differently this time. I realize that the shattering I felt was a chance for me to take an honest look at myself. It was a chance to decide wether or not to do things differently. It gave me a choice in what comes next. I initially didn’t want the choice. I didn’t want to have to take accountability for my own part in the shitty parts of my life. I just wanted things to be, and I wanted to learn how to be happy with it.

The shattering let me see that happiness is when I don’t shy away from tough things, i.e. Myself. It let me see that I needed to let go of a lot of thoughts and ideas that were no longer serving me. It forced me to be in this uncomfortable spot where the old was gone, but the new hasn’t completely taken over yet. In between. The pull to what is familiar is still there, but the desire for better has grown bigger than the fear of the unknown. I am still finding pieces of shattered soul, and still getting frustrated at how long the clean up is, but I’ve learned grace in the process. I’ve learned that each piece is a chance for me to decide what I will hold onto or let go of.

My soul is a mosaic. I can see beauty in it today. The pain I didn’t want to have to face opened doors to love and compassion that I would never have known without it. It led me to forgiveness, of myself and those around me. It is actually the iron that holds the mosaic together. Exactly like a mosaic, some pieces of my soul are light and some are dark, and there different shades in between, but it is whole.

I'm reading the book "A Return to Love" by Marianne Williamson, in a bookclub with a couple of other women. We meet once a week and go over one chapter at a time. The book itself has a lot of good stuff in it, but the time spent with these women I think has had a profound effect on me.

My childhood was messy. My Mom was a single mother, and an alcoholic and drug addict. It was chaotic and unstable. I don't have a lot of memories from my early childhood involving my Mom, but I do remember being alone and how I felt. I would hardly ever go to school, so I would be left alone when my Mom did work, or left alone when she was sleeping off whatever binge she had been on. I got so comfortable being alone, that even when I was actually sick and couldn't go to school I wouldn't want my Mom to send me to my grandmother's house. 

I remember laying in bed and my mind would be racing. I couldn't control it. I couldn't tell you how I felt then, other than I was physically exhausted all the time and always had stomach problems. As an adult, I now know that it was fear and anxiety. It was neglect. I built up walls in those early years, to protect myself from the emotional unavailability from Mom and the rest of my family (also all alcoholics). I was alone. I remember feeling out of control on the inside, probably because I had no example of how to manage the emotions of growing up in that type of environment. I would draw, and sleep. Draw and sleep. Draw and sleep. 

I used to lie for my Mom all the time, to protect her. And she loved me for it. So I learned to be alone, that I couldn't rely on anyone, and that enabling people meant love. I've carried that belief with me my whole life. That I'm strong. I don't need anyone. Nobody can hurt me. Everybody will let me down. Put a smile on a carry on. That's another thing, I was always smiling - everybody says how "happy" I was a child. I was completely disconnected from my feelings, as a way to protect myself, and learned early on it's better to just smile and act as if everything is fine.

I'm still doing that today. At the beginning of this year, I left my husband, and I felt broken beyond repair. I told myself I wanted to be more connected to myself - more authentic. I give a lot of love and support to the people around me, but I burned myself out. I felt numb and miserable. I have been searching ever since; self help books, talks with my Dad, millions of hours of lying in bed thinking and analyzing, drawing, and then the bookclub. 

It's the end of they year now. I'm still too much in my head, and not enough in my soul. I'm still searching for answers on how to be happy. I had this thought today though, that I'm holding myself back from happiness by thinking I can do any of this alone. Watching the women in my bookclub be so raw and honest finally gave me an example of how to be real. Instead of being "strong", I need to be more soft. I don't want to do it all alone all the time. That's where my strength is right now, in accepting that to move forward and be more whole, I will have to be real. And the real me, under all the chaos that has happened, is a sensitive, curious, intelligent, loving soul that wants to be seen and accepted. I need to start with myself, accept myself for who I am. Not hide myself from the world. What saved me as a child is only hurting me as an adult. 

I have lived my whole life in fear of failure, fear of being seen, fear of being noticed.

The only time I broke free of that is when I was Powerlifting. I was not afraid, because nobody can hide in Powerlifting. You give it everything you have, each lift, each training. It gave me permission to not be afraid to be seen, because of the team I was a part of. They showed me how to not be afraid. That team changed my life and I am forever grateful to them.

Then back in the real world, I went back into fear of being seen. I had moments where I overcame those fears, briefly, but then retreated once things got a little messy. Fear paralyzes you. You can't think, or make decisions, or move in any direction. You're stuck. You end up coasting through life, but not really accomplishing anything. Time keeps going, but you don't seem to get anywhere. 

I have read all of Brene Brown's books, and they have hit me right in the pit of stomach; Daring Greatly changed my life. As people, we're seeking connection. We want to be seen and loved for it. Powerlifting gave me a glimpse of what that was. Judy shows me year after year what it feels like. Now I'm trying to learn how to see myself and love myself, flaws and all. Brene Brown talks a lot about how shame keeps us disconnected from real connection. I have relied on other people to tell me I'm good my whole life, but never really believing it myself. 

When I started Powerlifting I was 28 years old, and hated myself. I was trying to create a life, create something that looked good to the outside world, because I had no idea who I was or what I wanted. I was completely disconnected from myself. Powerlifting (read: any sport) taught me so much about being human. I could not hide from myself. When my lifts were not going well, it was because of me. If I bombed in a meet, it was because of me. It forced me to face parts of my mind that were holding me back. Ideas and thoughts about myself that I had to shatter to be able to be good at Powerlifting, to be good at my life. It put me in touch with parts of myself I didn't even know I had; parts of my mind that I did not know were there. I found mental strength. That was the beginning.

It's 10 years later now. I have done so much soul searching. And I feel myself coming together again. Powerlifting changed my life, it was the catalyst to who I am today. The time in between has been good, and also difficult. I am finally remembering how much strength I have. I am remembering that I do not have to live in fear, and by choosing to face fears I give permission to those in my life to do the same. Exactly how my Powerlifting team mates did for me 10 years ago.