Happy Birthday Mom + learning to be my own best friend & forgive myself
I sat in my therapist’s office on Friday afternoon bemoaning the fact that I have never had a true “best friend” other than my mom. Which, by the way, it is that lovely woman’s birthday as I type this! (Which also means that I officially have a six and a half year old, since his half birthday is my mom’s birthday!) Everyone, please wish my beautiful mom a very Happy Birthday! She is coming over tomorrow to help take care of her grandchildren on Tuesday while this mama gets her Advocacy Day on in our state capital to meet with legislators. I feel so fortunate that I am so close with my mom and that she has always been there for me, yet I still occasionally have that longing for a strong connection with another soul closer to my age.
See, if you read my last blog, you may remember that I recently read the book To Love and Let Go by Rachel Brathen. In it, she describes the process of losing her best friend and how she literally fell to the ground in pain as this friend was across the world unexpectedly dying, and Rachel had no clue until it was all said and done. The story was so poignant and tragically beautiful that I began having a little pity for myself, telling my therapist that I have never had that kind of a connection with someone. I have so many close wonderful friends but not that one that I have consistently called my best friend for years.
My therapist then said to me, “I want you to focus on being your own best friend over the coming weeks.” Something so simple yet so profound. Not anything that I hadn’t heard before, but maybe it was said a little different or I just hadn’t heard it in a long time. Something that made me think.
Ever since my therapist said that to me, I immediately stop myself when I begin to beat myself up in my head. Then I speak to myself in a kind, gentler voice and tell myself what I would tell any one of my close friends coming to me with the same problem. It’s so easy to be so hard on ourselves, and we speak to ourselves in ways that we would never dream of uttering aloud to anyone else.
Yesterday I participated in a Recovery Dharma Super Sangha Workshop, where those of us in the sober community came together and meditated, socialized, ate delicious vegan foods, and listened to inspiring sober testimonials. Our meditation lasted for an hour and a freaking half! I have never meditated longer than 20 minutes in my life, so that was a trip! We began by sitting on cushions and meditating for maybe 20-30 minutes, then we walked outside for 10-15 minutes, came back in and sat for another 50 minutes, and then walked once more before finally coming back in and closing out the practice. Holy crap, was that second seated meditation LONG!
Now that I am on the other side of it, I can say that I learned to sit with my discomfort and it was OK. However, at the time, I was somewhat miserable. I felt that I had already come to the conclusions that I wanted to come to during the first seated meditation, so when the second one came, I said a big FUCK outloud in my head…multiple times. I opened my eyes a couple of times. I shifted non-stop. I was freezing. But ultimately, I stayed in that room until it was time to get up.
For those of you who may not know, I have been meditating for the last year and a half. For the first year it was almost daily. Lately it’s been more like a few times a week. For those of you skeptics or people who say, “I can’t meditate” or “I don’t know how to meditate,” I have news for you:
There is no right or wrong way to meditate!
What a concept! You can close your eyes, you can leave them open. You can put on soft music, you can blast loud music, you can sit in silence. You can use a guided meditation to help you start, or you can just use your own thoughts. But here is the thing – when we meditate, we still think. The misconception behind meditating is that you aren’t supposed to think or your mind is supposed to be blank. As someone said yesterday, “If we didn’t think, there would be no reason to meditate.”
In meditating, I have solved problems that had been haunting me for days or weeks.
In meditating, I have smiled.
In meditating, I have cried.
I have practiced lovingkindness, forgiveness, and compassion.
Speaking of forgiveness, one of the leaders who gave his testimonial yesterday spoke a lot about it. I went up to him after he spoke and asked him how he learned such great forgiveness techniques and explained that I struggle with forgiveness at times. He asked me, “Have you forgiven yourself.” I immediately said yes. He looked at me with a raised eyebrow and queried, “Are you sure?” Touché, dude.
The key to forgiveness is first forgiving yourself. I know this. I keep hearing this. But it goes back to what I said earlier about being harder on ourselves than we are on anyone else. I know that I have a traumatic past and I’ve had some shitty things happen to me. Does that excuse some of my behavior? Absolutely not. But by not forgiving myself for said behavior, I am merely holding myself back.
I listened to a podcast with Tony Robbins yesterday who said, “[If] you’re trying to drive in the future using the rearview mirror, you’re gonna crash.” Another profound and simple statement. Stop focusing on the past when your future is so damn bright! We have to keep driving forward to achieve success, to achieve our dreams. It’s ok to use our past to learn from it, but when we live there, it becomes a dangerous place.
The information that I took away just in the last two days has greatly impacted my life. I hope that it has helped inspire you. With that, let’s all end on a cleansing breath. Where you’re at right now, if you can close your eyes as soon as you finish reading this, slowly count to five as you inhale, hold for five, then release slowly for another count of five. That’s meditation right there. Just being present with yourself and your breath.
Picture by AJ Kahn