This post is for every time I’ve hinted at the theoretical possibility of eventually being able to forgive ourselves for something. There is always deep — and completely legitimate — pain that appears in the comments in response to this.

And often a request that I talk about the how.

I’ve wanted to do some teaching about this, but really, there’s one response to that kind of deep pain, and that’s a loving hand-on-heart full body sigh of acknowledgment.

Possibly a hug, but only if the person wants one.

So I want to say this:

If you’re in the place where you’re not yet willing/able to consider ways to ease into this practice, that is absolutely understandable.

I hear the pain. I see the pain. This pain is legitimate.

Just acknowledging how painful it is to think about this is enough of a practice.

And you might want to just do that for a while. To interact with the idea that this is watering the fractal flowers and doing what it needs to do.

If or when you decide you’re ready to continue… I have some more reminders. :)

This is hard stuff. Maybe the hardest stuff there is.

Even thinking about this subject is challenging. And courageous.

  • Take it slowly.
  • Safety first! Make safe space for yourself to process this.
  • Use what you can. Discard what doesn’t speak to you.
  • Maybe this is just going to plant some seeds for later on. That’s more than enough.
  • There is nothing you have to do or get right.
  • You are loved. By me. For interacting with the concept, even if you need to stop here.

Also important to add: There is no should.

This work is not a requirement.

It’s a practice — an advanced practice — that happens in a loving, patient, exploratory, completely guilt-free environment.

If I can’t forgive myself for something, that’s where I’m at. That’s okay.

Same goes for you.

Ad infinitum. If I can’t be okay with being okay with not being able to forgive myself, that’s where I’m at. If I can’t be okay with THAT, baby that’s how it is. And so on.

And also: a quick word about monsters.

Nothing brings up monster voices faster than this type of practice. They’re full of useful information and they want to protect you, but caution is recommended.

You might need to make safe rooms — one for you and one for them to hide out in and listen in for the duration.

You might want to deposit some of them into the monster-watching daycare collective.

Or invite negotiators.

Or use a proxy so they can focus their attention on a less painful subject (the stand-in for the thing you’re working on).

Definitely do NOT start this practice with the things you regret the most. Start small. Small is good.

We dance at the edges of the edges of the pain. We make things as safe as we possibly can. We do not interact directly with the hurt if there’s any chance we could fall back in.

And whatever you do, give them clear parameters. Example: They can comment in the margins, but they can’t yell. They have to hear you out first. They have to let the scientists take notes. Etc.

If you don’t have experience talking down the parts of you who say you aren’t allowed to take care of yourself in this way, I highly recommend the monster manual & coloring book. And possibly also Emergency Calming The Hell Down.

Alright. We’re ready. It’s quick. Here’s what you do.

  1. You tell the story. Like you’ve never told it before. Not attached to a narration. Like it’s a completely new story. And!
  2. You use the third person. You-from-then becomes “she” or “he” or whatever your preferred pronoun is.
  3. You call on the version of you who can tell this story. Bring him or her to the front of the V, and make safe spaces for the sad, hurt and angry parts of you to grieve. I would probably call on Yoga Teacher Me for this. Or Writer Me.
  4. You imagine this is a story about a past experience of your best, best friend. The person you love most in the entire world. This happened to them.
  5. You imagine you’re telling this story to someone you love and trust completely. A curious, compassionate listener. Who’s not there to judge. Just to witness. Receptive, understanding and kind.
  6. You explain the extenuating circumstances behind the experience. This is where your monsters will probably say, “It’s STILL NOT OKAY!”, and you’ll explain that you’re not justifying the choices or actions of the person whose story it is. You’re just giving background.
  7. You don’t have to tell the whole story. You don’t have to tell the hard parts. You’re really just setting the scene. That is enough.
  8. You breathe. You wait until something moves. You thank the storyteller, the subject, and the listener.

Here is an example.

“This is the story of a time our sweet Havi made a very hard decision and it put her in an incredibly painful situation, and she wished she had decided differently.

“The thing to understand about Havi-then is that she was functioning on pretty much no sleep. She was working two different bartending jobs. Sometimes she’d close out one bar at seven in the morning and open at the other one at noon or three.

“It had been years since she’d had a safe place to live, regular healthy meals, anything even resembling consecutive hours of sleep with any regularity. She lived in constant fear about basic things. She was recovering from a painful relationship during which she had lost any remaining sense of sovereignty. Her decision-making capabilities were extremely impaired, and she didn’t even know it.”

{INTERRUPTION by well-meaning fuzzy-bellied monsters: “No excuses! No excuses!” We explain: Not excusing. Just giving relevant background.}

We continue.

“Havi-then did not have any of the tools that we have today. She didn’t know about interacting with the hard. She didn’t have access to slightly-future-her. She did not know how to help herself.

“She wasn’t even aware that she could receive help. And she wouldn’t have liked it anyway.

“She was using the tools she had: guilt, repression, denial, alcohol, cigarettes, ignoring the signs. She was sticking with what she knew: the things that gave her the perception of experiences of ease, power, stability and release.

“She perceived a choice between losing everything, including her entire support network, and letting something happen that was harmful to her and to one other person, but wouldn’t cost her everything she had.

“She wouldn’t make that choice now. She wouldn’t even be in that kind of situation now, but that’s where she was.”

{INTERRUPTION by well-meaning fuzzy-bellied monsters: “But-but-but! It’s still not okay! It’s still horrible!” We explain: Yes. It was a horrible situation that shouldn’t ever happen to anyone. We wish for a different choice, but we also recognize that making a different choice would require being more cognizant, as well as knowing what she knew after the fact. We know you want to protect us from that kind of pain happening again. Protection without blame is what she needs right now.}

And here we are.

Havi-then is how I got to become Havi-now.

I wish she’d had access to less painful ways of acquiring knowledge, but I will take the learnings.

Every loving choice I make now (for more sleep, for paying attention, for appreciation) is thanks to the hard things I’ve learned about what doesn’t work.

It has taken me years to get to this point, but I feel a lot of love for her. She was in survival mode. She fought for me-now.

I’m going to do things differently than she did, but I have that ability because of what she taught me.

She was doing what she could with the extremely limited tools at her disposal, in circumstances that I wouldn’t wish on anyone, and now she deserves to be cared for. She deserves to retire gracefully, with flowers. And with a deep hand-on-heart full-body sigh of acknowledgment.

Safe rooms for her. Safe rooms for me. Safe rooms for all of us. And love.

Reassurances.

If this stuff seems way beyond anything you could ever do, give it time.

If this seems like another or the next step in the lifelong process of working on your stuff, getting to know how you function and rewriting patterns, that’s marvelous.

Let’s keep doing the work.

(And if you want to actively practice and become the person who destuckifies automatically, I’d like to work with you at Crossing the Line. Password: haulaway. Nearly full. If you need a scholarship, we have 2 different kinds. If you need a place to stay, we have those too.)

Comment zen for today.

This is hard. We all have our stuff. We’re all working on our stuff. It’s a process.

We meet each other and our own pain with hand-on-heart sighs, with acknowledgment and permission. And amnesty.

We make this the safest space on the internet by not telling each other what to do or how to feel. We take responsibility for our stuff. We let other people have their stuff.

Let’s throw things into the pot, and deposit love for each other.

Tomorrow night is Yom Kipur, so this seemed like good timing. Be as kind to yourself as you can stand (but not more than that, because that would be mean), and know that you are loved and appreciated for being part of my world.

The very last thing.

Additional loving thoughts for Steve Jobs. Every word I have ever posted online was written on an Apple computer. This site was conceived of, designed and built on one. Same for all of my products. Same for the birth of the Playground. Appreciation. Today I am practicing breathing in some of the qualities of his vision: grace, ease, beauty, lightness, passion and love.