It’s cool and raining now. I woke up this morning to the sound of the rain on my house and the maple tree behind my house. There is always a moment when I wake up and don’t judge myself or the day. I just hover in my renewed consciousness, my new awareness of my body, its breath and skin, bones and sinews. Then I ask, not in words but a kind of probing: What kind of day was it yesterday? What did I do, and what happened to me? Am I waking up proud and grateful, or disappointed and frustrated? Do I need to talk myself through things? Do I need to tread lightly because I exacerbated my foot or back injuries? Did I have a migraine yesterday and is it still there? Did I stay up too late? Did I overeat? Did I fight with a friend?
Yesterday morning I woke up after a really bad migraine, probably a nine out of ten on the pain scale for parts of it. I didn’t have to have such a bad one. Unlike some of my migraines, which ebb and flow into each other, this one had a clear beginning Friday evening, and I have meds that might have kept it from getting full blown like that. But the neurologist told me to try to take breaks from the meds when I can, so as not to develop medication-overuse migraines. She said if it’s a day I don’t have much to do to consider just riding it out. Sure, I thought Friday night. I can do that. Saturday’s free and I’m used to the pain. But this one got really bad, and by Saturday evening I was having trouble coping.
When it was at its worst I craved ice cream — and specifically Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia — so badly I cried. I’ve been eating pretty well lately, so there were no sweets of any kind in the house. I ended up pouring milk and honey over some of Mark’s oatmeal, and that sort of worked. While I was eating, and for half an hour afterwards, the pain went down to an eight. And I thought, as I have many times in the past few years, of how hard it had been when the migraines were this bad almost daily. I thought, as I have many times, that I forgive myself for things I did trying to cope with the pain, for overeating so much that I gained fifty pounds, for leaning too heavily on Mark which was really hard for him, for not being able to gently and gracefully navigate all the community stuff which was going on at the time, for being panicky and self-focused sometimes in ways that hurt other people.
I’ve been through this process already, and have been able to forgive myself, but this weekend I felt like that forgiveness settled even deeper. The mind has mechanisms to make us forget how bad pain really is, so as much as I feel I remember it, when it returns that intensely it brings back the memory of exactly what that particular pain means. When I was in it on Saturday I forgave myself again, and felt a settling deep inside me. I know I hurt people, and I don’t minimize that. But I think it’s miraculous that I did as well as I did, and that I’m doing as well as I am now. I did my best. I really did.
Yesterday morning I woke up and took stock. The worst of the pain was over, but the other migraine symptoms were still there: fatigue, vertigo, difficulty thinking, and sensitivity to light and noise. It was the perfect spring day for a hike or bike ride, but I took it easy and drove the mile to the soccer field instead of walking. The eleven year old who I’ve known since he was two months old played a fierce game, running around out there like a miniature MLS player with his blond fauxhawk. I was having trouble concentrating, but I happened to be paying attention at just the right moment, when he scored an amazing goal from almost midfield. It was awesome to be a part of his pure joy and pride, and awesome that my presence there meant a lot to him, that he came over to me after the game and basked in my praise.
I thought about yesterday’s pain and self-forgiveness, and I found, as I have before, again and again, that forgiving myself had freed me up to forgive others. Just as my self-forgiveness settled in deeper, I found myself able to let go even more of wrongs that others had done to me. Coincidentally, I had happened to watch a short video of Nadia Bolz-Weber talking about forgiveness earlier that day. “I really believe when someone else does us harm, we’re connected to that mistreatment like a chain.” She said that forgiving someone breaks your connection to that hurt. Forgiving someone, she said, means saying, “What you did was so not okay that I refuse to be connected to it anymore.”
I was thinking about the video throughout the day, and suddenly I realized I was able to cut a few more of the strands connecting me to not only my own shame from that time, but the pain that others caused me as well. I don’t minimize what they did, either, but just as I was doing my best through a lot of pain, I feel like they probably were as well. I’d believed that before, and forgiven them before, but yesterday felt like it settled in a little bit more. Like when you’re lying still on your back at the end of a yoga class, and without even realizing it you suddenly relax a muscle you didn’t know you were tensing, and your back cracks with relief.
After the soccer game I drove home, but then walked the quarter mile to the store to get something for dinner. Ben & Jerry’s ice cream was on sale, two for $7, so I bought myself some Cherry Garcia and some Half-Baked as well. This morning when I woke up, after a moment of pure joy at the sound of the rain, I had that movement of coming into awareness. And I remembered that I’d eaten more of the two pints than I’d intended to. But I also remembered the pain of the weekend, and the new, deeper forgiveness. So I took a deep breath and let that shame go, stretched my stiff body, made myself some coffee and peanut butter toast, and began my week.
To all of you who may be struggling with shame, or with a tie to wrong that has been done to you — I know it’s so hard. Keep at it. Keep recklessly forgiving yourself, and very carefully forgiving others, recognizing that part of forgiveness is learning what boundaries you need to set to be safe.
Love to all of you, and happy Pride!! “Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love. Cannot be killed or swept aside. Now fill the world with music, love, and pride.” ~Lin-Manuel Miranda