The years I spent in between the end of my marriage and the start of my relationship with Mr Right (upstairs in bed) mostly took place in one district of Sheffield. In that area I lived in four different houses; two of them I owned, one I rented and the other was an ex-partners who I lived with briefly before we split up and went our separate ways.
This area is stuck on the outskirts of Sheffield which means that I never have cause to pass through it and only go there if a specific reason arises (i.e. picking my eldest daughter up from a friend’s house, which I did last Thursday).
Anyway, I think I am reasonably happy at the moment; I’m in a good relationship – the best I’ve ever had – with someone I love very much, I have happily got on top of my booze dependency and I’ve got two gorgeous daughters who I love to bits. But as soon as I get close to this area of Sheffield where I lived through so much misery and heartache, I feel physically sick and can’t wait to get out of there.
The houses were thrown up quickly around the time of the Industrial Revolution and are small and grey, built in a grid structure for speed and best use of space. The end result is a rabbit warren-like web of houses, their small, dark forms creating an air of claustrophobia and gloom.
Driving along the other night I was overwhelmed with a feeling of oppression and sadness, with each turning I made bringing home a whole bunch of bad memories and regrets. It made me realise that I kind of ran away from that place, making the physical break but never really dealing with the mental fallout of who I was when I lived there. I recognised that somewhere deep in my conscience there lurks a truckload of baggage which I need to deal with if I am to reach my goal of being truly at peace with myself, and I can only do that if I practice forgiveness of self.
The AA’s 12 Step Programme includes the following steps;
- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
- Admitted to God, to ourselves and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
- Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
- Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
- Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.
- Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
I’m an atheist and not massively drawn to the AA as a strategy for conquering a dependency upon alcohol (not to say that I disagree with the AA, but I don’t feel that it’s a good fit for me), and therefore these God-related points are not something that I can really attempt to adhere to. BUT I can see the benefit of trying to come to terms with how we’ve behaved when under the influence – of moving forward with a sense of having resolved past grievances and healing old sorrows.
I find it very difficult to distance myself from the past when I am in that area of Sheffield, my home during the my darkest years, or for the days that follow when the memories are still lingering like the pungent and unpleasant smells left by rotting vegetables hiding undetected at the back of the fridge. I don’t need God or anyone else to humbly remove my shortcomings or to remove the defective aspects of my character – I’ve done that bit by myself, thank you very much (well, it’s a work in progress but I’m getting there). It’s the past that I cannot let go of but until I do, I know I will always be able to taste that unpleasant tang of restlessness – unease with a few concentrated drops of shame in the mix.
Here then lies a new challenge in my search for serenity and happiness in 2013 – to finally let go of those miserable years and to accept that everyone makes mistakes – the important thing is to learn from them and not repeat them (too often!). Learning to let go of past mistakes is an important part of self-growth – rather than it being an exercise in letting yourself off the hook, forgiveness of self is actually a positive way to learn to forgive others, and to create a more peaceful existence for your future self. Acknowledge your past errors, apologise to yourself and make a promise that you won’t walk that path again. And remember;
Forgiveness of self is impossible until you stop longing for a better past.
The kindest and most compassionate thing you can do for yourself and for others is to forgive yourself.
You are still mortal and therefore you are going to make mistakes.
My final and favourite quote on this topic;
“We are made wise not by the recollection of our past, but by the responsibility of our future.”
George Bernard Shaw