For the past four years, I’ve been writing a memoir.
It’s been my baby, my frustration, and my joy. Recently, I realized how much it keeps me focused on my past. I almost feel stuck, like I won’t be able to move into the next phase of my life until the book is complete. That feeling is a wonderful motivator to work a little harder, to focus just a little bit more.
My past is not particularly pretty. A lot of things happened to me that never should happen to anyone. Writing the book has been incredibly healing for me. It is my sincere hope that it will bring healing to anyone who reads it as well.
One of the great lessons I have discovered in the process of writing my story is that I am not my past. My past does not define who I am. I am not a victim, I am not helpless, or hopeless, or broken. I am not weak, or addicted, or worthless. I am no longer a slave to self-harm, and no longer battle with the demons that once controlled me.
I no longer spend every day replaying the horrors of my past, or punishing myself for my perceived inadequacies.
Naturally, arriving at this beautiful, peaceful place in my life took some work. It was a journey I intentionally traveled in an effort to find the woman I am beneath the layers of all the things that used to hold me back.
If I was going to summarize this journey in three steps, these are the best ones I can imagine:
1. Be Present
Meditation was a crucial practice for me on this journey. I used to lose days at a time to the demons in my head. I would replay the terrible traumas of my past. I would blame myself for the awful things that happened to me. It took years for me to see that I had quite literally taken over where my abusers had left off. I had continued to punish myself long after the abuse had stopped.
Learning to still my mind gave me space to separate myself from the events of yesterday. It helped me see that I got to choose in each moment which thoughts were healthy and beneficial, and which were harming me. Once I became aware of my ability to choose to let go of painful thoughts and feelings, my focus began to shift to more loving, positive, happy things.
I truly believe this process saved my life.
Holding onto anger kept me focused on my past. I felt entitled to my feelings of deep resentment toward the people who had wronged me. I clung to the sorrow of my youth, believing that because I had never been happy before, I never would be. Naturally, this belief brought even more pain into my life.
First, I had to forgive everyone who had hurt me. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we excuse the action, or say that something was okay when it wasn’t. Forgiveness means that we make a conscious choice to let go of the anger, the resentment, and the pain. We choose to move forward in life without holding onto the strings we attached to those people and events.
Next, I had to forgive myself. There was no way for me to move forward into a happy, healthy, successful life while still punishing and hating myself. I had to forgive myself for years and years of self-harm, for all my perceived shortcomings, and for all the ways I felt that I had failed myself and my children. I had to make a conscious decision to love myself, and see my wholeness. I had to learn to make choices from a place of self-love. It was the only way to take control of my life.
3. Find the gifts in our experiences.
I know that my past does not define me. I also know that I am the sum of all of my experiences. I didn’t become the bad-a** warrior goddess I am today because my life was easy. My strength, my determination, my love for the woman I am, and my hopeful outlook on life are the result of each battle I have won. I wear my scars proudly, and know that I am the victor in my life. I am the heroine in my story, I was the only one who could save myself.
When we are able to find the gift in each experience, we can let go of the rest. Looking at each memory honestly, it is easy to see our strength, resilience, bravery, and fortitude. Each experience brings us a lesson, or opportunity for growth. Each challenge brings to light another piece of who we are.
Thinking about life this way allows me to feel gratitude instead of anger. I know that each experience in my life has lead me to this moment, and truly, this moment is all we ever really have.
I won’t waste another moment of my life holding onto bitterness or self-loathing.
In each moment, I choose love, joy, peace, and happiness. I know that I am worthy of all the wonderful things life has to offer, and I invite only wonderful things into my experience.
No matter how difficult our past, we always have the power to overcome our challenges. No matter how broken we have been, there is always a way back to wholeness. Sometimes, it’s necessary for us to examine the pain from our past, to shine a light into our darkness and find the gifts it has brought with it. Then, we can let go of the pain, and move forward knowing that we have been victorious. We have walked into the fire of our life, and come out beautifully galvanized in wisdom and strength.
When we choose to let go of our past, we find freedom and space to be exactly who we were born to be.
Author: Renee Dubeau
Editor: Catherine Monkman