by Neal Fowler via Flickr Creative Commons

by Neal Fowler via Flickr Creative Commons

Like I said, I recently read Pema Chodron’s book When Things Fall Apart.

Thinking about the book more yesterday, I realized that maybe I had misunderstood what she was saying.

The book talks about feeling forgiveness and compassion when bad things happen to us, and sitting with the complexity of the situation instead of retreating to a place of blame or anger.

But that doesn’t mean the forgiveness and compassion have to be seen or accepted by the other. I don’t think it’s about saying, “Here, look how much forgiveness and compassion I have for you!” with the goal of┬áhaving them respond in any particular way we might desire.

It doesn’t mean anyone will extend the same forgiveness and compassion back to us.

Maybe it doesn’t even necessarily mean interacting with the object of our compassion and forgiveness at all. In fact, true self-compassion and self-forgiveness might mean we don’t.

Perhaps I was still seeking some form of resolution after all.

I think she’s saying we don’t have to make up a story about why something happened to us.

Whether or not we understand it or want it, it is. It just is.

We just see ourselves and others for the complicated human beings we are, noticing where we tend to make mistakes or develop maladapted coping mechanisms to stress.

Noticing what makes us want to shut down and what makes others shut down.

Seeing that someone could be doing the best they can and still hurt us.

Which doesn’t mean we continue to allow ourselves to be hurt.

But which also doesn’t mean that the hurt we feel was necessarily intentional.

Humans don’t like to feel negative emotions. We have all kinds of ways of getting ourselves out of them.

And if we focus on having compassion and forgiveness for ourselves, maybe we will find we don’t need it as badly from others.

It isn’t that I forgive you and you forgive me. It’s that I forgive myself and I forgive you. And that whether you forgive yourself or me is your business – your path.

Holding open a space of compassion and forgiveness in our own hearts when someone else might not be…. that’s difficult.

Letting go of what we thought something meant and accepting that we don’t know what it meant, or that we don’t have to decide right now that it means anything.

That’s difficult.

Taking an opportunity to learn about ourselves and where we go wrong without judging it.

That’s difficult.

I’m not saying I’m any good at these things.

Just that it’s the inward experience which matters. Not trying to use even forgiveness as a path out of the pain.

I don’t even know if any of this makes sense.

I’m just trying to sit with it when I can, and forgive myself when I can’t.

And I’m not trying to make getting back to stable ground the goal right now.

Because spending six months doing that didn’t actually help me.

So why not try something new?

Just try to let what feels good and bad coexist while staying open to new possibilities for joy to happen. And trying very hard to not “should” myself out of what I’m feeling.

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