It’s funny how quickly our lives can ebb and flow from the extremely happy to the profoundly sad, from the completely comfortable to the utterly chaotic and just as quickly return to calm. At times, I find myself in constant flux aiming for some routine balance of peace and happiness these days. Quite honestly, that’s good enough for me. This week was no different. I was able to finally take a much needed trip to the beach to unwind, disconnect and recharge. The best part of the trip was that I also got in some really great, uninterrupted quality time with my baby sister. This is rare for us as our busy lives often take us swirling in different directions so it can be difficult to carve out focused sister time, sans daily distractions, to nurture our relationship and simply enjoy each other’s company. The trip this week to Key West did not disappoint.
As much as I pride myself on having figured out ways to create really strong work/life boundaries, I must admit until this trip I hadn’t really noticed how much I allow social media and other forms of entertainment to whisk me away from my life’s beautifully unfiltered quiet moments and suck me back into the chaos of my life on the grid. So I don’t really know if it was merely the fact that I also chose to start a 30-day meditation program during my vacation or the fact that it was simply a quieter space and time that allowed me to notice how easily we can invite chaos and distraction into our sacrosanct places.
After two days of complete beachy nothingness Eat. Drink. Sleep. Chit. Chat. Repeat, I woke up early on Wednesday morning after the most amazingly peaceful night of sleep feeling absolutely great. I was finally relaxed and could exhale. My mind was clear and I was so, so present. And just like every morning, I rolled over after turning off the snooze button and checked my Facebook account. There were a few random notifications, a few likes on previous posts, and nothing too pressing except a comment on the blog from an unknown person with a weird name that I didn’t recognize. I literally felt my heart drop into my stomach. “Oh no!” I thought. “My first troll.” Deep Breath. “I got this. I’m ready.” I had just posted a beautiful tribute piece for Mother’s Day and the thought of my first troll commenting on a guest blogger’s post unsettled me. I clicked on the comment, held my breath and readied myself to read it. To my surprise it was a comment on a blog post from over a year ago.
“Hmmm… I thought. What in the world?” I scrolled down to the bottom of the page expecting the ugly comment to rear it’s head and instead I read the reader’s surprise and confusion at stumbling upon the post. His reference to the timeliness made his shock clearly apparent and his broken short stream of consciousness thoughts let me know he was speechless. “Who is this?” my mind searched to know. “This doesn’t sound like a troll,” I thought as I approved it to the blog. In fact, the comment wasn’t negative at all and was indeed quite gracious, but my gut still didn’t feel right. I swear. My gut always knows. And like usual when what I’m seeing doesn’t match what I’m feeling inside, I bailed on my gut and just rationalized it away. “I’m tripping,” I told myself. So I proceeded to check my blog email before jumping on my meditation call.
I saw that I had a new subscriber and while I was expecting it to be my unknown poster, I wasn’t expecting to recognize the familiar email address as that of my former brother-in-law. “What the … ?”, I felt the violent jolt of energy flood my body. The shock of seeing his email address, reminding me of my former last name, sitting there in MY inbox lit a fuse in me so intense that I shot up in bed and breathed pure fire.
I looked at the clock. It was five minutes before my mediation call so I went the bathroom to gather my thoughts, “I can’t do this this morning,” I thought. “I’m angry. I should just skip it.” Angry was an understatement. I was furious. And then I heard my meditation coach, Martha, in my mind clear as day thanking us for “showing up” despite the distractions that fought us that morning. So I grabbed my phone and called in. And although my posture and breathing did oddly enough resemble some form of meditation that morning, I have to be honest… I didn’t hear a word she said. So much for being present. My mind was racing and reeling back in time to a place I thought I’d successfully left in my past.
Over the course of that 30 minute call an oasis of betrayal, anger and thick pain flooded into me and disrupted the zen of my present reality because I invited it in without preserving the peace I’d worked so hard to establish for myself while on vacation. And so I lost a good half of my peace that day literally processing the floodgate of rabid emotion inside me that this polite harmless compliment opened up. You see for me the moment was so much bigger than the comment so it was easy to overlook the beauty of the gesture. Instead, it reignited the anger that had been festering in me and broke open the pain I’d buried deep within my soul 10 years ago when my brother-in-law (who was my friend for seven years before our families united us through my marriage to his brother) failed to show up to acknowledge my pain during our divorce. It was hard enough to be served a divorce decree that you never understood with little to no concern for your choice, your life or your input, but to have the people who embraced you and called you “family” ignore you… No. Words.
To be honest, betrayal is not even close to the level of hurt and pain I felt and still do. It’s funny how the very people whose last name I legally owned were nowhere to be found during my divorce. Not one ever even picked up a phone to see if I was okay. I was furious with all of them. Though they offered their smiles at our wedding, raved for months about how beautiful the wedding was, and they all stood by our side committing to support us through the good times and bad times, for better or for worse, and in sickness and in health, when it was all said and done none of them were there when I needed them. Instead, like my ex-husband they simply jumped ship when the marriage was sinking. Where was my brother-in-law, who was my friend first, when I was suffering and hurting? I felt like I didn’t matter to him despite having known him seven years longer than I had known my husband. Just like his brother he too chose to save himself ,while not even offering me as much as a life preserver or a well wish that I make it back safely to the shore.
Understanding the how and why of his family’s denial was unbearable. Was my friendship and loyalty to the family whose last name was also my own not worth at least a simple phone call? No “Hey how are you doing?” “No I’m praying for you all,” messages. Nothing. Just silence. And an ongoing stream of Watchtower messages about love, compassion and grace from a faith-based organization to which I did not belong. “Where was the humanity in that?,” I remember thinking as I stared at those messages that mocked me from the other side of my computer screen. And so yes I buried him. I buried them all along with all of that rage, and I stuffed them inside a little box in my heart marked “Better Left Unsaid”. And when I arrived safely on shore and recovered from the wreckage of it all, I closed the lid on my silent pain and moved on.
Truth be told I didn’t even consider he was the troll when I read that comment on Wednesday. So despite feeling all of that uninvited emotion in the middle of my zenning on the beach this week, for the first time ever I chose a different non-emotional response. Instead of expressing my anger, I chose to observe it and do nothing with it at all. I had learned that earlier in the week, on one of the mediation calls, to observe my emotions and allow them to retreat until my “higher level thinking”, as Martha called it, could return. “Everything in me wants to delete his subscription,” I barked through the phone at my sister when I returned to Atlanta two days later. She’s the cool and collected sister who gets on my nerves with her “What would Jesus do?” speeches. But the truth is she was right. I didn’t have a reason to delete him outside of my obvious anger. And so for three days, I mindfully observed him. I looked at his email address. I reviewed his comment over and over again, and I let the reality that I’ve spent 10 years working through the hurt, betrayal and damage inflicted by my ex-husband, but have done no work healing the collateral damage his family left behind really sink in.
“Dang it!” I thought. “Ok God! I see where we’re going. I’m not up for this. I like being angry. It’s much easier and it feels really good,” I confessed. So I just let myself feel it all because the reality is that I know that even this moment was ordered and is necessary for my healing. Come through Higher Level Thinking …. I hear you. And as angry as I am, I am wise enough and healed enough to know the story I’ve been telling myself is just the story line I’ve created because I was never honored with the full truth from anyone.
So imagine my surprise when I was awakened this morning at 3 am from a terrifying nightmare that left me so rattled that the only logical thing I could think to do to recover from the horror of it all was to get up, turn on every light in the house, play my Mary Mary Pandora station and breathe my way through the fear. In fact, I was so rattled that I couldn’t even remember, recite or even type the Lord’s prayer which is crazy on a whole ‘nother level. So after multiple attempts, I finally Googled it … That’s right. I Googled The Lord’s Prayer. It was the only way I could stop my mind from stuttering. And there it was… the prayer I learned in 2nd grade:
“Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done. On Earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom the power and the glory forever. Amen”
Funny I Googled this version. “Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors,” I thought. “Hmmm…” I flashed back to Mrs. Vandenburgh’s class remembering it all. I didn’t really know what a debt was when I was seven and learned this prayer, but when I read it again this morning I could not feign youthful ignorance. “Forgive us our debts. As we forgive our debtors.” Translated loosely. “Shani, how can you expect Me to bless you, love you, forgive all the hurt you’ve caused Me if you are not able to forgive your brother? How can you truly believe I can bless you with an even greater relationship and give you My absolute best if you are not willing to love others from the source of My love for you ? And YES that even means forgiving those who have betrayed you, abandoned you and tossed you aside with reckless regard even when you don’t want to. How would you feel if you reached out to Me and I deleted your request to connect with Me because I felt you “owed” Me something for the damage and hurt you’ve caused when you’ve ignored Me throughout the years?”
And there it was so clear and obvious I couldn’t ignore the truth. Who knew the answer I’d been seeking all week would find me seeking solace from some ole’ gruesome, grimy, nightmare that would send me desperately searching for the words to a simple, prayer I’ve uttered from rote memory since I was seven years old? And while I cant say I’m excited about any of this, I do now have peace in knowing that God’s way is always better than mine and at this point in my life my healing matters more than my pain. So despite my ego and pride’s attempt to choose pain as protection, I am grateful for this morning’s powerful lesson in mindfulness. Do Nothing. Be Still. And Remain Open. Because forgiveness starts with Me.