Forgiveness and Gratitude

None of us are raised by perfect people. My husband and I were not perfect parents, we weren't raised by perfect parents and I have no expectations that my children will be perfect parents. Perfect parents do not exist.

It's a wonderful thing to aspire to, being a perfect parent, but we are human beings raising human beings. The margin for error is not even calculable.

I love the saying, "If everyone raised everyone else's children we'd have nothing but perfect children in the world." Right!

When our first son was born I was determined to be the mother I always wished mine had been. I loved my son with my whole heart and wondered if my mother had ever felt that way about me.

A lot of things I've experienced over the years lead me to this:

We are responsible for our own life.

Not our parents. Not our environment. Not lack of money or education. We are not defined by our circumstances.

We are responsible for the energy we bring into our lives. We are responsible for the energy we surround ourselves with. You cannot improve your life if you surround yourself with energy that brings you down.

At some point in our lives, we have to let go of the past. If you are holding onto the past, harboring a grudge, it becomes a barrier that prevents you from moving forward. You are sabotaging your own happiness.

I admit that I held a lot of anger and resentment for most of my life. There are incidents from my childhood I still find impossible to understand and accept. But here's the thing... I can't change it. It happened. It's over.

I realized first that I couldn't have my mother in my life. I wasn't aware, back then, she was bi-polar. I knew she was an alcoholic and blamed most of her behavior on that. We would go years without speaking. Blissful, peaceful years.

Then something would happen to break the silence and it started all over again. It was a destructive pattern and took its toll over time.

In my forties, I began searching... for inner peace... for happiness and fulfillment... for a better way to live. I read more self-help books than you can imagine. A lot of my reading material came out of Oprah's 'Change Your Life TV' segments. I also found a good therapist.

At some point, I came to the realization that, for the most part, all parents do the best they can with what they know. Sociopaths aside, I don't believe anyone has a child with the intent to harm them in any way.

Through that realization, I knew I had to forgive my mother. What I didn't know was how much lighter my heart would feel and how much richer life would be from that act.

I didn't call or write her and say, "Mom, I forgive you for (insert any number of incidents here)." I had a quiet, solitary, meditation and released all the anger and frustration of the past into the universe, thus freeing myself of it all.

My favorite line about forgiveness is this:

Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.

Think about that for a moment.

You can't change the past so why are you letting it weigh you down? It's toxic, all that anger and resentment. It will eat you alive. Let it go!

A few years later I got a letter from mom. She went on and on about how she knew she was a horrible mother and was so sorry, etc., etc. and then the bombshell... "I need to see you". I knew that was not going to happen.

After a good amount of time, meditation and prayer I wrote back explaining how I had forgiven her years before. I knew she did the best she could and I had released the past. I suggested she do the same.

I also told her forgiveness was the right thing to do but having her in my life was not. (The definition of insanity applies here... doing the same thing and expecting different results). It was time to move on.

To prove my point, her next letter was all about how she'd been hurt throughout her life and much of it was my fault... same old mom. I was able to shrug that off and move forward with a clean conscience