“Even if a person hurts you, give him love. The worst punishment is to throw someone out of your heart… You should love everyone as God, and love each other. If you cannot love each other, you cannot achieve your goal.”
-Neem Karoli Baba
We’ve heard it before: forgive not for the sake of another, but for your own sense of peace. Ah, but if only it were so easy! Surely Neem Karoli had never been cheated on, otherwise he would never provide such bizarre advice. Love her?! After she’d spent months investing in another relationship while stringing me along?! No way! I felt humiliated, hurt, and unwanted. The fear of being insufficient was proving true, and I did everything I could to appease it. I tried filling every waking moment with activities. I tried investing myself in others. I tried being the life of the party. I tried being the sage who dispensed wise advice. I was trying – to no avail – to distract myself from my brokenness. It took months for me to realize that the pain would either make me a hard-hearted cynic, or it would break me open.
The months passed.
Month one: I found myself recycling the very pain I had sought to escape. I spent hours berating her for abandoning me. I denied her forgiveness – I reasoned I was punishing her for the heartache she’d imposed on me.
“Well,” I’d think angrily, “She chose to lie about that, and she handled that scenario terribly. That’s not my fault. She had this coming!” Then I’d sit there, arms crossed and forehead furrowed, feeling no better than I had before the bereavement of judgements and justifications.
Month two: “I’m definitely over this,” I affirmed myself, “Mmhm, I’m actually so good right now. This was so needed. Being single is so great.” Then I’d heat up a packet of stale ramen noodles and binge on Netflix.
Month three: I felt defeated. Broken. Stiflingly sad. I was coming to the undeniable realization that I was alone.
By the fourth month, I was exhausted. This was not my truth. Rage and resentment were not my truths. Debilitating suffering was not my truth. I wanted out.
The whole breakup was unbearable. I didn’t know what to do with the onslaught of insecurities and pain that followed the anger. I spent months sifting through the chaos trying to regain some semblance of calm but only managed to feel more lost than ever.
Month five, or six – who keeps count – I considered life coaching. I couldn’t handle feeling so emotionally alienated anymore. The ice cream hadn’t worked, the alcohol hadn’t worked, the hook ups hadn’t worked. I was missing something here. Why was I still so unhappy? I was driving myself nuts! Here I was months after having ended it with the person I thought was the “problem” and I was as troubled now as I was then.
The day I decided to meet Jenessa, my life coach, I remember feeling nervous. I didn’t want to divulge my confusion and pain. I wanted to acquiesce to the illusion that I had it all together. But Jenessa knew better. “There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.”
And I stared at her, too aware of my own suffering to offer much conversation. I wanted to heal, but I was terrified of facing myself, and all the pain I’d avoided for years. “Think of your partner as one of your greatest teachers. She’s holding a mirror up to you: a lot of what you see in her that deeply offends you, is a reflection of your own internal judgement.” She paused and leaned closer to me, “The question is: what lesson does your soul want to learn form this breakup? Do you know?”
I remember thinking: How can my partner be a teacher to me?? What possible lesson can there be in all of this? She abandoned me. I never abandoned myself. Jenessa encouraged me to invest in myself, saying, “For one week, treat yourself to the kind of lavish love and admiration that you expect from a partner. Find that within yourself. Then let me know how it goes.” And thus began a whole new season of growth.
For the next few days, I scrutinized Jenessa’s advice: consider your partner as a teacher. A teacher. It took awhile before I admitted that I had betrayed myself. For years, I had traded myself in for an identity that was well-liked, safe, and NOT ME. Slowly, I began to take ownership of my feelings, and tend to them one-by-one. It was an empowering and terrifying process. I was responsible for me. Dante described it perfectly: “In the middle of the journey of our life, I found myself within a dark woods, where the straight way was lost.” Well, in that dark place, I retrieved my soul.
What followed was a strew of challenging and nurturing months. Months of self-healing, and doubt, and freedom. I came to the undeniable realization that if we don’t listen to “the voice of the soul,” as Jenessa termed it, it sings a stranger tune. If we don’t go looking for what lies beneath the surface of our lives, the soul comes looking for us. Throughout my breakup, I victimized my experience. I was innocent, while my ex was entirely at fault. What a limiting way to perceive myself. Rather than continue to deflect my own self-doubts onto others, I was learning to embrace and honor the tough emotions as respectfully as I did the “good” emotions.
A shift occurred when I started my journey with Jenessa. She catalyzed a perspective change that completely altered the way I approached, perceived, and responded to myself. That’s all it took: a shift in perspective. A wound needs air in order to heal. I had to talk about and expose those things which had hurt or harmed me in some way. Things I had avoided for years. If I was to nurture and heal, I had to admit that the wounds existed. I had to take ownership of my pain: I had to carefully do what was necessary to help myself feel better.
The counseling I received during this time was monumental. It sustained and affirmed the perspective change while fostering a powerful appreciation of Self. I will always support the methods that have supported me, and life coaching was instrumental to that. It still is. Aldous Huxley once said, “It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly, my darling.”
If you’re feeling the pangs of being broken open, you don’t have to keep yourself hidden. Your pain is not a source of shame. It is part of the human experience – it binds us together. There is no weakness in needing a hand, or a listening ear. Jenessa remains close these days, ever helping me to grow. In our last session, I laughingly told her, “I feel like I have everything to gain, and nothing to lose.” She smiled thoughtfully, “Then you are free, my dear. Beautifully free. And when you are free, you simply never end.” Letting go of yourself, above all else, is the very moment you realize you’re alive.
These days, I think on my breakup with gratitude. It was the experience I needed to reclaim myself. It was the lesson my soul desired to learn.
If life coaching resonated with you, I encourage you to call My Vida Spa. Life coaching is such a treasure, and learning to love yourself is truly the greatest gift you could give yourself. Think on the words of Victor Frankl, “The last of the human freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” So I ask you: what lesson does your soul want to learn? Do you know?