Judging, Gossiping & Radical Self-Forgivenss

by P. Braithwaite

We sit at the bar of an upscale bowling alley drinking and gossiping. Drinking and gossiping are two of our favorite activities; they are as central to our spiritual connection as meditation and self-help books. They are as valid as our ten-day silent meditation plans. Many of our deepest philosophical discussions have stemmed from drinking and gossiping.

Lol. Don’t judge me (or do; it’s your prerogative).

“…yeah, he cheats on her all the time. He’ll probably marry her, though. He loves her.”

“He disgusts me,” I say. There’s intensity in my voice, and I feel rage in my words. I don’t make eye contact; I stare ahead at the soccer match on the screen above my head. I sip my ridiculous drink made of rum and whipped cream. I bite a cherry and toss the stem aside.

“I hear you,” she says. “But his girlfriend has to know. There’s no way she doesn’t at least suspect.”

“Doesn’t matter,” I counter. “It’s disgusting and hurtful and mean. He’s obvious about it, and knowing doesn’t make it feel any less shitty.”

There is some ridiculous Rihanna song playing in the somewhat empty bar. It’s distracting. Trela, unable to gauge my mounting frustration, continues to explain.

“I know, but I’ve come to understand that people come together to work stuff out. Like our souls have lessons to learn from each other –.”

“I get it,” I hiss. Tears well in my eyes. “I get it. I can explain it, I could write a fucking blog about it, but at the end of the day, when you have no one to blame for your decisions, it sucks. The soul stuff doesn’t make the sh*t hurt any less.”

Tears are spilling now, but I refuse to make eye contact.

I finally turn to her, “I have no one to blame but myself. And that’s what hurts the most. My relationships have been an act of self-loathing.”

By now I’m shaking with anger and the tears are collecting in that weird puffy place around my eyes. I’m not disgusted by the man Trela was describing. I could care less. I’m disgusted by myself. I’m angry with myself for crying in a bar (how cliche), I’m angry with myself for entering into and staying in relationships that I knew were diminishing my sense of self. I’m angry with myself for having to learn the same lessons over and over.

Mostly I’m angry that I’m alone.

“Are you crying????!” The bartender coos. Her feigned surprise is irritating. “When I left you were so happy!! You need another shot!! Extra whipped cream this time!”

I flash my best fake smile and wipe my tears away. I take my shot of whipped cream and let the sugar (and rum) ease my mind.

I really really like whipped cream.

I’m angry because my friend Trela is right: I do not believe in victims. More often than not, we know on some level, what (or who) we’re getting into. We act with our eyes and hearts wide open (or we close our eyes and say a prayer). Then we must learn to live with the choices we’ve made.

The last two months have found me really questioning love and releasing shame. The last two months have found me relearning the same lessons. Yet again, I’ve struggled to come to terms with how you can hate yourself for loving someone and, mostly, how you can love someone who causes you loads of pain.

I still don’t understand. What I do know is, to move forward, one has to forgive oneself. Until we forgive ourselves for our perceived mistakes, we will keep reliving the same situations — giving ourselves another chance to “get it right.” We’ll keep living out situations, our merciful patient souls, giving us the chance to grow a different way.

So today, I’m learning to forgive myself for the places where I fall short, for the moments where I compromise to curry favor with someone else. I am learning to love myself in the places where I feel broken — the places held together with cheap rum and whipped cream.

I’m learning to heal with self-love instead of bitterness and self-criticism. I am learning to love myself the way I pride myself on loving others — without judgment or overwhelming expectation.

And, I suspect, if I can learn to do that, all the relationship mishaps will have been worthwhile.

Thus proving, we’re not victims after all.

What are you trying to come to terms with today?