When I was a little girl, I loved spending hours outdoors.
My family wasn’t big on travel sports or weekends spent going here or there, so oftentimes my outdoor time consisted of climbing trees, riding bikes, doing cartwheels on the front lawn or hanging with butterflies and ladybugs on my back porch swing.
As a small child, I never thought twice about it. Being in nature was where I was meant to be, and I had no idea that other kids played on soccer teams, competed in softball tournaments, or went here and there for various other activities.
By the time I entered junior high, I became well aware that other girls were going, doing and being.
Not that I had no extracurricular activities–I was a dancer and played piano–but it was clear to me that groups had formed based on things like cheer and tennis, track and soccer, and because I hadn’t been carted to those events as a child, I wasn’t fully able to participate in them as I grew older.
These seem like such trivial matters in times of war, famine and pestilence, but the truth is, these tiny dings in a child’s armor, feelings like isolation, exclusion and low self-worth, cause larger cracks as the years go on.
I find it sad that so many adults spend the rest of their lives trying to overcome the 12+ years they spent in school.
School can breed such a dog-eat-dog mentality. Kids become commodities, valued only for their ability to go, do and be.
Parents send mixed signals, “Be the best you can be!” “No, wait-achieve!” or “We love you just the way you are!” “No, wait-achieve!” or “You hang out with who makes you feel comfortable and always be kind!” “No, wait-achieve!”
Even worse, our peers can be so cruel. Although many of us have done our best to teach our children to be kind, the pure simplicity of a child’s brain makes it impossible for them to keep their mouths shut most of the time. They can’t help but to be frightened by what is perceived as different, less than or not quite all.
We grow up and wonder why as adults, so many of us struggle to find our place in the world.
We wonder why it can be so difficult to make decisions.
We wonder why we can’t shake the feelings that we’re just not good enough.
We wonder why we battle issues like depression, thoughts of self-harm, even suicide.
Naomi Judd was an outspoken voice in the world of mental illness.
She was open and honest about her struggles with suicidal depression, a depression so deep one wants to end his or her life permanently.
And that’s exactly what Naomi did almost six months ago at the ripe and wise age of 76.
Though we don’t know all of the details, in her book, River of Time: My Descent into Darkness and How I Emerged with Hope, Naomi documented her feelings, speaking largely about the role her past played in her battle to overcome her present.
I grew up in a family of secrets; there was a lot of pathology in the family.Naomi Judd
What many of us don’t understand about the present is that it won’t be present at all if we don’t deal with the past.
We will constantly continue swimming in the same pool of anger, bitterness and madness year after year, decade after decade if we don’t confront the past, accept what happened, and forgive those who hurt us and the way we might have hurt other.
I liken unforgiveness and a lack of acceptance to the weedy vines that grow on the trees in my backyard.
Our home was built in 1970 on hilly land that was formerly woods behind a dairy farm.
When they built the home, no one bothered to cultivate the land around it.
As a result, once trees grew, weedy vines that hadn’t been pulled from the ground began to wrap themselves around each tree, attempting to choke the life out of each and every one.
And with a few of them, the vines were able to succeed. The life of the tree succumbed to what it couldn’t overcome.
Suffocation. Lack of light. Starvation.
Often the human soul mirrors nature, teaching us not only how to love creation, but how to care more deeply for ourselves and each other!
We need air, light and nourishment.
We can’t get them because the weeds are still there.
We must pull out the “weeds” in our lives in order to survive.
And that’s the hard part, right?
How do we let go of what we can’t change?
How do we move on from what hurt us to our core?
How do we fix what can’t be fixed?
I don’t have all the answers.
But I do know that the little girl who felt left out all those years ago, who had loved nature but had learned to hate herself for it, she grew up and hated herself the same.
And it wasn’t until I began to pull out those weeds that were choking the life out me that I realized the greatest act of self-care I could provide myself was to let go and move on.
Letting go, accepting what couldn’t be changed, helped me to make peace with the present.
Moving on, forgiving what I’d done and what had been done to me helped me to take steps in the right direction.
I needed one to have the other.
Forgiveness and acceptance aren’t easy to achieve but both are vital to living abundantly.
I’m still in the woods. There are still vines clawing their way up my ankles, seeking to destroy me still.
But I’m closer to air, light and nourishment than ever before.
Here’s how I got from bitterness to forgiveness:
1. I changed my thoughts about my Creator.
It starts by telling yourself that where you are is exactly where you’re meant to be. The problem with thinking this thought is that, for many of us, where we presently are feels horrific. Sometimes it really is. Drug addiction, physical or sexual or mental abuse, etc. etc. If this is where we’re meant to be, what does it tell us about the Creator and how He feels about us? Before I could accept that I was meant to be exactly where I was, I had to stop “blaming” God for putting me there.
2. I changed my thoughts about my role in my own life.
I came to view myself as a person capable of changing whatever wasn’t working for me, speaking out about what was bothering me, and managing what didn’t need to and/or couldn’t change. Had I fumbled parts of my past? Sure. Were there things I’d done that I couldn’t undo? Absolutely. But then was then, now is now, and the future will be the future. I am actively participating in the present. The past is over, and the future hasn’t happened yet.
3. I changed my thoughts about my habits and routines.
I used to view habits and routines as things that could only be done well after you were healed. What I didn’t realize is that consistency is key, and every day that I wasn’t focusing my thoughts on my routine and habits was one more day that would become a past I would regret. Although routines and habits can be tricky to build, the key is to start small. SUPER small.
*PLEASE NOTE* Not one thing I’ve written should be taken as any kind of medical advice. PLEASE, if you’re feelings suicidally depressed, GET HELP. One place to call is:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
An inability to overcome the past is just one of many reasons someone might end his or her life.
If we choose forgiveness and acceptance we can begin to walk the path of freedom from our past.
Only then will those weedy vines be burned for good, hopefully replaced with soft grass and fresh blooms of new life.
See you soon,