Tag Archives: shitty childhood experiences

What Forgiveness Meant to Me – Literally

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What Forgiveness Meant to Me – Literally

I wrote about the 3 day retreat that ended with an unforgettable experience here. And I wrote a poem expressing my pain here. Now it is time to share exactly what freedom meant to me after the exercise of forgiveness. I had no idea what to expect – the possibilities were endless.

In the days following the retreat, I felt that my heart space had doubled in size. In my daily prayers I asked God to bring things up so I could let go of even more. I would think of old painful experiences and I forgave myself and others easily. Since I had tackled the biggie in my life, all these other wounds were senseless to hold on to. Sometimes tears accompanied my prayers of forgiveness, but overall, each time I practiced forgiveness, it just got easier and easier.

It seemed pointless to hang on to anything that weighed me down – forgiveness was my new happy pill and I dosed myself frequently.

The second miracle is that the SHAME that clouded my whole life, simply evaporated. I had not understood the roots of my shame until now. I had worked on it from so many angles, and now with the choice of forgiveness, it was gone.

An old journal entry describes my feelings:
“I feel like I am drowning in shame. I take more of it in with each breath. It stinks like rotting flesh. Its voice is eerily comforting as it fills my ear with lies. Sometimes I play hide and seek with shame trying to escape its grip. But I end up feeling naked and exposed and put out the SOS – Shame Oh Shame, please return. Wrap yourself around me like a cloak and help me feel safe again.

My head knows that being raped was never my fault, but I cannot release the grip of shame in my being. Ok, God, let’s heal this shit. Enough already. I am 46 and I have proven I can do shame – with gusto, flair, and grit. It is time to make a change.”

I don’t know if I can adequately express how much shame was woven into my being. I always had shameful thoughts about myself running my brain and body ragged. I used so many tools to neutralize this shame, but they only helped me keep my head above the drowning level.

Obviously this shame took root in my being just from the nature of the violence I endured. I think it was easy to allow shame to grow and perpetuate because so much of the world mirrored that I was not enough as a girl, as a woman, as a human.

I do still have moments when I feel vulnerable without that cloak of shame. I feel exposed and yet I realize that I was always the first one to attack myself. Being and sitting with vulnerability is a worth while practice.

There are many layers of vulnerability and just when one gets comfortable, another emerges, inviting us to expose more of our heart.

Freedom from shame and old wounds of unforgiveness would not have happened if the seed of wanting forgiveness to happen had never been planted. Even if it seems impossible for you to experience forgiving someone that harmed you, I encourage you to say, “Someday, I would like to be free from the weight of unforgiveness. Prepare my heart so when the moment arrives I step into the miracle of unfolding.”

The last little miracle to happen from this is that for 3 days after the retreat ended, I heard my grandpa saying “Angie” in quiet moments. Just before bed on the 3rd day, I said, “Ok, grandpa, I am listening.” He appeared in my mind’s eye sobbing and repeating “I’m sorry.” I thanked him for his apology and released him to continue his own journey. While it was completely unexpected to hear from him (he died 25 years ago) it was beautiful to feel his sincerity and hear his apology. I certainly was not anticipating this experience.

So, if his soul found a new level of peace, that was previously beyond imagination, I am a-ok with that.

Won’t you plant some heart seeds today?

In case you missed it, here is Part 1: Forgiving the Unforgivable

My Poem Related to this post: Feisty for $25

Read more about who the heck I am: https://iamangela.org/about/

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Forgiving the Unforgivable

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Forgiving the Unforgivable

My grandpa sold me for sex when I was a child. There is a poem here.

It is okay. Really. This story will show you how I am more than okay.

My grandpa also sexually assaulted me many times before he sold me. In navigating my healing, I found a level of compassion for him that was beyond my human capacity. I wrote about that here. But in early 2014 I realized my forgiveness had hit a wall. I saw his act of selling me as:

U n f o r g i v a b l e.

My journal says: “Grandpa, my forgiveness will not extend that far. I am pissed that I have so much damage to navigate from your evil-ness. If you were still alive, I would send you to jail. I want to feel safe and you stole that from me. I hate that I cannot still the voice that says I am less than the other people in the world. I hate that my worth, my value was put into dollars. Will I ever be able to forgive you? My anger is so huge, it feels like the Earth will shake and buildings will crumble if I let it out. I cannot imagine this rage being replaced with forgiveness.”

Even thought it seemed impossible, I wanted forgiveness for what it had to offer ME even though I had no idea of what it would feel like or look like. I did not know how unforgiveness was holding me back because I had carried it with me since I was 5 in an unconscious way. Now, I was willing to let go. But I needed help.

This was the condition of my heart and mind when I went to a Dances of Universal Peace Retreat in May of 2014 with a simple prayer, “Let this retreat serve my highest good.”

The first morning I was up with the sun writing, singing, and praying by the stream. Once the morning dance was about to begin I entered the lodge and a friend of mine greeted me by falling on the floor and kissing my bare feet. This took my words away – I had not ever been greeted like this before. He said, “Isn’t that how we are to greet Goddesses?” I mumbled something, unsure of how to be gracious about such a gesture. He smiled and asked that I take it in. I said I would work on it.

One of the dances was about Mitakoye Oyasin, A Lakota phrase meaning All My Relations. Mitakoye: All beings in all levels of creation. Oyasin: Call you & draw you closer to the deepest love of your soul. Somewhere in the course of the song, God pricked my heart and asked if I could bring my grandfather front and center to sing this song with him.

After a few tearful rounds of the song, I told God I would extend the olive branch and take one small step toward my grandfather. That was all I could manage in that moment. The edges of my heart started to ache. I was completely okay with taking my time navigating forgiveness. I had deep compassion for myself first. After all, this was a biggie.

After that song we had a silent meditation time and I opened my journal to write and God asked, “Could you kiss the feet of your grandfather and call him Beloved?” Then I wrote: “God prepare my heart. I want to run away right now.” And then I did – I ran to the stream and sobbed. Sobs that shook my being on every level, loosening the roots of unforgiveness.

All day my prayer was, “Prepare my heart.” I could not fathom how forgiveness might occur. My grandfather was dead so how would I know I had truly forgiven him? And because he was dead, a small voice said, “Well, you don’t have to really kiss his feet.” Part of me was relieved.

I also was being incredible gentle with myself with messages like:

“I might not find forgiveness until the last breath I take, and that is ok.”

“It might take 20 or 40 years to figure out how to forgive him, and that is ok.”

At the end of the first day I was exhausted.

Day 2: My heart chakra literally ached – it was being opened and stretched and expanded.

My prayer by late morning was, “Oh God, Sustainer of my Soul.” I felt the weight of my anger in my being and it was heavy and frightening. Once again I ran to the stream, dropped to my knees, and this time I threw rocks in water yelling “FUCK YOU!” over and over – covering all the reasons I was angry with him. My anger spilled out into the quick moving stream and she carried it away.

Then I climbed on some huge trees that had been pulled up by the floods of the previous fall. I wrapped my arms and legs around the trunk of one and cried into the tree:

I am sorry for
my little girl inside,
all 5 year old children with out love,
what you did to yourself grandpa,
what you did to humanity,
the beautiful trees that are dead now from the flood,
the space in me that seemed dead for 41 years,
the effort it has taken to resurrect that space, to learn to breathe in that space,
all the physical pain that I feel,
the land torn apart by the flood water,
my little girl that has felt uprooted and lost since that very first time of being sold,
my Self having felt displaced, not valued, unloved, and unlovable.

Then I said “I LOVE YOU” to all these aspects. This emotionally laden process just kept unfolding. Yes, it was painful – and beautiful. I was surrounded by God’s love and Mother Earth, offering infinite support. God was totally leading the way to forgiveness – these sure weren’t my ideas!

Then I had a picture enter my minds eye: a ceremony where my friend stands in as my grandfather and I kiss his feet and I hug him and call him Beloved Grandfather. I immediately gave myself permission for this ceremony to be many months, if not years away from happening. And perhaps, the first time it is done, I call it practice.

By the end of day 2 I asked my friend to stand in as my grandfather. He said he would be honored. I explain that I have no desire to rush this process, it could be the next day or many years away.

Day 3 I woke with a headache from all the emotional processing. The dances that morning were soothing and I continued my prayers, “God, prepare my heart, sustain my soul.” During the silent meditation time I wrote out my Healing Intentions:

1. Heal ME. This is for me and only me. I feel the ache and the weight of unforgiveness and I am tired of dragging it around. Fill up that space where unforgiveness has lived with love and wisdom.
2. Reach across TIME and extend the choice of healing to my grandfather, because it is never just about me and my healing.
3. Let my forgiveness ripple out into the WORLD to further heal all crimes against humanity in this spectrum.
4. Allow me to remember this was a crime against himself and all of humanity as much as it was a crime against me.

At the end of the morning, we were seated in a circle sharing our retreat experiences. There was a silence and God prompted me. I shared that my grandfather had committed crimes against me as a child and God had prepared me to forgive him. I had asked my friend to stand in as my grandfather and I invited anyone to witness this ceremony. My friend started removing his socks as one of the leaders said, “How about now?” My reply was, “I am ready.” My heart really was ready – I was not forcing anything to happen, it was completely ready in all ways. It was miraculous.

I kneeled, kissed his feet, and called him “Beloved Grandfather” in an embrace. I felt infinitely lighter immediately.

I went deep inside and stretched my heart so much it felt like the sun had taken up residence. I am still in awe at the way God supported me in this process. It was not practice. It was, and is, forgiveness – the real thing.

Forgiveness is freedom. I took a chance, I said yes, I want this healed. I trusted the process and stepped into the opportunity that God provided, and I found JOY.

Keep reading: Part 2 What Forgiveness Meant to Me, Literally

Read more about who the heck I am: https://iamangela.org/about/

Day 4: The Yoga of Self-Care

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Day 4: The Yoga of Self-Care

1. Always begin with the breath – take it   d e e p   and   s l o w. Your body dances when you breath mindfully.

2. Post your intentions. Sing them, chant them, have FUN with them, do art with them!

3. Make the ACTION LIST. Do the EASY items first.

4. Work through the IMPOSSIBLE.

The items left seem IMPOSSIBLE or they wouldn’t still be waiting for attention. Getting to the root of IMPOSSIBLE will take time, effort, and, emotional attention. Healing these roots will make all the difference in the current situation and create different outcomes in the future. The same old shit won’t trigger you into fear-based thinking. I am cheering you through this shift – it is such a worthwhile journey.

Fear is an awesome manufacturer of procrastination. Likewise, anger can be an awesome springboard for action.

I give you permission to be pissed at the situation or circumstances. Allow the emotions to flow. Just take the piss (and the victim) out of your voice once you are enlisting the help of others. The goal is to navigate this with as much grace and healing as possible, which means how to treat others through this process is important. Keep your civility and integrity intact.

When facing the IMPOSSIBLE, it is time to remember you don’t have to do it alone. In fact, learning how to ask and receive help might be an important lesson for you. It certainly was for me. Now is the time to reach into your toolbox or see a practitioner that can help you find the source of pain, hurt or trauma that is probably at the root of IMPOSSIBLE. For me, Emotional Freedom Technique (aka EFT or Tapping) is a wonderful self-help tool that will take me to the root of my blockage. Use what works for you. I also highly recommend therapy and counseling professionals that can help you navigate shitty times especially if you have PTSD, complex trauma, anxiety disorder, or severe depression. I have a history of all of these and the professionals in my life always helped me pull through. Remember, it is Your Turn to give yourself the experience of courage and freedom using whatever tools make you feel safe and comfortable.

Simple solutions that have used: I made an appointment with a close friend and ask them to be with me during the hard part, whether it was a phone call or appointment. Sometimes all I need is an accountability friend. I ask them to poke me to make sure it got done when I promised it would be done. I have friends that would just let me talk about the possibilities out loud, sometimes giving helpful suggestions, but mostly listening. Talking it through (out loud to yourself even!) can be an important shift. Make a list of trusted professionals, friends, and family members that you can call upon as you navigate this shit storm.

As you read through the IMPOSSIBLE ACTION ITEMS, I have some self-help tools to share:

Where do you feel the tension in your body? What happens if you breath into this space? Use the   d e e p   and   s l o w   breath to open up space in your body and mind to navigate this differently than you have before.

Notice your self-talk during this process. Can it be addressed by one of the new intentions you created?

What personality of fear is showing up right now? Panic, fear, anxiety, overwhelm, frustration, anger, shame, guilt, intimidation? Stretch your body – do any movement that will help your body let go of the physical tension that has been launched. Dance, shake, laugh, walk, run, stretch and be vocal during this process.

If you feel comfortable doing this alone, ask yourself what is the earliest memory you have of feeling just like this. This might be the root of this trigger. Once you have identified a situation (typically from childhood or young adulthood) then start using the tools you know to begin to work through this old hurt. Again, totally cool to work through this with a pro if that feels best.

Journaling is a great tool right now. It can be as simple as a list of how you are feeling. You can send an email to your self or use pen and paper. I believe your body needs for you to acknowledge these feelings and emotions to begin the healing process. Here are some prompts:

This makes me feel ____ or feel like ______ or remember ______
I don’t know why but this word/action/emotion makes me ________
When I think of ______ I hear/smell/taste/feel/see _______
My <body part> hurts and has a message for me ___________

Honor yourself with some yoga. Find a community that takes care of themselves and you will find a community that cares about you.

This is part 4 of a 7 part series on self-care.

Rocket Fuel

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Rocket Fuel

Rocket Fuel

My friend

Is very quiet

As a child he talked

A lot

Car trip to grandma’s

His 5 year old mind liked to think

Out loud

Mama said, “Be quiet!”

Words = energy

Mama said, “Be quiet or I will put you out of the car!”

Contained thoughts burned his insides

Like fuel

There was no countdown

The rocket fuel was just too strong he reckons

Car stops

Mama takes him out

Dust settles

No traffic

Alone

Roadside bushes befriend him

My friend took apart his rocket

Buried the pieces

Swallowed the fuel

After forever, Mama returned

Grandma visited

Let the fuel flow

I will listen

Valuable words

One of a kind thoughts

Beautiful feelings

Let that old fuel out

Re-fuel regularly

I Remember

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I Remember

I remember, damn you, I remember

You stripped away my innocence

My joy

My freedom

My power

My 3 year old light was extinguished

You marked me with the scent of easy – easy prey.

Others were delighted to find the sign: Dine often, silence guaranteed.

How do I bathe enough to rid myself of that odor?

Unconsciously I have been striving to be better than easy

Perfection = Less Detection

My small, fragile body was used to bring empty relief to your pain, your anger, your rage.

You kept searching for liberation, release

I was not that savior for you

How many did you damage in your search? How many?

You did not know how to stop and I don’t know how you could have ever started.

You had a choice, many choices, and you chose to perpetuate your pain.

I loved you, trusted you – as your title mandated.

Grandpa, I remember now – I remember that you raped me over and over and over.

Maybe death is your savior, your release. Or maybe it is your Hell.

Firefighter

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Firefighter

Rape creates fire
Deep within
Bubbles like lava
Searches for air

Escape

Eruption

My friend
At the tender age of 5
Used a match
On her parent’s bed
Fighting for innocence
Burning for justice
Fight fire with fire

Pull ALL the alarms
Let the fire trucks scream with you
Save your Self
We need (s)heroes like you

Water and Air

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Water and Air

My friend looks thirsty
I offer
water
No thanks wooshes out with a breath of
air

She dislikes
water
she drinks
air
carbonated and sweetened

When she was 3 and 4 her grandfather
held her head under
water
her eyes wide open begging for
air

Shitty game pappy
rape me, drown me
terror to silence
too much water
not enough air

Grown up now
learning to drink
water
learning to breathe
air

Remembering and healing
the elements of Earth
vital to life
water
air

Letter to Grandpa

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Letter to Grandpa

Dear Grandpa,
It has been 3 years since the first memory emerged of you violating me in my tender years, revealing
that my persistent nightmares of rape were rooted in truth. These memories have been fragile shadows
always present in my life, waiting to be unearthed with care and respect.

In the earliest memories I did not know you, the perpetrator. The face on this male energy was a
black cloud of pain, rage, and self-loathing that pulled compassion from me. As unbelievable as it seems,
my compassion for you was spontaneously more palpable than for my Self; your pain was wildly vivid
and accessible to me. My core Being felt the enormity of your angst, your struggle.

I think of this witnessing as a gift.

The impact of your self-loathing during my remembering brought me to my knees inside because I,
too, have loathed myself so completely that I was left gasping for breath and fighting with life. I finally
understood the errant seed that had taken root so long ago.

After a few weeks, your face, your smell, your voice emerged from that black cloud. I had two
grandpa’s then, one that was in the photos of my recorded milestones and the other that was this monster
and master of violence.

Soon, I found anger for you and your choices. I yelled until I lacked voice once again and punched
the boxing bag wishing it was you, except then you wouldn’t be dead. You did make things easier by
exiting before you harmed another generation. I think it was the only way you knew how to stop. My son,
your first great grandchild, was due any day so you exercised a rare bit of courage, and you died.

It seems a strange package, but anger for you delivered me to compassion for my Self. Finally
my unexpressed childhood was exposed. Grief and sorrow were first in line for all the years of black
depression, migraines, anxieties, and unfounded fears that left me feeling gutted of the ability to
experience basic pleasure in the micro or the macro of living.

It seems ridiculously backwards: compassion for you before my Self. However, I have accepted that
healing unfolds in mysterious and miraculous ways. Grandpa, I know you hated who you were. I don’t
believe in hell as an afterlife. I believe in healing. And healing in hell would be next to impossible.

I keep searching for healing, Grandpa, seeking more freedom. What if you had chosen to feel the
world through my heart? What if you had stepped into my skin, felt the vast cavern of fear and silence
that held no markings for the path to healing and voice? Perhaps you would have found the strength to put
a stop to this cycle of violence. Maybe you would have found compassion for your wounded Self in that
space of Me.

Because compassion was my deliverer, I see a Circle of Compassion that holds every living being. I
believe if we intentionally move through the circle, we will be richer and deeper as individuals, naturally
stronger and more connected as a community. It means we find our place on this circle and diligently
move forward until we experience the weak, the sick, the young, the old, the strong, the healthy, the rich,
the poor, the neglected, the abusers, the victims, the rapists, the advocates, the care givers, the judges and the animals, the Earth —leaving no living being untouched.

What if by visiting the depths of all that we have in common with each other we heal our deeply held
wounds?

Living with compassion does not mean a life free of pain, but rather a life where communication,
reconciliation, restoration, and healing are honorable, sought after experiences.

What if we begin to imagine a world that does not understand the words violence, abuse, rape, neglect, and discrimination?

Somehow I know you are listening, Grandpa.

—Angie, The Feisty One

Angela’s Voice / The Missing Puzzle Piece

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Angela’s Voice / The Missing Puzzle Piece

Journal Entry / May 20, 1996

My dream last night was of me as a little girl in the car and angry about where we were going. I couldn’t tell anyone why, but I was terrified of visiting this place.

The scene changes in my dream: the little girl took my hand and led me to a wall where there was a puzzle hanging. It was a puzzle representing my life. All the events and people I had experienced were in this picture. There was a general sense of chaos visible and palpable when I looked at this puzzle. I noted there was one piece missing in the lower right hand quadrant.

Then she motioned for me to lean over and examine something in her hand as she strained to lift it higher: It was a puzzle piece. Without saying a word she expressed the importance of what was on that puzzle piece. She was right, it was important. I looked in her eyes and nodded, acknowledging her wisdom and my understanding. Then she carefully placed it in the puzzle on the wall. In an instant the chaotic energy that had been overlaying the puzzle vanished. There was a thread from that piece to every person and event portrayed in the puzzle. Instantly, everything made perfect sense. My entire being resonated with relief and freedom with this new information.

The dream is crystal clear this morning except what was on the single puzzle piece.

Journal Entry / December 25, 2010

Fourteen years of this dream and I finally know what is on the puzzle piece. The chaos in my life is gone, seemingly evaporated overnight. I am still, very still. There is an understanding of myself that I have been longing for my whole adult life. I now have memories that my brain chose to bury at the age of 3. I don’t know where these memories will take me, but my physical body is in a state of relief. I am acutely aware that my body has been spending enormous amounts of energy holding these memories inside. The freedom and liberation is immense.

Journal Entry / April 10, 2012

As each memory emerges, I experience a state of shock. I consciously navigate acceptance and integration of this new information into my story. Reliving the trauma is difficult. But I recognize that I cannot heal from that which I do not remember. How can I heal the wounds of rape if I can’t acknowledge that it happened? Awareness and acceptance have been critical to navigating the storms of the past as I pick up and hold the broken debris. These relics lead me to a deeper understanding of myself. Healing and the ability to choose differently emerge from the brokenness.

I am continually amazed that everything I did before seeking professional help was exactly what the experts are guiding me through now, 17 months after the first memory emerged. I am grateful that I had such a connection to my innate wisdom. I have been guided efficiently through this journey. God has provided the people, resources and support that I needed at exactly the right moment – all I had to do was ask.

I believe that as we each commit to healing our wounds, whatever they are, that we create a healing ripple of energy into our immediate family and friends that spreads out over the Earth. I visualize that healing energy rippling out across the world frequently – some days it is what keeps me going. However, most days the ability to move forward and continue to heal, come from the inner freedom and healing that I have already experienced. The healed part of my soul reaches out to the wounded places and beckons me inside.