Forgiveness and Consequences

I forgave myself this week. I forgave myself and allowed myself to tell me “I love you”.

Please forgive the horribly me-centric nature of the above statement. It’s a very difficult sentiment to write in the first person, and I’m quite certain that I’ve muffed it, though I am certainly not perceptive enough to see how.

The point is that this week, something inexpressibly profound and meaningful happened to/for me, and I felt the need to share it here. Initially, I posted about it on Facebook and figured that would be the end of it, but the more I consider it, the more I believe it needs to be recorded here, as well.

So, I present the original post here, after which I will attempt to elaborate just a bit:

I just did something I never envisioned myself actually doing:
While meditating, I was inspired to put my hand over my heart, and in that moment, I said “I forgive you, Matthew, and I love you.”
I’ve NEVER in my almost 54 years been able to say those things to myself. But tonight, I did, and I meant them so completely that the truth of it broke me down into blubbering tears for several minutes. So much so that I’m only now able to breathe again.
My self-loathing and guilt have become such an integral part of my identity that it was physically traumatic to have them just wrenched away in an instant like that. But I feel so inexplicably different now.
I have an intense feeling that things are going to begin to change very quickly now.

Thank you. Thank you God, thank you Universe, thank you Life, thank you Sky…
…and thank you one and all, my dear and beloved family and friends. You all mean more to me than I can ever express.

There.  It was, in an epic understatement, quite the moment.

I was doing a “guided” meditation using the Insight Timer app, a gratitude exercise which was designed to bring forward in the mind the blessings in life; to remind one of all the gifts with which they are surrounded even in what may seem to be the darkest of times. I do such meditations frequently, as I believe that gratitude is among the most powerful and creative emotions, opening the floodgates of life for countless more things to be grateful for.
This was, however, the first time I had done this particular meditation, and as it suggested putting hand to heart, I did something very unusual for me; where I would normally move my right hand to cover the spot on my chest just left of center (this is the motion with which we are all programmed from youth, whether pledging allegiance to the flag, standing for the national anthem, or swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth), I found my left hand moving on its own. Being a lefty, this felt hugely significant to me, though even in hindsight I can’t recall a conscious decision to use my left. When my hand rested on my chest, however, all awareness of the meditation guide speaking through my headphones disappeared, and the electricity of that touch was the sole focus of my attention. At the very first sensation of fingertips to chest, my mind and heart lasered in on those eight words, and they came forth, all bud unbidden, from my lips: “I forgive you, Matthew, and I love you.”
I don’t think I can possibly overstate the impact of this moment on my body and my soul. Imagine carrying a load for 40 years, a load so heavy and overwhelming that your back is permanently bowed and each moment is a torture, struggling for every step and breath. You’ve carried this load for so long that it has become an integral part of you. You don’t even give the weight conscious consideration anymore, you merely exist with it, and accept the constant agony as your “lot in life”; this is so enduring and unshakeable that it must be what you deserve, what God (if you can still allow yourself to believe in such a thing) intends for you.
Then imagine, without thinking about it or planning it in any way, you just cast that weight away. Just like that. Suddenly, pain-free and with straight back, you realize that this burden you’ve carried for so long was entirely of your own creation, and carrying it was your decision and there is no one else in the world to blame. Instant elation and immeasurable relief followed immediately by crushing self-recrimination. But you’ve already let that burden go, so this time the anger and guilt and self-loathing just wash right away, like water from the proverbial duck’s back.

In the wake of that moment two nights ago, I find myself feeling different in every moment. I still cry almost constantly, but not like before, not sad tears brought on by loneliness and grief; rather tears of beauty and appreciation, as if every perceived moment of beauty were amplified a thousandfold and exploding within my heart, welling up and spilling forth from my eyes. Just an hour or two before this happened, I saw a television commercial for a jeweler, with the man giving his wife the lovely diamond Valentine at dinner (yes, six days after the holiday the ads were still airing) and wept at the cruelty of never doing that again with my Jacquelynn. I saw a similar ad today and wept again, but in joy for the idea of that love expressed and shared. Literally, ANY moment of joy or beauty generates tears now. Heaven forbid anyone be in the room if I watch another video of a dog being reunited with a returning military parent now!

I’ll be an absolute mess.

A joyous, celebratory mess.

I still don’t know what tomorrow holds, and I don’t harbor any illusions that I’m done with my grief. But I don’t fear tomorrow, and I don’t believe that my grief will hold me back anymore. I’m no longer afraid to move forward for fear of repeating the same “mistakes” or of opening myself to vulnerability. I believe beyond any doubt that I am now living and will continue to live my best, blessed life, and it will get better with every breath, every tear, and every day.

And I believe in the fullness of my heart that I have my Jacquelynn and her letter to me to thank.

Along with every one of you, as well.

Letter From Jacquelynn

I was walking the dog yesterday, which just happened to be Valentine’s Day.  This was a day we always celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy, sharing gifts and cards every day for a week, culminating in the “primary” gift and card on the day itself.  We made a game of collecting the best greeting cards throughout the year, and deeply enjoyed sharing them.

This was, of course, my first Valentine’s without her since 1999, and I was all prepped to suffer through every moment of it, but was, instead, having quite a spectacular day.  I began it with a Facebook post expressing deep gratitude rather than another lonely lament, and life began rewarding me for that almost immediately.  From the beginning, I felt as if Jacquelynn were herself gifting me with these moments of joy.

It was during my walk with Sky that maybe the best part of an already great day came to me; her voice in my head, essentially dictating a letter to me.  “Write what I tell you to write”, she seemed to be telling me, and the first paragraph was emblazoned on my mind at that moment.  All I needed to do was begin to write, and the rest would follow.

That letter follows, for what it’s worth.  The typing was done by me, but I honestly believe the words come from her.  At the very least, she inspired every word, and I know her voice and heart better than anyone else.  This just feels like her.

My Dearest Matthew,
I hope you can take this to heart, in your grief. I see what you’re feeling, and I’m so pleased that you are doing a little better and getting back into the swing of life. You need people around you, much as you like to imagine yourself as a loner. You have always thrived on your relationships, and I’m glad to see you developing friendships again.
Please, please know how much I have always loved you. You’re finding all sorts of evidence of that as you clean and pack up the house. I’m trying to make certain you find these things at the most appropriate and necessary times, to bring you comfort and joy rather than more fear and grief. Take these tokens and memories and reminders to heart and hold our love close. Read that again; hold our love close, but do NOT lose yourself in loss. The only thing you’ve lost is my physical companionship, and that’s plenty difficult enough. But you haven’t lost ME, and you know that. I’m with you now, helping you type this letter, and I’ll always be here, at your side and in your heart, where I have always been. Don’t grieve what has not been lost.
I know it’s hard for you to think of yourself this way, but you really are my hero. I know that as my illness claimed more and more of me, you came to deeply doubt your service to me, disputing the idea that you were truly of any help at all. It’s time for you to let go of that doubt. If you look inside, you know you saved me. Not in the way we envisioned, of course; we won’t be dancing together or walking along the beach again anytime soon. But in the ways that truly matter, you did save me. You saved me from dying alone and forgotten. You helped to give me many more months of lucidity and love before it simply became too much for any one person, out on an island like you were, to handle on their own. I’m not angry about that, either; moving me to the nursing home. Honestly, I’m grateful because that moved saved you. I don’t think you would have survived last spring with me there, your self-care had so declined. The real Jacquelynn, the one trapped behind the illness, never wanted you to sacrifice yourself for me.
I just wanted you to love me, which you did more and longer and better than any other man ever could have. You gave all of yourself to me, for me, and I thank you.
You should be so proud of yourself, Matthew. Proud of your sacrifices, proud of your accomplishments, and proud of your strength. The only person who doesn’t seem to recognize this is you. Even the nurses and aides at the nursing home (I LOVED some of them so much!) were blown away by your love and dedication to me. Even now, I truly don’t understand what I did to warrant such commitment.
But I do know that I’d have done the same, to the best of my abilities, if the tables were turned.
I feel I owe you so many apologies and explanations, but that time has passed. So instead I send you my love, eternal and unlimited love, and my deepest gratitude.
Thank you, my Handsome Matthew.
I will always be right here. Wearing that smile you always told me you loved so much.
I will always be
Your Jacquelynn.