This morning I listened to an episode of The Cut on Tuesdays that talked about shame, forgiveness, and apologies. This episode resonated with me, and had deep connections to my goal of facing my regrets. While I was most definitely the victim of abuse, my actions during that dark period hurt a lot of people. Actually, they hurt most of the people I love, and I’ve struggled with finding ways to apologize and repair those important relationships. Were my apologies good enough? Was I able to make those I hurt feel whole? Have I been forgiven? Clearly, there is a lot of regret to be dealt with here.
Step 4: Strengthen your ability to focus on things you can control.
The fourth step in Tiny Buddah’s advice for dealing with regret speaks to my desire to apologize and feel forgiven. I want to be absolved, to feel better about what has happened, to make things right. However, a lot those desires are completely out of my control. Here’s what I can’t control:
- The past. What’s done is done, yo. There isn’t anything I can do about it, regardless of how many “if only” scenarios I concoct.
- People’s perceptions of me, both now and during the period of abuse. Many people didn’t know I was being abused, and that would have made my actions seem out of character and unreasonable. And for others, learning about the abuse, that I had “let it happen,” creates an entirely different negative perception. I can’t control these.
- The presence of the more visable consequences of my relationship with my abuser. The thing (ahem, person) that comes immediately to my mind is my son. He is a positive consequence of that relationship, but he’s also what ties me to my abuser. I love my son, and I’m grateful for him, but his presence isn’t something I can control, for better or for worse.
Of course, there are plenty of things I can control:
- I can continue to make amends with the people that I have hurt. I can strengthen those relationships through regular contact, talking through our collective pasts, and listening to what they need from me in order to forgive me.
- I can avoid going down those “what if?” rabbit holes. Practicing meditation and mindfulness has been helpful in this regard.
- I can raise my son to be kind, compassionate, and empathetic. He is a wonderful boy, beloved by everyone he meets, so I think I’m on the right path here.
While it’s not incredibly difficult to work on the things I can control, letting go of the things I can’t control has proven to be more difficult. These things stick to you, they hold tight and whisper promises that they can’t keep. I’m hoping that being more aware of them will help me to loosen their grip.