Days and years have passed since I sat in the middle of my empty living room, one arm around Lucy, as the tears that I’d thought I’d lost in the years of that relationship made their way out of my chest and down my face. I wept that night, wept for all the ways that I had finally come to feel the fear that moved my body through those years. I felt the panic of loneliness and the sorrow of failure. I could not maintain what I had worked so hard to create, what I had sacrificed so much to have. And there I was, with a home that was empty, a living room devoid of any life I recognized. So I cried. I cried and I cried and I filled those empty rooms with the tears that I had been too afraid to cry when they were full. I cried until my insides became as empty as those rooms and there was nothing left in me to wring out.
After that first night, sleeping on my mattress on the futon frame we’d found outside a dumpster in North Boulder, I started filling the rooms – first with color, new color, then with furniture and pictures and long-hidden parts of myself. With time, that empty living room transformed into one filled with dinners with friends and a comfortable chair and Lucy’s bed by the fire. It became my home, mostly because I had filled it with me in a way that I never had when the rooms were full before.
For months and years I lived in the stories of those empty rooms, the pain and fear that hid in every dent of the bathroom wall or broken picture frame. The rooms were full of me now, but the stories of how that came to be still decorated the empty spaces. I hung those stories up in my closet, wore them as easily as my favorite sweatshirt, wore them so often I couldn’t distinguish between their fabric and my own.
I don’t know if this is about letting go of stories or forgiving yourself. And maybe they’re no different. Maybe to let go of the stories that we have woven so closely into our own fabric that we cannot distinguish them from our own essential being, we first must forgive ourselves. Maybe that is how we release. Forgiveness. Unconditional forgiveness. In forgiving, we recognize and honor the fallibility inherent in being human, and the beauty and certainty of that fallibility. We learn to humble ourselves to ourselves, humble ourselves to all that we do not know. And we forgive ourselves. We are fallible. We make mistakes. We make really really big mistakes. We hurt ourselves and we hurt other people. And to live in this world, I have to trust that none of that hurt comes intentionally. And so we learn to forgive ourselves. We find permission to forgive ourselves. And in doing so, we give ourselves the opportunity to release those old stories. Those stories that we have told ourselves over and over again, so many times that we are convinced they must be true and there is no other way. Those stories that drive our choices and decisions. Those stories that we so deeply come to identify with that without them we are not even certain of who we are. Those stories.
And when we put those stories down, stop wearing them around everywhere we go, we begin to see what else is possible, what else is true. What else is possible is that perhaps we are able to step into a deeper truth, something more about the core of who we are as human beings, rather than who our stories have told us we are.
And if we want to, we can write more stories. And maybe those stories will be written from a place of compassion for ourselves and for others, from a place of maitri, from a place of honor and respect for the place that exists without stories.
My home now is full of me, it’s full of my lover, it’s full of my dog (very full of her hair), it’s full of stones and driftwood and pictures of foreign lands. It’s full of books and a wood-burning stove and my favorite chair. It is full of different choices. It is full of forgiveness.