A Look Back

A couple of days ago Facebook popped up a memory of something I posted a year ago about a blog entry I’d made in 2007 – By the seat of my pants. When posting the memory, I explained the circumstances a little more. Here is what I posted:

Shared Facebook Memory
Yeah, those were dark days. Amazingly, I got through them without chemicals or therapy though either or both might have helped. And “achieving numbness with the universe” is still a clever turn of a phrase. Thankfully, I’ve managed to avoid sinking back into that abyss. A conscious effort to avoid being surrounded by assholes helps.
August 23, 2015 · Dayton ·
Past Zen moment from a 6/9/2007 post in my personal blog:
“Yesterday I think I achieved numbness with the universe. It’s kind of like oneness with the universe but different. I’m sure it’s close enough. There’s no enthusiasm but no apathy either. It’s just a state of being, of existence. I may not be exactly where I want to be but wherever I am, that’s OK. I want to do some things but if they don’t get done, I’m OK with it.”
That was near the end of my 25 years of undiagnosed depression although it may have been that I was just surrounded by assholes. Either way, it was a dark time.

Maybe I need to volunteer a little more information that’s not in either the original post or the Facebook posts. The 25 years of “undiagnosed depression” was actually self diagnosed. I may or may not have been suffering from clinical depression but depression seemed the best way to describe how I felt during those years. I still can’t think of a better way to describe it. No one seemed to notice, not even those closest to me. If they noticed a change in my personality or my demeanor, they never said anything. It was like melancholy, solemnity, and a general lack of enthusiasm were normal traits. Maybe the symptoms weren’t obvious to anyone but me.

There were a lot of feelings, reactions to situations, and changes to my thought processes, behavior and overall outlook during those years. I felt overworked, possibly exploited to a degree, and under appreciated. I began to lose confidence in my abilities and lose interest in my work and become more apathetic toward it. More and more I had doubts about the importance and relevance of what I did. Eventually, I began to engage in behavior and activities which could have had dire consequences.

I was called out on that behavior which was the onset of the darkest five years but ultimately moved me to get my shit together. Through research, introspection, and contemplation, I started sorting things out. It was a long, difficult, and painful process. I felt as though I were in Hell, albeit a self-made Hell. Then, one day I had an epiphany and I realized that although I was in this self-made Hell, I had created it and I held the key that opened the gate. I realized that I was holding myself prisoner and that I’d always been able to leave my Hell behind me. With that realization, I opened the gate and walked out of it, leaving the emotional baggage behind. From that point, I was a changed man. I knew that I, alone, was responsible for my happiness and, to carry it further, my own salvation.

I do not attribute any of this to a deity. We create our own Heavens and our own Hells. Sometimes, for better or worse, we draw others into them or we find ourselves drawn into other’s Heavens and Hells. What ultimately matters is how we deal with them and often we must go deep within ourselves to find the answers we seek. As the Buddha said, “No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.”

See also – Memoir from Hell in which I comment on the epiphany and the idea of self-forgiveness and atonement.

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Guilt and Forgiveness

I recently saw a notice about a Transforming Guilt workshop at a nearby yoga studio and I’ve given the topic some thought. Guilt has rarely been an much of an obstacle or even particularly troubling for me. Whenever I’ve become aware that I’ve committed a wrongdoing, any guilt or remorse associated with it has been short lived. I figure out my mistake, learn from it, and move on.

One notable exception was the infamous 02-02-02 incident. The actions leading up to it and their consequences left me remorseful and guilt-ridden for several years. I was in Hell during that time. I did  penance, I tried to learn everything I could on how to prevent repeating the behavior and took whatever actions I felt were necessary to make things right and to gain forgiveness. I was constantly beating myself up  psychologically and emotionally. I was depressed. I was miserable.

Then one day I had an epiphany. I suddenly realized that I had created my Hell. I reasoned that since I had created my Hell, I had the key to its gates and I could leave it at any time. I realized that I alone had been holding myself prisoner there and I needed no one’s permission to leave. I determined that I could remove the chains holding me there and leave behind the guilt and the rest of the emotional baggage. I could take what I had learned and make a fresh start.

I realized that my pardon did not depend on anyone’s forgiveness except my own. It was up to me to grant my own pardon. I had to forgive myself because I had no reason to expect it from anyone else. If anyone forgave me then it would be for their own reasons as part of their healing process.

Forgiveness primarily benefits the forgiver, not the forgiven, although they may also benefit. When we forgive ourselves we make a commitment to make amends and to not repeat the harmful behavior. When we forgive others, we exhibit love and compassion for them. However, forgiveness must be given freely and when we are ready to give it. To ask forgiveness is a selfish act. When you ask to be forgiven you are asking the one you have wronged to excuse your behavior, to bolster your ego, and to give youself power over them.

Note: The Transforming Guilt workshop was postponed but I plan to attend. I’ve taken several workshops with the instructor leading it and they have always been interesting and worthwhile.

Memoir from Hell

It took me over five years to discover that the Gates of Hell had no locks on them. All that time I had been holding myself prisoner when I could have left my bondage at any time. With that realization, I left. I opened the gates and walked out, leaving my guilt and shame behind me as I forgave myself for my sins.

Whether or not anyone else forgave me didn’t really matter. I had atoned for my sins and I felt it was time to put it all behind me, apply what I had learned and move on with my life. Suffering is a choice and I chose not to suffer any longer.

The matter is closed, the records are sealed and the topic is not open to discussion. That’s all I have to say about that.

Tiger Woods, Apology Accepted

Another meaningless Facebook poll: After Tiger Woods’ apology, do you forgive him?

I have two questions regarding this. One, why does Tiger Woods owe me an apology? Second, does he really need my forgiveness?

Tiger Woods has done nothing to cause me harm, grief, or offense. Yeah, he was unfaithful to his wife and slept around with some women. He’s not the first man to commit adultery and he probably won’t be the last. I don’t approve of adultery but I’m not going to hold it against him.

Since he has not caused me any harm, grief, or offense, he doesn’t specifically need my forgiveness, not that he’s ever asked for it. But if it will make him feel better and help him get his life together, here it is — “Tiger, I forgive you. Now don’t let it happen again.”