There could be something to be said for the old fashioned style of courting. Where the intentions are clear from the start, and hearts are protected by layers of family and propriety. No messy entanglements.
Because those takes years – lifetimes – to unravel.
My past is littered with messy entanglements. (Not all of them romantic, but those are the ones we get the deepest into, quite often.) And since my marriage ended a little while ago, I have been revisting some of these events in my life – sometimes just within my own heart and soul, sometimes seeking out the actual people too.
I started out wanting just to make sense of what got me here. To let go of emotional baggage I’d been carrying too long. While the baggage of past relationships is only some of what I am learning to let go of, it is certainly a significant “some”. Because when your heart’s involved, it affects everything.
And in the past, I’ve always tried to ‘let go’ by just forgetting. By trying push the people and memories and the feelings away. Which never works – but you keep trying because remembering and regretting is painful.
And I’ve carried around more than my fair share of regret in the past.
But, you know what, right now I can’t say I would take any of it back. I can’t say I wish it hadn’t happened, or that I wish I hadn’t got my heart so involved.
Maybe I am just stubbornly committed to my right to get my heart all messed up if I want to, thanks very much. Ha. But maybe -- maybe I just choose to redemptively see the beauty in all the connections we make with others, even the messy connections.
People have criticised or judged or pitied me for my past – distant and recent. I don’t blame them and I don’t hold it against them – anymore. Forgiving the ways I’ve been misunderstood is part of redeeming these events and circumstances along the journey of my life. Forgiving them is part of redeeming those messy connections too. And forgiving those people is part of forgiving myself, and no longer letting their judgements sound in my head as if they are my own voice.
Because I think the true baggage we need to let go of in past relationships is not the connections themselves, and not even the mistakes we made (even the epic ones) – the baggage is what we came to believe about ourselves along the way.
I came to believe I was rebellious, headstrong, promiscuous, a mess. A failure, selfish, unloveable and unable to love.
When I looked back over my past and the connections I had made, I just saw a string of ill-advised choices and messy, unresolved endings and decided it was all my fault. That I was inherently damaged and faulty.
But you know what I see now – now that I've realised I have the freedom to stop and look at all that I’ve been carrying around with fresh eyes, and not just with the labels others have put on me and my stuff – now I see a girl longing, desperate for love.
I see a girl desperate for deep connection, and never having been taught how to have it. And so I sought it out for myself, wherever I saw a glimpse of it.
And in our world, where intimacy and vulnerability are hard to come by, is it in any wonder I gravitated towards romantic relationships? The easiest place I could find, at least for a while, where someone seemed to love me and want to connect just as deeply with me.
Others saw me giving away my body –- I was actually just desperate to share my soul. Aren’t we all? Don’t we all long for people around us who really, truly see us? Who really, truly know us, and love us for it all?
I’m not saying I found that. I’m not saying I recommend my path as a way to look for it. But the baggage I am dropping is that of condemning myself for that journey.
Honour The Connections
I forgive myself for the pain I caused myself and others. I forgive others for the pain they caused me. And I hope those people will also forgive me.
Sometimes it was a mess – nobody is to blame for that. We are all hurting people.
So while that is the baggage I let go of, what I keep is a deep appreciation for the connections. Any time another person’s life crosses our path, there is the opportunity for such beautiful growth and change. Even a glimpse of soul connection is a beautiful thing, no matter how ‘badly’ it seems to end.
We have NOT screwed up our lives. We are not forever defined by our mistakes, even the ones we repeatedly make.
And for the people whose paths crossed mine in significant ways, even if just for short times – that, I will not dishonour any longer by feeling regret.
I will not dishonour the parts of themselves they shared with me, out of the guilt and shame others would have me feel. I will deeply appreciate and love those people who have forever changed me by the moments, messy or otherwise, they let me share in their lives.
And I will not dishonour myself any longer either. I will love that girl, the girl I was in my past. And now I know better, I will do better at loving myself – and so truly loving others better too – from here on out.
That is how we truly let go of the baggage. That is the freedom of grace. That is how we truly start to become whole-hearted again.
The answer is always Love. Love. And more Love.