Sometimes I think people misunderstand the meaning of the word forgiveness. defines forgiveness as: the act of forgiving or the willingness to forgive. It goes on to define forgive as: to grant pardon for the remission of an offense, or to give up all claim on account.

As I look at forgiveness I think about the last definition mentioned, the one referring to giving up all claim on an account. That means no more holding a grudge, or “you owe me”. To me it means that I have given up claim on whatever the person did to wrong me. But it does not mean that I have to continue to allow them to wrong me.

Sometimes this is where our society gets a little messed up. I have been in abusive relationships in the past (far more than I would care to admit) and I am trying to focus on forgiveness as a release of any claim that connects me to my abuser. I forgive those people who abused me because I need to get them out of my life and not allow them to have control over me. Forgiveness does not mean allowing them to continue to abuse me. Instead it is about me releasing my connection to them.

One of my past abusers is someone who has remained in my life, my brother. While I choose not to see him, spend time with him or include him in my life, he is still a part of my parent’s life, and therefore I know what is happening with him and I do occasionally have to see him.

I recently learned that he is suffering from cancer. He is going through radiation and chemotherapy and is in a hard place in his life right now.

I admit to not knowing exactly how to feel when I first found out he had cancer. I wasn’t really sure how to react. I wasn’t happy or relieved as I thought I might be. I also wasn’t sad or despondent as I might be for another one of my family members.

My first reaction was worry and concern. Worry for my parents, as they are the ones who have taken on the responsibility of caring for him. Concerned for my nephews, his sons, who are also the ones who have to deal with this first hand.

I am at a place in my life where I can honestly say that I forgive him for what he did to me. It has definitely taken me a long time to get there, but I do forgive him. But in a selfish way, I did it for me, not him.

I used to fear him. I used to hate him. I used to make myself sick thinking about him. But in my forgiveness I found freedom. I am no longer fearful of him. I no longer hate him. I no longer get sick thinking of seeing him.

I am working on forgiveness of my ex-husband. That one is more raw but I know that I need to forgive him for myself to move forward.


Genuine happiness

Not every happy birthday wish is genuine. Sometimes it’s just for show.

happy birthday

Yesterday was my birthday. I love birthdays. I don’t care so much about my own birthday, but I love to celebrate my friends and their birthdays.

I am a principal of a middle school. Somehow the kids and the teachers always find out about my birthday and I’m usually a pretty good sport about being sung to by the students all day long. But I remember one birthday when my ex-husband and I were still together and working at the same school and I wasn’t very gracious at all.

My ex-husband planned to surprise me with a cake in the cafeteria when I was on lunch duty and have the kids sing to me. I suspected something was going on, and rather than just go along with it, I resisted. Practically making one of my friends, the social worker at school, drag me into the cafeteria. The kids sang, we had cake, and it was great. But I was pissed about it. And I didn’t know why.

As I look back on that time now, I realize that one of the hardest parts of us working together was that the person other people saw (and loved) at work, and in public, was not the person I went home to at night. Everyone thought he was so sweet and wonderful, but the man I was with at home was angry, mean and spiteful.

We were living a lie, and I think at that time in my life, I was finally starting to realize it, but I couldn’t quite identify it. I didn’t really want to acknowledge it, but our life was most definitely not perfect, in fact it was pretty miserable.

He made such a big deal about being this great guy in public that it made me feel bad about the way he acted it home. It made me doubt myself. I was mad at him that birthday because he wasn’t trying to make sure that I had a happy birthday, he was trying to look good in the eyes of other people. So the birthday gesture didn’t feel genuine. And the fact that he continued to fool people, and still does, made me mad then, and is something I still struggle with now.

Even though I was alone for my birthday, every “happy birthday” that was wished to me felt genuine. The students, the teachers, my friends, my family, my boys, all wished me a happy birthday because they wanted me to be happy. Which [even as I sit here crying as I type this] makes me realize that I am a very lucky person. And I genuinely did have a very happy birthday this year.

Final Ties

Divorce takes a long time. There is no set time frame, but it’s long. I’ve seen some people finish the process in about 6 months (not including the 90 day waiting period).  And I have a friend who, after almost 3 years, is still waiting for her day in court. I fall somewhere in between these two. After just about 15 months I am finally divorced.

Armed with all the paperwork I thought I needed to cut the final ties between my ex- husband and me I went to AAA to change my name on my driver’s license. Much to my surprise I had to provide them with the official copy of the final divorce decree. I hadn’t brought that with me. I had to go home and get it. 35 minutes each way, and they were closing in an hour and 20 minutes. I almost burst into tears at AAA. The kind woman at AAA sensed my frustration and tried to see if she could proceed without it but alas we could not.

Driving home to get it and hoping I would get back in time to get it done that day I did burst into tears. I cried at the frustrating hoops I had to jump through to change my name back to my maiden name. I cried because I hadn’t realized just how important it was for me to cut this final tie between my ex- husband and me. I didn’t want his name. I didn’t want that connection to him. I had never wanted to use my maiden so badly in all my life.

I’m not sure why cutting this final tie was so important to me but it was. I don’t want to have his last name anymore. I want my own. I don’t want any more connections to him. I want to be able to move forward with my own life.

Maybe cutting this tie will help me take back just a little bit of the control that he still has over me. Maybe cutting this tie will make me stronger. Maybe cutting this tie will let me move on. Maybe, just maybe…