I understand what repentence really feels like for the first time in my life. The possibility of a 'clean slate'.
In Judaism repentence, or the concept of teshuva 'returning to self' is focused at the high holidays as we ask people, god and ourselves for forgiveness so the concept of repentence is not new for me; however, this weekend was the first time I truly understood what it felt like to do it authentically and really start fresh for the possibility of intimate relationships to not be great but to really thrive.
This weekend I participated in the Landmark Forum, a three day examination of self, going on a hunt for blindspots we have to have true self discovery for the purpose of living a life of integrity, an authentic life. The word authentic is thrown around, here it is explained that in order to live life authentically, we need to be authentic about where we are being inauthentic.
Most of the time is spent sitting in a chair next to strangers, who quickly become confidants and personal cheerleaders but while we are sitting we are exploring with our forum leader and our fellow landmark participants breakthroughs about the patterns we have been cycling through most of our lives. Getting to the origin stories of the repeated narrative we are telling ourselves that get us, definitely me, stuck in the same cycle.
I suddenly started having clarity about choices I have made based on stories and personas I took on from traumatizing moments from my childhood. But the goal of this experience isn't to live in our heads about these stories and new realizations but to get out of the 'stands' and become the 'player on the court.' It is time to take action.
I first started with my parents, my sister, and then continued calling important people in my lives. Each call I journaled beforehand to get really clear about the story I was making up in that relationship about that person and how I was then living our relationship through that story, meaning not being fully authentic. Usually at the cost of my full self expression with that person. In each call, it took risking myself, owning the story I had made up, giving up the story and committing to whatever it is I wanted to be in that relationship without that story, for the possibility of more love and self expression and fulfillment in the relationship with that person.
I shared with each of these people about an experience I remembered that was foundational in the genesis of my identity and I will share it with you too.
I was on the beach in Naples Florida for winter vacation and I remember being unhappy in the elementary school I was at, but didn't think much of it, and then right there at sunset, my parents told me I was changing school after we get back from vacation. I remember crying and freaking out a bit, begging them not to change schools. In that moment, without realizing it, I felt like something was wrong with me and I didn't belong. I very quickly realized that my four other siblings didn't have to change schools nor my classmates, and suddenly I 'knew' I didn't belong there. I then lives my lives through two new lenses. 1. Change means there is something wrong with me and I have resisted change in many aspects of my life, because it must mean there is something wrong if change needs to happen and 2. I don't belong, always chasing belonging because I never felt like I belonged, all because of the story I told myself when I was seven years old. This was a huge breakthrough for me, one where I could now separate what happened from the story I was telling.
I understood that so many choices I have made in my life and so many patterns that I could not break came from this narrative, one I kept living out like a self fulfilling prophecy. But now, I am giving that story up. And the deeply vulnerable conversations I have had with my friends and family have been honest, and deep conversations where I take responsibility for my stories and for not living authentically in my relationships and commit to giving up each individual story like I did with myself. Every year, I have asked forgiveness from friends, family God, myself but this week was the first time I truly understood what true repentence and teshuva "returning to self" are.
And now for the first time in my life I feel at home with myself.