Tag Archives: Change

Forgiveness and Anticipatory Hope

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could have been any different.” – Oprah Winfrey https://chopracentermeditation.com/ *

I don’t hold grudges. I don’t harbor resentments. For much of my life I simply forgave and forgot any transgressions against me – to the point that one night, over dinner, my best friend and my ex-husband recounted all the negative things that had happened to me since they’d known me. When they recounted the events, I knew they had happened, of course. I just didn’t value them enough to remember them. I might not even have been able to recount them without their prompting.

What I do hold onto is what I call anticipatory hope. Anticipatory hope is my belief that the bad, the negative, the hurtful, the lack in my past could have been different, if people had made different choices. Because I believe these alternative choices were possible then, I believe they remain possible in the present and in the future.  

In a recent conversation with my daughter about an upcoming event we were both dreading, she was lamenting all the negative things she expected. I was trying to lift her spirits talking about how this time things might be different. Alyssa paused, looked me full in the eyes and said, “That’s your problem, Mom. You always look on the bright side. You always believe people can be better, that they will be better. When they don’t, when they act like they always act, you feel let down and hurt. That’s the downside to you always having this anticipatory hope thing. It’s exhausting. You’re not realistic.”

Alyssa in her blunt, no-nonsense way had really hit on something. I’ve always viewed my anticipatory hope as a strength. It helps me be optimistic, remain positive in difficult moments, see possibilities.

Because I believe that anything is possible, that anyone is capable of making a different choice at any moment, it is hard for me to release those in my life who repeatedly choose to be other than who they have the capacity to be – to be honest, those who are damaging to me. More importantly, I hope they will treat me differently than they chose to treat me in the past.

When I first heard the meditation at the opening of this post, it was as if I had been punched in the stomach. Sometimes truths are so profound that when confronted with them, they change something immediately and fundamentally. Sometimes they are the catalyst for a more gradual transformation. For me, this truth was both.

I listen to these meditations to help me sleep. After hearing this statement, I knew there would be no sleep that night.

I turned to my journals for insight and realized I had been writing about the same issues for 1, 5, 10, even 20 years! My anticipatory hope made it impossible for me to let go, to move on.

I believed I had forgiven. But in the same way that holding grudges, harboring resentments, not forgiving, keeps us from releasing the past and moving forward, anticipatory hope does the same. Because I held onto anticipatory hope, I had not released those I needed to release.

I am still a work in progress. Releasing the “what could be” is hard. It’s a desired future we hope for. It holds us bound to the past, hauling the weight of the past into the present and the future. Releasing that burden. Releasing those who are not who we wish they were (which, to be honest, is not their job in the first place) is true forgiveness. And, in the long term, a gift to them and to me.

* 21 Days of Meditation – Finding Hope in Uncertain Times

The Day I Cut Off My Hair and Dyed it Magenta*

Large life changes happen through a severing, quick and brutal.
Large life changes happen through a series of small events that lead
to the undeniable reality that things simply can’t go on as they are.
Large life changes happen because of one event that as it evolves
changes our view of ourselves, our place in the world, our understanding of who we are.

I cut off my hair and dyed it magenta because I realized I was mortal.

I cut off my hair and dyed it magenta because someone I considered a friend descended into madness, threatened my life, threatened his family, and ultimately, took his own life in the most hostile, painful way I could imagine.

I cut off my hair and dyed it magenta because I am a survivor and I would not let my rage, my fear destroy me.

I cut off my hair and dyed it magenta because, like the phoenix, it was my first step in rising again.

I kissed a girl that day out of connection and gratitude, out of celebration that we were both still alive. We were safe.

I kissed a girl that day out of sadness and anger that Alan had opted out, that he was no longer alive, that he had chosen to leave the world violently.

After that kiss, for various reasons, we went our own ways, followed our own paths.

*********************************

The phone. I answered. Her voice. “It’s about Alan.” My heart filled with dread. “What has he done?” “He’s dead. He shot himself. He called me and said ‘I want you to hear me die’ and he shot himself. I heard him die, Deborah! He made me hear him die”.” I’m on my way”, I replied. I grabbed my purse and my keys, slipped into flip flops and fumbled around as I tried to lock the door to my friend’s borrowed apartment where I had been staying, trying to keep under Alan’s radar for over a week. “Where are the kids?”, I asked. “With my mom”, she said. “Please come now”.

He’d threatened me “If someone took Deborah out, you’d realize it’s not safe for a woman not to have a man to protect her”, he’d told his wife. This was before the confrontation in the grocery store, before the threats escalated. After, I went to the police station to help her file a Temporary Protection Order against him, the police officer turned to me. “We know about him”, the police officer said. “Go someplace. Lie low. Wait.”  “Leave my life?!”, I’d asked incredulous. ”Your children should stay with their dad. Do you have someone you could borrow a car from? You need to find a safe place. If you stay where you are, all we can do is clean up the mess after.” I was stunned. The police officer said “All we can do is clean up the mess after.”, I repeated this over and over to myself. Finally, it snapped me out of my fog. ALL WE CAN DO IS CLEAN UP THE MESS AFTER.

After I dropped my friend at the apartment where she was staying, I moved fast. I called my ex-husband. I explained the situation. We made arrangements to trade cars. He went to the house to get what the kids needed. They would stay with him as long as necessary.

I called friends. I knew they had a vacant apartment they were preparing to rent. “It only has an air mattress and a couple folding chairs. I’ll bring some dishes and glasses this afternoon. Will that be ok?” my friend asked. “I don’t need much”, I said. For more than a week, I lived in fear that he would somehow find me. A friend stayed with me every night. He shaved his head thinking it made him look stronger, more powerful, intimidating even, at least when he didn’t smile. He joked that he was my body guard. Nothing felt very funny to me.

Now Alan was dead. I felt elation. The threat was gone. I felt anger, a fury like I had never experienced. How dare he! I felt sadness for the friend I had lost, now permanently to the demons that tortured him.

After I visited my friend, now his widow, after I kissed her, I called the woman who cut my hair. “I need to see you. I need to do something new, something really different.”, I said. “I just had a cancellation.”, she replied. “You sound funny. Are you ok?” “I’m ok. A friend just died. I’ll see you in an hour. Thanks!”, I replied.

My hair was long, to the middle of my back. As the blonde locks fell to the floor, I slowly relaxed. I started to feel lighter, freer. When I looked in the mirror and saw my face, so different, framed in magenta, always my favorite color, I felt fierce. There was also something different in my eyes. I was changed. I would survive this. I HAD survived, but I was not the same. Alan’s death and all that led up to it changed me. The anger stayed the longest. To be honest I’m not sure I’ve ever let it go completely.

*The names and some minor details in this post have been changed as this is about my experiences around my friend’s death.