Looking Back with Grace

Thoughts on not beating yourself up so much.

When I was around 22 years of age, I waited tables for a couple of years. I had already quit the career I had chosen and was in a bit of a limbo stage. So, I did what many people do and decided to wait tables until I could figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up.

I still have nightmares.

But that’s not the point. Whenever I would write a quick thank you on the check and deliver it to a table, I wrote it this way. Thankyou. I did it in this fancy cursive, and it looked so good. I loved how my ‘k’ would flow beautifully straight into the ‘y’. It was fun to write too! I thought I was such a clever girl. Until one day, someone pointed out to me, “Donlyn, you know ‘Thank You‘ is two words, right?”

Shit.

Not such a clever girl, after all. I did alright in school. Mostly A’s and B’s with an occasional C creeping in at least once a year. I never failed a class until I got into college and took college algebra. What sick seventh circle of hell was that? Functions? What the hell? As it turns out, my left brain decided this was bullshit and set up residency on the right side of my brain too. I’m not exactly a detail person. Thankyou very much! (Yes, that was on purpose.)

The class had almost 400 people in it. So you weren’t allowed to ask questions. I understood the reason why just not anything else in there. Instead of dropping the class or getting a tutor, I just stopped going. Why?

I literally have no idea. I mean, back then, I had trouble with difficult conversations and an even worse time asking for help. I thought it meant something was wrong with me and that if I asked for help or showed any signs of weakness, that meant I wasn’t loveable. Yep, I can see that now. 

I binge-watched a show on Netflix this past December, in between overdosing on Theraflu. (It wasn’t the COVIDS, thank goodness.) It was called The Keepers and it’s been out a while. As usual, I’m late for the party. It’s mostly the story of the unsolved murder of a nun back in 1969, but that turned out not to be the real story. The real story that emerged was a tale of severe abuse of high school girls by a priest who was the counselor at their school. Horrifying doesn’t even come close to describing what these women went through. It was difficult to watch but I’m thankful I watched it.

The women, now in their ’60s, didn’t reveal their stories of abuse until the mid-’90s when most were in their forties. Then, finally, one of the women came forward as the memories from her childhood started flooding her present day. Even though the story goes down a trail of murder, coverups, and grotesque abuse of power from the church, the thing that stood out for me was the guilt the shamed women carried. It broke my heart.

When they finally attempted to fight back, they were eviscerated by the police, the church, the courts, and then a grand jury dismissed the case entirely, bringing no one to justice. They declared a statute of limitations applied in the situation. This is the part when I think I threw something at the television.

All I could think about was how much I could wish for peace and forgiveness. Not for the rat bastards who did it, mind you. Hopefully, they are roasting where they are now. But, for the women. And as it turned out, some grown men too, I wished so much peace and forgiveness for them. They judged themselves harshly, and I could go down a million psychological reasons why they did and understand it all.

They did the very best they could to survive. That is a brave and commendable thing to do.

I’ve made a million bad choices. But, one time in particular that stands out to me was when I got hurt. Really, hurt. The person I am now, judges the person I was then. If only I had…(fill in the blank.) I’ve replayed it in my head a million times. And the thing that makes me feel the craziest is realizing that I can replay and relive all I want to, but I can’t do a damn thing about it now, except for one thing.

Forgive me.

Okay, make that two things. I can also lay the blame where it needs to be applied. And by “applied,” I mean “bitch-slapped” on the rightful owners.

We all do our very best to survive. 

You do your very best with what you know. And you don’t know what you don’t know. It’s as simple as that.

Inexperience is innocence. Those women have no reason in the slightest to feel the heaviness of guilt. Evil people exploited their innocence through no fault of their own. Again, I say, rat bastards!

No, not everyone goes through something as horrific as this. Or at least I certainly hope not. But, it doesn’t have to be on this grand of a scale either. Also, there are no time limits. You don’t know what you don’t know at the exact moment you don’t know it.

Maybe you married the wrong person, and you beat yourself up over it. Maybe you went through bankruptcy. Perhaps you just made a wrong choice, and someone got hurt from it. Maybe you stopped going to your algebra class, wasted your parents’ money, and took the F because you didn’t speak up. Perhaps you didn’t speak up for yourself in anything. But eventually, you learned. And then you DID speak up for yourself. 

I’m just here to tell you that it’s okay. You don’t have to live with guilt and shame. You can release it. You did the best you could, and I’m so proud of you for doing that. Look how far you’ve come! Look at all the good choices you’ve made. You’ve grown and learned. Sometimes the lessons were painful. It just helped you learn them more. Then you helped people who needed it. Maybe they were in the same lesson and you spared them the pain of learning the hard way. 

You left them better than when you found them. How cool is that?

You are doing a good job and I’m happy you are here.

Oh, and thankyou for reading! 😉

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