I have discovered that wholly loving myself requires that I actively work to relieve my pain. This is not simply about being “happy.” The reason lies in the imperative to live a worthwhile life. If my mind is crippled by emotional pain, I cannot live a meaningful life.

The pain directly caused by another person is the most difficult. It is not a fire started by lightning, a boulder set loose by softening ground, nor a waterfall, merely following its course.

The cruelty of another person is, in its human origins, intentional. Even as I know I am undeserving of cruel words and actions, that does not blunt the pain. The author of this particular pain knew what she was saying and doing, and even seemed to enjoy her venality. Even though it was based on her contorted reality, her intimate knowledge of me and the basic storyline of my life allowed her to precisely target my scars — she opened wounds that healed years ago with knowing precision. She knew just where to cut.

As I go through a process of healing myself from this quarrel and estrangement, I see parallels in the phases of healing from loss. This human being who was dear to me, has declared herself dead to me. There is an unreal upside-down-ness to it.

First there was a deep visceral pain, that came from a place I can’t name. For lack of better words, I will call it a broken heart. ‘How could she? Why is she doing this? What happened to all those good years; times of contentment, joy, and happiness?’

Along with the pain, there was a confusion, as if I was alone in a snow globe turned upside down. As the pain receded, I felt anger. “After all I did, when nothing was too much… how can I be hated?” 

The pain has receded, and the anger is disappearing. Anger fosters bitterness, and it will poison my own life if I allow it. But still bitterness bites me; there are so many pieces of each other, like a bank withdrawal receipt after a crisis in her life. All that money. I sure could use it now. And yet, if I had that moment again, I’d do the same. I ask myself what does this bitterness serve? How does it serve me? It doesn’t. Is this bitterness meant to teach me? It has taught me that life, and people, will always hurt us. That teaching itself should make me bitter, but somehow the simple acknowledgement calms me.

The only logical step is forgiveness. I would like her to know that I forgive her. But she will be unaware of any of this, as well as my inner growth to reach this place. And it does not matter. What matters is the sense of peace I have gifted myself. 

Our lives were so intertwined, there will always be reminders. It’s not just about taking pictures off the walls. I’ve accepted this. A thousand thoughts go through my mind every day; some make me cry. My answer has become a mantra — I forgive her.

At times I have thought that this grief of estrangement is like the grief of death. But I have moved beyond that notion now, because with life, there is always opportunity – no matter how unlikely – while we breathe, there can be change. 

I choose forgiveness, beause it really is not about her. It’s not about what makes sense, or what’s right or fair. It’s about me keeping my head on straight. In a way, forgiveness is a radical choice, but it’s the only way out of this one. 

I used to think that those touting ‘growth from pain’ oversold the whole idea. Yeah, if we’re in pain, well, sure, we might as well learn something from it allBut honestly, who cares about growing if you feel like you’ll die from this pain? 

I learned to care about growing because it is the only way out.

— Margaret B. Moss, November 2021 | Life’s a Dance