By Indira Grace
I was humiliated—broken, defeated. And I had a choice to make: do what I had always done, getting the same result, or do everything differently and see what changed.
On June 26, I left my abusive marriage. I had done all that I knew to do to keep us together. My husband and I had known each other since we were kids, but he had some anger issues that would rear their ugly heads every four to six months. I tried everything, and ultimately, I had to resort to doing things that went against every part of me, just to get him to back off.
In the end his rage, caused by PTSD from a repressed memory of his time in the service, would do more harm than I could have ever imagined, and I had to leave. I packed up my stuff when everyone was gone, and I moved into a girlfriends’ second bedroom.
Exactly 21 days later, I was called into a meeting at my job, where I was accused of having an “unduly familiar relationship with an inmate(s).” Ultimately, I was allowed to resign for giving a little food to a couple of guys in my program, without permission. I knew it was wrong at the time, yet, I still did it, because my compassion for the men who were hungry was greater than my ability to follow that rule.
On my drive home that day, I had no idea what I was going to do or how I was going to tell anyone. Only a handful of people knew about my separation, and now, well, my failure was overwhelming. I couldn’t imagine having to tell anyone about this.
How could I tell them that I sucked at life?
For a few days after, my mind kept replaying the conversation. What could I have said differently? What could I have done differently? I thought about all the ways I could blame them and keep myself untarnished and victimized. How could I make the pain go away without really dealing with it? But there was no way to go back and do anything differently. The pain was going to stay until I felt it. No, this time, I had to do it differently on the back end of it all.
So, every time began to think about how I could have done things differently in my relationship or my job, I would place my hand on my heart.
This reminded me that I am human—human, not perfect or imperfect, not expected to do every little thing right. I would then stop the internal “what if” tapes and would bring my awareness to right now. What is the temperature of the room? What am I really feeling in this moment? What color is the paint on the wall? Once I was firmly back into the present, I would tell myself, “You did what you knew was right. Everything is exactly as it should be. There is nothing to be sorry about, there is nothing to change. You are exactly where you are supposed to be. I love you.”
This exercise was so much more painful than playing the “what if” game that was in my head. It required me to stay with my emotions, which were so uncomfortable, and to love myself for my perceived “weaknesses and failings.” My goal was to live authentically, to not keep doing what I had always done when things did not go my way, and this was the only way I knew that I could. In the beginning, it wasn’t easy. I must have done this exercise every 15 minutes, and my mind fought it. It wanted to be miserable. But if practicing Buddhism has taught me anything, it is that sometimes we have to sit through the discomfort and practice through the monkey mind, even when we don’t want to.
Within a week of losing my job, I had a job offer and a start date. I didn’t even miss a paycheck.
My estranged husband has sought help and we are moving towards a divorce. I still love him, but I realized that the damage done cannot be undone anytime soon. We want each other to be able to live in peace, which I am doing more and more of each day. I have a job that is actually helping me achieve goals I set for myself some 10 years ago.
I still practice my self-compassion.
My monkey mind still wants to re-play details of both events, from time to time. Diligent practice, more meditation time and staying in each moment is how I am coming to the peace that I am not humiliated anymore, that I am not a failure and that I am not only not broken and defeated, but I am stronger and succeeding.
I am always so quick to extend compassion to others, and now I am learning to be quick at extending compassion to myself.
If practicing Buddhism has taught me anything, it is that sometimes we have to sit through the discomfort and practice through the monkey mind, even when we don’t want to. ~ Indira Grace Click To Tweet
Editor: Dana Gornall