Yay, my first post in 3 years! But while a lot of time has gone by, not everything that happened during that time was good. Some of it, like graduating from college, starting a new job, and moving into my own little bachelor pad were good things, even great things. But other things…well, that’s what they made blogs for, right?
Chris Daughtry has always been one of my favorite recording artists because his music and lyrics resonate with me and apply to situations I’m going through or have gone through in my life. “Crawling Back to You,” featured in the video above, is no exception, and serves as a backdrop to today’s post. Here are some relevant lyrics from that song:
Lessons learned, and bridges burned to the ground.
And it’s too late now to put out the fire.
Tables turned, and I’m the one who’s burning now.
Life is full of lessons, and the choices we make (along with the resulting consequences) usually determine which we’re faced with as our lives progress. I’ve learned many lessons in my life, but probably one of the biggest, most important, and most long-lasting is that of forgiving myself and using that forgiveness to grow, to stop dwelling on past mistakes, and to stop letting said mistakes dictate my future choices. Let me explain.
It all started three years ago, in July 2015, when I met this wonderful young woman named Ann* online. We met on a site that allows college students to freely chat with each other in an anonymous environment, and I used it while attending college to expand the circle of people I knew, as it was difficult for me to meet people in person due to my blindness, autism, social quirks, etc. Anyways, Ann went to school in a neighboring state and was studying to be a nurse (a degree which she eventually achieved two years later). I was about to start my senior year as a Bachelor’s degree student in the Web Development program, and was spending the summer working for the college I attended when she and I met.
We took to each other like fish to water, and in no time we were talking on the phone for hours on end, chatting on Skype every chance we got, and generally spending every moment together online when we weren’t tied up with school or work or something. The connection between us formed very quickly because Ann had many qualities I loved and was looking for in a woman: a relationship with Christ, kindness, intelligence, a good sense of humor, empathy, an amazing voice, physical attractiveness (we’ll come back to that one later), and many others. She saw qualities in me that she liked as well. It also helped that she was working to be a nurse, and nurses often are some of the most kind, most caring people you’ll ever meet in your entire life. As time went by, we discovered more and more qualities in each other, more and more things we liked, and I discovered some pretty interesting facts about her that hadn’t come up with other women I’d met before and haven’t come up since.
For example, I mentioned above that she was physically attractive. When I say she was attractive, I use that term loosely, because honestly she was much more than attractive. I mean dude, if the number of men who hit on her all the time, both at her college and at her workplace, is anything to go by, she had attractiveness in spades. She was looking at attractiveness in the rearview mirror, five car lengths ahead and after making a sharp right-hand turn passed sexy. OK, so you probably get the point. I’ll just say that she was so attractive that when she came to visit me one weekend in September of 2015, I got to experience first-hand what it was like for her to get hit on by almost everyone we passed, and I’ve never met a girl before or since that…well, turned so many heads, let’s say.
But anyways, back to my story. The connection between us grew until we entered into a relationship shortly after we met. But this was where things began to go downhill, and those choices and consequences I mentioned earlier began to come into play.
Pop quiz! What’s the #1 excuse used to justify mistakes made towards significant others? Well, here’s my version of it: I was young, I was naive, I was hot off my first and longest relationship, and I was dating a girl that could have any guy she wanted, and I mean any guy, with just the toss of her hair. So after the excitement of the new relationship began to wear off (that should have been my first clue something was amiss), I’m sorry to say I began taking Ann for granted. After our weekend spent together (another clue something was amiss, because that weekend was full of us doing things we shouldn’t have done so early in a relationship), I began responding to her less often, providing only one or two word responses, failing to take an interest in her life, only talking about what was going on in my life, putting other things (like my work at the campus radio station) before her, and generally just…well, neglecting her. I know it seems crazy to imagine me doing all those things, especially if you know me personally, but that’s what happened. I’m ashamed to admit it but I’ll admit it, I treated Ann like crap. I had a girl on my arm who was absolutely, by far, without a doubt the best girl I’d ever met up to and beyond that point, even now in 2018, and I treated her like crap. In fact, I treated her so terribly that she contemplated doing the worst thing to herself that any human can do. I never imagined that I could do such terrible things to someone, especially a woman I purportedly cared about so deeply, but there they were, in black and white, now engrained in my memory forever. All of those choices had consequences, like I said above, and that’s what I’ll get to next.
But wait – I want to make something abundantly clear. There’s no excuse for what I did to Ann, none at all. While I threw some out to her to try and justify my actions, the #1 thing I needed to realize during this entire ordeal is that everything I did to her was the result of choices I made, choices that could have not been made had I chosen better. If you want to forgive yourself, or even want others to forgive you, then you have to “own your own pieces” as my mother might say, and this includes realizing that the choices you made that hurt others were jus that – your choices, with no room for excuses.
They say you never truly realize what you have until it’s gone, and I guess that’s another lesson I can add to the many I’ve learned throughout this whole ordeal. I had been a monster to Ann, and so she left, having every right to do so. I tried to get her back and we got back together for a few months, but each time we did, I would make more mistakes or have a “relapse” so to speak and she’d leave again. It got to the point where she was fed up, and rightly so, and left permanently, telling me we’d never get back together and, most importantly, leaving me with a terrible weight on my shoulders for which, until now, I’ve never been able to forgive myself.
Time can heal, but the scars only hide the way you feel.
And it’s hard to forget how I left you hanging on by a thread.
Everything I said, I regret it.
Those lines from the second verse of “Crawling Back to You” really sum up how I’ve felt ever since the episode between Ann and I. Yes, time has gone by, three years of it in fact, and yes, she’s moved on and I believe she has healed as well (in fact, she’s getting married in 2019 and seems to be much happier), but I still regret everything I said to her, and there hasn’t been a day that goes by where I don’t think about all the crap I pulled, the scars it left, and how much better things could have been if only I hadn’t taken for granted what I had. While I’ve met other women over the years, none have “impressed” me as much as Ann has, and I’ve often wondered if God is keeping me away from such women because, well, if I wasn’t ready to handle Ann then why would God put me in charge of handling similar relationships?
But speaking of God, this is where those lessons I mentioned at the beginning of this (long) post come into play. When all of my crap hit the fan and Ann left for the last time, I was at one of my lowest points ever (although you couldn’t tell by looking at me), and I knew I needed God’s forgiveness, and Ann’s as well. Knowing I was undeserving of both, I still went to God and asked him to forgive me for what I had done, for the monster I had become, for the intense pain I had inflicted on another human being all because I figured the chase was over, I had the hottest and kindest and most caring nurse in the world, but did nothing to actually keep her. And while I felt God did forgive me, he wasn’t about to let me off the hook for what I had done. I know I’ll keep these memories with me for the rest of my life, always wondering what could have been had I done things differently, and of course the internal emotional turmoil of what I’d done has weighed heavily on me ever since, affecting friendships I’ve started since losing Ann, affecting my emotional stability at times, and affecting my motivation to even try socializing with others, afraid I might turn into a monster once again. But in the midst of all that, I also know God wants me to be at peace with the situation, at peace with what happened and with his forgiveness, and the only way I can do that is to forgive myself.
Those who know me will know I’m very hard on myself most of the time. I hate making mistakes, hate doing stuff wrong, and I can be very defensive and stubborn to the point of alienating those around me. This also applies to forgiving myself for stuff I do. And so it goes that it’s taken me more than three years to finally come to terms with this whole Ann situation, to look it in the face and say that I’m not going to let it affect me anymore, not going to let it steal my resolve or capture my motivation or strangle my hope. Yes, I said hope. I hold out hope that one day God will give me another opportunity for a relationship with a woman I will find equally as wonderful, if not more so, than Ann, and I don’t want to mess that up.
Forgiving myself doesn’t mean forgetting the past, just as God’s forgiveness of us doesn’t mean he completely forgets our past transgressions; rather, just as God chooses not to bring up said transgressions in a negative way, I must do the same. To borrow an amazing line from a recent article I read, if God has moved on, shouldn’t I move on too? For all these years I’ve let my past with Ann control me and introduce a very heavy weight on my shoulders, but forgiving myself will allow me to use the past only to help me avoid the same mistakes again, and give me a model for where to never, ever go again.
The bridge of “Crawling Back to You” goes like this:
If you could find a way to forgive everything, I know you would.
And I would take it all back, if only I knew that I could….
Unfortunately, she won’t, and I can’t, and so what’s done is done, what’s in the past is in the past, and so the best thing I can do in this situation is forgive myself just as God has forgiven me, and move on to whatever he has in store for my future. The lessons I’ve learned from my choices and their consequences have been some of the hardest I’ve ever had, there’s no doubt about that, but I believe they have helped me to become a better person, and forgiving myself on this Christmas Day in 2018 will further assist me in becoming the young man God wants me to be, and someone who will truly be ready to give 110% of myself to the woman God has for me, whenever that day may come.
Thank you for reading, and I hope to be able to post updates to my blog a bit more frequently than I have been LOL. If this article has helped in some way, feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts. I look forward to what God has in store for me in 2019 and thank him for giving me such difficult, but necessary, lessons to learn. I also appreciate and want to thank the friends who’ve been there for me over these past few years when things have been rough, and the people God has placed around me who’ve been encouraging and oh so helpful over the years.
*Name changed to protect the innocent. Kudos if you know the television mockumentary show from which the new name is a reference (think about the context).
For those still reading, I found this amazing prayer at the same site the article link above came from, and I wanted to repost it here as I believe it may help others who are in the same boat of needing to forgive themselves. I take no credit for this prayer, did not write it, and encourage you to read the entire article from which this prayer was sourced, as it was a very powerful force and reminder in my life.
Dear Heavenly Father, I understand that there is nothing to gain by holding myself in unforgiveness and there is everything to gain by releasing myself from unforgiveness and beginning the process of healing. I want to move forward and make a positive difference in the future. I confess the ungodly accountability, self-abasement, and the vows I have made to never forgive myself. Because Jesus died for my sins, I choose to forgive myself–to no longer punish myself and be angry with myself. I forgive myself for letting this hurt control me and for hurting others out of my hurt. I repent of this behavior and my attitude. I ask for Your forgiveness and healing. God, help me to NEVER again retain unforgiveness of myself or others. Thank you for loving me and for Your grace to move forward with You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.