Fear. A simple, four letter word. A concept that exists only in our minds. Yet fear dictates every single thought, action and experience of our existence.
3 days ago, I boarded an airplane to come to Los Angeles. One of my oldest, closest friends was gifting me something I had no understanding of. The entire experience was wrapped neatly in a package of fear that nearly kept me from coming. Fear of flying. Fear of being trapped in the air. Fear of getting sick. Fear of anxiety. The actual fear of fear. How silly that sounds as I say it to myself.
Despite the fear that consumed me in the days leading up to the trip, I did it anyway. Not because I wanted to. Every ounce of me wanted to justify my fear and not get on the plane. But I knew that someone I loved and trusted wanted me to do this. He wanted me to do it so badly. Obligation is what forced me to step onto that plane, take my seat and strap myself in to my temporary prison.
After a diverted flight, getting lost in a strange city and a few moments of silver lining encounters with God-sent individuals, I arrived in LA just a few hours late. And just a few hours before I would begin the most transformative journey of my life.
Friday morning, I walked into the Landmark Forum having no understanding, no expectation and absolutely no foresight of what I was about to experience. It’s only been two days, yet somehow a lifetime of insight, revelation and release has occurred. I want to write this with honesty and with integrity, but it’s important to me not to hurt anyone in doing so. I’ve caused plenty of harm for one lifetime. My hope is that in sharing my experience, I can inspire you to seek and find what I have.
Fear. We create fear from such a young age. An idea, or story, about who we are and how other people interact with us. We attach meaning to those interactions, and we carry those meanings with us for a lifetime. We go through life gathering evidence to support our truths, justifying our reactive responses. We allow these ideas to dictate our thoughts, our behaviors and the way we experience life. And it all boils down to fear. Fear of failure, or of success. Fear of rejection, or of being loved. Fear of being harmed, or of causing harm. But that fear becomes a self fulfilling prophesy. We inevitably create and become that which we fear.
There is hope, however, on the other side of fear. Freedom. Freedom to be who we are, truly. Freedom to experience others as they truly are. Freedom to forgive others, and ourselves. Freedom to be accountable and honest. And freedom to be happy.
Everything I believed about myself and my life experiences three days ago was keeping me in a perpetual state of self-sabotage, failure and unhappiness. But my journey to let go of fear and find freedom began the moment I stepped into the Forum. And writing this is something that I need to do to be accountable, to have integrity and to be free.
I need to make some apologies, but first I need to share some difficult truths.
I grew up in a very loving home. My parents are still married. They’ve been incredible examples of love, faith, compassion and generosity. Both my mother and father gave and sacrificed endlessly, and were constantly present in my life and in the lives of my siblings. But despite that, at some point, I came to the false conclusion that I wasn’t enough, that I didn’t belong. It wasn’t reality, but I told myself that it was. And it became my truth. A truth that I would carry around with me, seeking validation for and allowing to dictate my life experiences.
When I was fifteen years old, I was raped by someone I thought was a friend. It was the first time I’d had sex. And it was the first time I realized, in my story, that I wasn’t safe. And that part of my story, the constant fear and threat to my safety, led to a vicious cycle of reactive and abusive behavior, that I justified as protection. I’ve realized, however, that the only thing I was truly protecting was the validity of the dark place I chose to live in.
When I was nineteen, I met a man who would eventually become my husband and the father of my child. A man who loved me, respected me, cared for me and did everything in his power to spend his life with me. We were, and still are , best friends. But despite this man being the closest person to me, he really didn’t know me at all. How could he? I didn’t know myself. I was living in a story that I had created from a young age that I would never be good enough for him, that I was unworthy of his love. I tried desperately to accomplish things in my life in order to feel worthy of the love he had for me, but nothing that I accomplished was enough. Not really. Not long-term, anyway. It was always “what’s next?” “What can I do to be good enough for love?”
After our son was born, I got very sick. I was eventually diagnosed with Lupus. That illness left me powerless to accomplish the things I needed to accomplish in order to feel any worth. I literally felt that I had no worth. How could a man love me when I was only something for him to take care of, when I had nothing to offer? The sense of worthlessness and powerlessness overcame me. I was certain that he saw me as weak, as burdensome, and I knew that it was only a matter of time before he would reject me and I would be alone.
I used that story as justification for leaving my marriage, and for breaking up my family, to be with another man. A man who didn’t yet know my weakness, my vulnerability, my toxicity. A man who saw me as strong and accomplished. Only I didn’t realize that from the start of that relationship, I had made him out to be the bad guy. I had identified him as the reason that I left and that my family was no longer intact. It didn’t stop there. I blamed for every other aspect of my life that went wrong from that point forward. And I went about my life gathering evidence to support the story I was telling myself. It was too hard to look inside and see that I was the cause, that I was to blame. That I was the one who had selfishly punished my child by making his father leave our home. That I had broken a man who had only tried his best to love me. And I was about to do it again.
The new relationship played out exactly the same. I tried my best to appear happy, strong, successful and all of the things we want people to believe we are. But nothing I did convinced me that I was enough. So, instead, I criticized, emasculated, abused and blamed. All the while, feeding my “truth” that I was the victim. Inevitably, I became the victim of my own viscous cycle once more.
Fear. Fear has dictated my thoughts, my behavior and my life for as long as I can remember. I’ve been terrified. Afraid of sickness, of dying, or of living. I’ve been afraid of allowing myself to love, or be loved. I’ve been afraid of rejection, afraid of pain, afraid of not measuring up. Afraid of shattering my image and allowing people to see the mess that I really am. Afraid of seeing it myself.
Over the last two days, I have come to see myself as I truly am. And I’ve come to see others as they truly have been. It’s been difficult and emotional, but it’s also been liberating. My quest for freedom continues in this post, acknowledging all of the ugliness that I’ve been desperately hiding. And, as promised, I need to apologize.
To my parents: I am sorry for blaming you for all that has gone wrong in my life. I am sorry for failing to acknowledge all the good you’ve done and the positive impact you’ve had as parents, and grandparents. I know that you both loved me so much. You have provided me with a strong foundation, constant support and unconditional love. I am incredibly blessed to call you my mom and dad.
To my husband: I am sorry for the pain I have caused you. For breaking up our family, for breaking the promise I made to you on our wedding day, and for the trail of damage I’ve left from both our relationship and our separation. I am incredibly grateful for your friendship and that you are such an amazing father to our son.
To the man I left my husband for: I am sorry for making you pay the price for my mistakes. I am sorry for making you carry the burden of my weakness, of my pain, of my failure and of my insecurity. I am sorry for the destruction that I caused you, your ego, your reputation, and for the damage you witnessed me cause to myself. I am sorry for the picture I painted of our relationship, a story in which I appointed you the villain and myself the victim. And I am sorry for the price your child paid as well.
To my son: You are my love, my light, my life. You don’t know it yet, but I have caused you tremendous pain. And for that I am deeply, deeply remorseful. I promise to always love you to the best of my ability, and I also promise you that I will not allow you to go through life living in a lie that keeps you from being free or happy. I promise you that as soon as you are old enough, I will bring you to California to do the Forum for yourself so that you can live an amazing life. I love you and I pray that you never, ever doubt that.
To all of the other people in my life who have been impacted by the tornado of stories I told myself as part of my efforts to hide the truth, even from myself: I am sorry. Truly and deeply sorry.
To Matt: You have given me the greatest gift I’ve ever been given, aside from life itself. Words cannot express my gratitude, but I know that you know. Thank you for loving me despite all of my weaknesses, and for loving me enough to give me this opportunity. Thank you for saving me.
As I sit here writing these words, late into the night, as part of a commitment I made to a group of strangers to have integrity, I realize that they are only words. That the pain and anguish I have created for myself and for the people around me can never be undone. And I have to be okay with that. I have to be okay with leaving the past behind me so that I can step into freedom. And that’s what I’m doing.
I sincerely hope that every word, and every apology, is received as deeply as it’s been given. I also hope that each of you will come to know the freedom that I’ve gained through this process.
And now, life begins. Life without fear and without fallacy. Life with endless potential and opportunity.