Years ago, when I was released from a relationship that was killing me by the police taking the abuser out of my life, my relationship with my daughters was in shreds.
For the final three months of that journey I cowered in hiding as the abuser tried to find ways to get out of Canada. I was too scared, too lost, too compliant to pick up the phone and let anyone know I was alive. Plus, he’d told me I couldn’t. I did not disobey him.
Healing my relationships, especially with my daughters, took time, and a whole lot of turning up and doing the work.
It was a long road home.
In the beginning, they were angry. They had a right to their anger. The things I’d done throughout that relationship hurt them.
For the sake of all of us, I needed to be strong enough to stand with them in their anger without trying to take it away, push it aside, or manipulate it into something I could tolerate with my insistence, “It wasn’t my fault.”
In the beginning, I was not strong enough to do that. I had to ‘give myself medicine first” so that I could be there to help them find the medicine they needed to heal.
I was willing to accept they might not forgive me. I was not willing to accept that what I had done was a life sentence of misery to which we were all condemned.
It was three years after I began that healing journey that I entered the Choices Seminars training room for the first time.
It changed my life. It changed my daughters’ lives too.
By the time I went through the course, my daughters and I were living together again. I knew they still carried anger, and I was doing my best to simply be present with them when it erupted. But I also knew I wasn’t powerful enough to take away their anger, or their fear of what might happen if the abuser did turn up again.
Choices gave us all the tools to travel those uncharted, and sometimes troubled, waters.
It also gave me The Apology Process.
- Make amends.
In the months after learning the process, I used it often. I didn’t care if I had to apologize for the rest of my life, I wanted my daughters to know that I was committed to our relationship, committed to being here as their mother, caring, confident, vibrant and alive.
Apologizing never cost me a thing. It gave me everything.
My daughters pain was different than mine. They had a right to express it in their own way, to grow through it and heal from it for themselves.
No matter what that man had done to me, I was the one who did the things I did to harm them.
I was accountable.
The apology process gave me a way to stand in my accountability without having to carry shame, regret, despair.
My job was not to defend against their anger but to love them, and myself, through it.
It was about three years after the three of us had gone through Choices that my eldest daughter told a group of trainees how my apologizing as I did helped fill the river of pain that was once between us with Love. “Every time she said, ‘I apologize’, it felt like a little bit more of the pain washed away leaving room for Love to flow more freely,” she said.
I remember still the moment when she said those words. I started to cry. It felt like a giant boulder of pain had lifted off my heart. I am crying now. Soft, gentle loving tears of gratitude.
It is not unlike these times in which we live right now.
I acknowledge I have seldom questioned the privilege of my white skin. That I have never stopped to say, ‘Hey! This isn’t right! If I can get this so easily why is it so hard for that person over there whose skin colour is different than mine, to experience the same ease?’
I apologize and commit to doing better, to being more awakened, more conscious, more vocal when I encounter racist comments, acts and situations.
To make amends, I shall learn more about white privilege and its impact on people of colour in this world. I shall speak up adding my voice to the voices calling for change. And I shall cede space so voices of colour can be heard.