Every year when I was a child, my mother took me shopping for a new Easter outfit and, every year, I remember her saying that she hoped that Easter Sunday would be a warm day. In keeping with her optimism, she selected a light dress for me and thin, white gloves. But, more often than not, Easter was cold and windy, so I spent the day miserably shivering in my new outfit, legs and arms exposed and mottled purple.
I admired my mother’s optimism, even in the face of New York’s fickle weather, and I have come to view Easter as a day of hope and good cheer. It is a day of renewal, for making new plans, exploring what I want to let go of, bury, replace, change and improve in my life.
This year, I’ve decided that I want to let go of my ‘story.’ I have dragged it around with me for too long, beginning in childhood. I have believed this story with all my heart, listened to voices inside me that aren’t my own, and lived with conditioning and concepts that were forced upon me as a child.
My intention is to let go of any and all negative beliefs I have about what kind of woman, mother, person I am. I grew up with strict rules about what women and their roles were supposed to be. For example, if a woman was unmarried and alone, she was labeled a ‘spinster.’ If a woman worked, she was a negligent mother. If she got divorced, she became marginalized. Women were expected to put everyone before themselves and to be walking, talking, ever-flowing breasts of nurturing love and support. They were harshly judged if they failed to comply to the norms of the day and were kept in their places by society’s expectations.
I grew up not only with the unfair worldview of how women were supposed to behave at that time, but with a father who disapproved of qualities in me that were counter to these expectations. As a result, I have carried shame around with me my whole life.
Fast forward to now. Amazingly, I still feel shame: about who I was, what I’ve done or not done and about who I am. I’ve wasted so much of my life feeling second best and trying too hard to be accepted and loved. Part of me, the part that learned shame, even believed that I deserved the abuse I received from my son and daughter-in-law.
I’ve made plenty of mistakes, hurt myself and others, been careless and unkind. But I’ve also been loving, forgiving and worked on negative feelings like anger and intolerance. I’ve worked hard at changing my thought patterns and improving my emotional intelligence.
So now: I forgive myself for being imperfect, for believing that I wasn’t good enough. I forgive myself for wanting to be loved by the people I love, and for working so hard to win their love. I forgive myself for forsaking myself all these years and for feeling ashamed of my own unique beauty.
I now replace shame with love. I start by putting my hands over my heart and giving thanks that it is still beating with a strength and steadfastness that astounds me.
My new story starts here, today, this minute.
My mother would have loved Easter this year – the weather was perfect (of course, now I live in California). I miss her and I miss spending Easter Sunday with her, but I don’t miss the white gloves.