Is it blithe and narcissistic to try and let go of your own guilt, regret, and shame over past mistakes? Especially when the people you hurt are still angry with you and probably always will be? Anyone can say they’re starting over, that they are starting a new chapter, that they must forgive themselves in order to start fresh. But don’t we already lie to ourselves a million times during our life? Isn’t that just a cop-out?
Maybe it feels like a cop-out when you say it because of course you can’t do it. You still feel that nauseating guilt in your stomach. You still carry the stone of regret on your back. You still nurture that thorny forest of shame pricking your heart. You want others to forgive you, but they haven’t and possibly will not ever.
And you can’t forgive yourself because you’re so used to the guilt and the regret that quitting it would be like trying to quit meth cold turkey. It’s the emotional drug cocktail you inject every day just to feel “normal.” Most people’s favorite time to get their fix is when they’re trying to go to sleep. The past shoves the needle into your vein and starts whispering in your ear as it pushes the plunger.
You want something you can’t have, which makes you feel worse, spiralling downward even more.
But that’s not sustainable. Even if you sink into depression (which can last a long time), it doesn’t last forever. At some point, you have to forget about it and get on with things. Until that moment when you remember it again and it comes crashing back onto your shoulders.
I don’t know any well-meaning tips to help you with this. I’m writing this to myself, to try and make some sense of it and put it to words. Maybe it’s the same for you, maybe your internal landscape looks nothing like this. If you identify with this, maybe just knowing you’re not the only one is the best I can hope for. Maybe I’m writing it to see if there are others so that I know that I’m not alone.
Well, okay… maybe I have one tip. If you’re a writer, keep writing. If I hadn’t kept writing I wouldn’t have written this piece. Because my goal is not, ultimately, to be forgiven, or to be liked. It’s to be the best writer I can be.