When I was a baby, my mother was in the midst of her residency. Managing the competing needs of a demanding career and a newborn proved to be too much and at the age of 6 months my father took me to Pakistan to live with my paternal grandparents. I was there for about 14 months. I don’t have any recollection of that time, other than the things my family has told me. And that didn’t stop me from making up a really great story about my experience. I was abandoned! My parents, especially my mom, didn’t love me enough to take care of me when I needed it most. I wasn’t good enough. There must have been something wrong with me. Almost anything I could tell myself to feel badly about the experience, which I didn’t even consciously remember, I told myself. You see, I was the victim. And in my state of victimhood, I continued to pick at the scab of this old wound, never allowing it to heal.
I allowed this old wound to fester for years, well into my thirties. I tried traditional therapy, and while it did help me gain insights into how I was allowing this wound to impact other areas of my life, it did nothing to help me shift out of my victim state. That shift was impossible until the day I decided to tell myself a new story about the experience, when I decided to forgive and put a band aid on that wound so it could finally heal. That was the day that I decided that my old story was no longer serving me.
I don’t recall exactly what sparked the change of heart. I finally just got to the point where I was done being a victim. So I started telling myself a new story. When I was born, my mom had been in the country for just over a year, married for slightly longer, with no support system to help her manage the mayhem of a demanding career and a new baby. Her own mother had died about a year-and-a-half before I was born, and since that time my mom’s life had been a whirlwind of change – an arranged marriage to a man she didn’t know, a move halfway around the world to a new country, a newborn and a new career. I thought about how hard it must have been for her to be separated from me during my formative years.
As I started to think about all that she went through, the anger that I had been holding for decades began to melt. I was able to view the situation from a place of compassion for my mom, for all that she had experienced, and this compassion allowed me to shift into a space of forgiveness. I was then able to think about my experience in Pakistan very differently as well. During the 14 months I was there, I was in an incredibly loving environment. I was loved and nurtured in a way that would have been difficult, if not impossible, had I remained with my parents, given their challenges of trying to establish themselves in a new country. And with that shift, I felt a swell of gratitude for my grandparents and aunt who were my primary caregivers during that time.
This new story just felt so much better than the old one. I felt lighter as I released the burdens of anger, unforgiveness, resentment and blame that I had been carrying around for so long. And even better, it was a more empowering story. I was no longer the victim. I was the beneficiary of a loving, nurturing environment that helped shape who I am today. Nothing about the experience itself had changed. I simply changed the lens that I viewed everything through, and that made all the difference.
What old stories are you ready to give up?