A Eulogy’s Reminder To Forgive Myself

Every now and then, I go back and read my Mee Maw’s eulogy. It helps me to be right back there with her at her kitchen table. To feel her presence and her love - and maybe to get a little taste of her family-famous dill pickles, fried okra, or apple pie. I’m not sure what prompted me to read it this time, but once I did, I knew why I needed to reread the words I wrote 3 years ago.

I recently messed up. I did something that I will regret for the rest of my life. The action was so out of line, so out of my character, so seemingly not something that I would ever do - except that I did, and I can’t take it back. I spent weeks truly beating myself up about it, suffering from immense shame, feeling paralyzed, and unsure how to move forward. The shame felt so heavy, almost unbearable pain.

My therapist, husband, parents, and friends advised grace, reminding me that we all make mistakes. To remember who I am and to forgive myself. My therapist asked me about the high standard that I hold myself to. My father reminded me that I’m not perfect in the most loving way.

And then I read the words that I wrote about my beloved Mee Maw:

What if, through her imperfections, she gave us grace for our own?

My Mee Maw was not perfect, far from it and yet, I felt so loved by her, and I loved her so much. I saw her make mistakes, act not awesome, say things to people that were out of line. And yet, there it is, all my love for her ever-present - not diminished by her imperfections.

I know that I hold myself to a very high standard. I try to regulate big feelings and not spew them out at others, and most of the time, I’m really good at this. I try to choose kindness and take the high road. I try not to gossip or keep it to the tiniest minimum. I try to see others through empathy. I try to give grace. I try to be a really good person who deals with her shit and her big feelings and stays regulated. I try really hard to be good. And it doesn’t always work.

I do not hold my kids to this same standard, as I know that I had to get here on my own. I look back on my behavior when I was a middle schooler or high schooler. Things I said that I regret. Behavior that I wish I could retract. While I impart kindness and all the things, I have to allow room for them to be themselves and to learn to become the best version of themselves along the way. I do not expect either one of my children to become like me. I want them to become who they are meant to be. At the same time, sometimes, I wonder if I set the bar at a level that may feel hard for them to meet. I don’t know if this is true. I do wonder sometimes.

When I read the line I wrote about Mee Maw and her imperfections and the permission to have my own, it was like the light of grace showered down on me, and I saw all of this in a new light.

I royally f’d up, and I immediately apologized. I made phone calls admitting my mistake. (For the record, I don’t like making phone calls. Ask my friends and family. I don’t even like to call the dr. to make an appointment. I have a weird, introverted phone phobia.) To call, and apologize for a really awful mistake was very hard to do. And yet, I did it.

What if my mistake allows my daughter permission to give herself grace? Now and in the future. What if I modeled for her that we all make mistakes and that we can own up to them and face them and apologize for them and atone for them? What if I’m modeling self-forgiveness, self-compassion and grace? What if the example I set in my imperfection far outweighs what I model in my day-to-day regulated self? I may never know.

What I do know is holding onto the shame and feeling deep self-loathing felt venomous in my body and is absolutely not ok to model for my children. The act of self-forgiveness was as much for them as it is for me. I am beginning to let go. To forgive myself. To free myself of the deep, painful feelings. I know who I am in the depths of my soul. I am a loving, empathic, kind soulful-being living this human life. And that is just it. Mee Maw’s greatest lesson for me was to give myself permission to be human.

Another favorite line in her eulogy was this reflection: To portray Mee Maw as a sweet little old lady who loved everyone and always had a neat and tidy house would not only be inaccurate, it would sell her short of the gifts that she gave us. I would say that she was complex.

And there is it. Complexity. Living this human life is full of it. It’s complex and paradoxical. There’s no way to “nail it” perfectly. So here’s your permission to be imperfect and embrace your complexity. Permission to fuck up granted! Realizing it is how we move from there that matters.

Where do you need to give yourself grace? What past indiscretions are calling for you to forgive yourself?

Hoping forgiveness washes over you,

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