Dear Calamity Jane…
June 1, 2015. I boarded a plane from Nassau, Bahamas, destined for home in Vancouver. This was a flight I had made several times over the previous few years, but that day was different. I was heading home, for good. After 2 years and the demise of a relationship, it was time to go home and start again. I am a West Coast girl through and through and missed the mountains…the trails…the leaves turning orange in the fall. I missed wearing jeans and hoodies…I missed being cold. Truth be told, all of that is accurate, but also bullshit, I wanted to come home…things were easier here.
The summer of 2015 was one of the best summers I have ever had! I was so thrilled to be home. I found a new apartment, a new job, connected with old friends and found a few new ones, joined a gym and got back on my feet. I was excited to be back in the mountains and optimized my time hiking, trail running and enjoying the mountain air! I went to beer festivals, music festivals and our outdoor fair. I ran in races, went out for bike rides and travelled around my province. Everything was exciting and new again.
September is always my favorite month. It’s sunny and warm, but cooler at night. The trees start to change their hue, reminding us that the summer is coming to an end, but giving us an explosion of colour before the trees throw off their leaves. I remember still being in awe of my city and feeling extremely grateful to be home.
Then came the fall.
The rain started and a general dreariness descended upon the city. I was forced inside. I was forced to slow down. That’s when it all caught up with me. Moving, restarting, reestablishing, relearning who I was. I recognized early on that I couldn’t do it on my own. After relying and leaning on my friends, heavily, I feared burning them out. I had visited clinical counsellors in the past, as an ER/Trauma RN, it was not unusual for us to reach out for assistance when it all got to be too much. My experience had always been positive, I had felt supported and the sessions were helpful. It was time to go back.
October 24, 2015. I went to my first counselling session. I had no idea where to start. I sat in the chair and looked across from me. My counsellor was young, but not too young; she was inviting, but not too over the top; she was empathetic, but not to a fault. I felt comfortable. I started to talk and talk and talk and talk… I realized how lightly I had taken on such change. Although much of it was positive, it still took its toll. I did not realize, while I was in the midst of such a drastic life change, merely two short years after moving away and uprooting myself at that time, how heavy it all was to carry.
Together we unpacked the load I was carrying. We discussed my life before I moved, my move to the Bahamas, my time there, my move back home and where I was at in that moment. We turned a light on many dark corners that on my own were too scary and dark to go into. But there were parts that I had locked up decades ago and put into the crawl space. This box was stashed away in the darkest, most remote corner, one where I was unwilling to go near, let alone unpack.
October 3, 2017. I unpacked that box. The one that was buried deep. The one that was wrapped in shame for the past two decades. With fear, trepidation and disbelief, I shared the contents of the box with my counsellor. The contents dated back to 1996, when I was 19 years of age. Although I could not clearly recall all of those days, the details of the incidents contained in that box are burned into my memory, like a branding on my brain and identity. As I started to speak, slowly at first, my voice wavering, I contemplated not telling the whole story. I considered telling only a partial truth, avoiding the full breadth and depth of my actions, in an effort to make myself look better in this stranger’s eyes. But I didn’t. I told it all. All of it. Every detail of my life that I am not proud of, that spanned a period of 3-4 years. I unravelled every layer of my shame and shared it with her.
I took a deep breath.
I averted my eyes. Staring at the floor, desperately looking for my integrity that I dropped over twenty years ago. My counsellor cleared her throat.
She sighed and said, “why have you never mentioned any of this? You have carried this for so long. It’s time to forgive yourself.”
I looked up surprised. Forgive myself? I don’t deserve that. Instead, I deserve everything that has happened to me since.
She was more forceful, “you gave up your self-esteem as a punishment and it’s time to get it back. This will be a long, challenging road, but you can’t start down it until you forgive yourself.”
I was given homework. I didn’t want to do it. I postponed my next appointment. I procrastinated.
I’m at a point now where it has become painfully obvious that this homework is critical. The journey I am about to embark on is not only in my best interest, but it’s also not optional.
I was told to write myself a letter of forgiveness. This is that letter.
Dear Nicola Jane,
There are no excuses for the poor decisions that you made as a young adult. The decisions were wrong. People were hurt. And that’s not okay. But you have changed, you grew up, you removed yourself, you distanced yourself. You chose another path. You chose to better yourself and to become a better person. You got out.
You are not the same person now, but this is still holding you back. It no longer serves you.
It’s time to let that shit go.
I forgive myself for the wrongs I was a part of. I have accepted accountability and I no longer need to punish myself. I have served my sentence.
I forgive me.
I embrace myself for all that I am now and choose another way. It starts today. It starts now.
All my love,