Today is November 11 and many feelings and thoughts come to my mind today. Today I am thinking about the men and women who have lost their lives to secure our safety. I think about the families who have a hole in their hearts that can never be filled because they have lost a loved one to war. I also think about those who have their loved ones back but now have the agony of watching them try to come to terms with the horrors of what they saw and experienced while serving our great country. I think of the veterans who did what they felt was the right thing to do, made the sacrifices and now come home trying to cope with the pain and also trying to figure out how they are going to survive financially, emotionally and spiritually.
I also think of those who never served in a war but waged a war of their own in their lifetime. They battled pain and abuse and now have a similar hole in their heart and soul. This time of year I also think of my own father. He battled undiagnosed depression, ADD, addictions and past abuse. He brought with him a suitcase full of hurt and unhealed parts of his soul and heart. The good or bad part was he was very intelligent and so was able to make his way in this world by putting on an act, doing what he needed to do to get by and struggling in his quiet moments. The last time anyone really remembers him being alive was November 11. He took his own life on November 18, 1983 at the age of 43. He was 4 days away from his 44th birthday. His battle ended that day. For those of us left behind, ours continues.
As I look at my own life, it was nothing near as bad as my father’s life but my life was affected by his pain and his past. It is an unfortunate reality that unhealed parents unwittingly pass along their own pain to their children. My mother had her own share of unhealed parts as well which is probably what brought them together. They saw something familiar in each other. I know they tried their best, but sometimes your best still causes pain. I know, however, by my conversations with my friends and my clients that I am certainly not alone. I think we all have our suitcase of hurt that we carry around with us. I have also learned that we have a choice in what we do with that hurt. We can either unpack our suitcase and keep all that pain around and use it as both an excuse and a way to hurt ourselves and others or we can use that pain and the lessons that come with the pain as a way to heal ourselves and others. We can heal our broken parts to create a beautiful tapestry of pain, healing, lessons and love. What I have learned is that it all starts with self-love and self-acceptance. It starts with seeing the darkness and the pain and also seeing the love and the beauty and knowing that it is all necessary for us to truly appreciate all that life has to offer.
I realized recently how I have been unpacking my own suitcase of pain and using it to hurt myself. I have gained weight recently. My weight has always been my Achilles heel. I have been judged much of my childhood by how I looked. My father didn’t know that he needed to tell his daughter how beautiful and lovable she was. He didn’t learn that the words he used to describe his daughter would be the voice in her head that she would use to either accept herself or reject herself. And lately, wow, those words have come out to beat me with their fists. I allowed it for a while, not even recognizing that is what I was doing. Those words and that self-condemnation are so familiar to me. Then one day I realized what I was doing. Why was I terrorizing myself? Why was I bullying myself? And I realized that my own suitcase was wide open and I was busy unpacking it once again. I had allowed the darkness and the past to override the lessons and the healing.
The great part is that even though I periodically slip into those moments, I have also learned that I can use those pains and scars to create something very beautiful. Those pains and scars can become my “super power” so to speak. My pain can be instructive and show me where I need to heal, to show me where I have healed already and to also be a blessing to someone else who is hurting and needing to find their way. I can be their tour guide through the landmines of pain. Our pain does not have to be our curse but can become our blessing. Like the butterfly, he was once a caterpillar and only saw things from his vantage point on the ground. Everything was a struggle. And the greatest struggle came at the end when he was trying to become a butterfly. I realized my pain was a reminder of how far I had come and that I need to reach out to others who are struggling, who are in pain and who don’t yet know the way. I realized that loving myself was the first step. For better or worse. Fat or thin. Old or young. Successful or average. It all begins with loving myself. And by loving myself, seeing my pain and cutting myself some slack when I am imperfect, I can be that blessing to someone else who is struggling as well. I also know that by reaching out to others, I help heal myself.
Life is painful. We have all waged our wars, either on the battlefield or in our minds and hearts. We all are hurting, whether the scars show or not. By loving ourselves we can also see the humanity and beauty in others. My wish for this November 11 is that we can use our own scars, pain and wounds to reach out to first ourselves and then to others. November 11 is a time of coming together to remember and to be in community and my wish is that we can use this time to love and support all of those who are hurting and in need of love and support. My wish is that it starts with you. Remember, you are lovable. You are worthy. And the world is a better place because you are here and for that I am truly grateful.