Forgiveness

Yesterday I mentioned that I was kinda peeved about my sister’s boyfriend drinking all my vodka. Given the hangover I have today from drinking at Christmas dinner, I’m actually glad he did. Otherwise I would have probably gotten even more drunk last night. Either way, I had decided not to hold it against him. He is a pretty cool guy overall. I even ended up supplying him with cigarettes. All of our local shops were closed for the holiday, and he couldn’t buy his own.

Now normally, this would have only soured me to him even more. But it actually felt good to let all that petty nonsense go. It was nice to just enjoy helping someone else out. It feels much better than getting salty about every little thing. So I was able to forgive him for all of his minor transgressions and enjoy sharing my family holiday with him.

However, this morning as I groggily rolled myself out of bed, I was filled with shame and regret. For probably the hundredth time I got WAY too drunk and practically blacked out while spending a holiday with my family, who by the way, don’t really drink. I genuinely don’t even remember getting home or going to bed last night. I feel like shit this morning, though. Physically and mentally. I can’t believe I made the same humiliating mistake once again.

I’ve started thinking about how good it feels to forgive other people though. I really wish it was as easy to be able to forgive myself. I’m sure yesterday wasn’t even a big deal to anyone besides me. I think I’ve always just been afraid to forgive myself. Somewhere along the line that idea of operant conditioning, of punishment and reward, really stuck in my brain. I am always trying to train other people to behave in the ways I want them to. I am always trying to train myself in this way. If I forgive myself, how will I learn?

I can remember implementing this technique far before I ever learned about it in any academic setting. It seems like common sense. If you are punished for doing something you will avoid doing it. If you are rewarded in some way you will try to repeat the behavior in the future. Yet everyday life is not often so straightforward. Real life behaviors are not isolated in a scientific setting.

My relationship with myself cannot be that black and white either. I don’t have to keep punishing myself for my mistakes. I recognize my flaws, and forgiving myself for them is not the same as encouraging them. Besides I’m not really even following the laws of operant conditioning correctly. When was the last time I gave myself a reward for doing something well? Maybe never. The only thing I’ve been “training” myself to do is to be unhappy, to never believe in myself, to think I am not good enough.

Rather than make this cold, hungover Saturday even harder by beating myself up, I am going to be kind to myself today. I deserve kindness. I deserve forgiveness, especially from myself. I don’t have to forbid myself from the happiness and comfort I may find today because of what happened yesterday. That isn’t going to make me a better person. Love and forgiveness isn’t going to make me a worse person. Today I am going to be gentle with myself. I am going to rest and make myself comfortable. I am going to forgive myself.

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Mindful Rewards

By the time evening came around yesterday, I was utterly exhausted. Every day this month, I have been tackling a cleaning task around my house, systematically going through and deep cleaning/organizing every single room. And I’ve been making good progress. Yesterday I decided to finally clean out my fridge. Not just sort through and rearrange things, but actually clear it out entirely, wash all the shelves, the inside, and the outside. It ended up taking much longer than I thought it would, and by the time I was finished I was wiped out and ready to relax.

However, I am never able to relax. While my fridge does look immaculate now, giving me great pleasure every time I glance inside, I still don’t feel accomplished. There is an ever-present twinge of disappointment and anxiety at the end of the day. When I try to figure out why I am feeling that way, any rational explanation eludes me. The feeling is like those blurry little squiggles at the edge of your vision. When you try to look directly at them, they immediately move just out of sight.

I feel compelled to list everything I did yesterday, just to prove to myself it was a lot:

  • Write a blog post
  • Study Spanish
  • Read
  • Gratitude Journal
  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • 60min. Cardio Workout
  • Draw
  • Reports for work
  • Wrap Christmas gift
  • Deep clean fridge

That seems like a lot right? Somehow even after listing it all, I still feel unsure. I still don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything at all. I feel like I could have done more, should have done more. But I feel like anyone else would be highly impressed. I do these things or the equivalent each and every day. I never give myself a day off. I never feel I deserve one.

One of the many things I’d like to start implementing in the coming year is setting aside some time each day or week to mindfully reward myself for all of my hard work. Even just scheduling an hour on a Friday to focus on myself and what I really would enjoy. Maybe I could take a relaxing bath with a book and some wine. Maybe I could give myself a few hours to just play video games in bed. I could buy myself something nice that I’ve been wanting. Just normal every day things that generally make me feel guilty on the rare occasions when I do them. I want to practice giving myself more credit for all that I accomplish every day. So that I may actually start to feel accomplished for once.

I’m pretty good at delaying gratification, my problem is actually giving myself the gratification at all. I think “oh, I’ll just put it off a little longer” or “I’ll do a few more things first.” I’ve finally realized that the reward at the end never comes. I continue to push it farther into the future. Well, not any longer. It is time for me to finally give myself the rewards I so richly deserve. I want 2021 to be a year of self-reflection, rest, and self-love. It’s time.

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