“Even in my loneliest moments, I have been there for myself.”
I once read that the way you speak to your children becomes their inner dialogue. Perhaps that’s true, but my internal voice grew cold and cruel only in the aftermath of my incarceration. I always felt I had it together – I controlled my career, my partnerships, my diet, everything. It was satisfying and soothing to know what was happening, how it was happening, and when it was happening. I truly believed I had it all together. In my eyes, I was god. My life was exactly what I wanted, and I made sure of that.
You’re superwoman, they’d say. And I believed it. Yes, it was lonely at times, but I felt empowered and safe in this control. Then life happened, and the illusion of omnipotence was swiftly and brutally swept away.
When I faced imprisonment, I cried. For months, all I could bring myself to do was cry. I berated myself. I began to hate myself. I questioned myself. I challenged myself. I shamed myself. How could you let this happen?
How could I let this happen!? This was outside of my control. In prison, I was stripped of many things: warm meals, clean clothes, unlimited phone calls, control. I was in control of nothing. I was pushed around and I hated it. Thus began an inner dialogue that constantly belittled my feelings and my circumstances. I was a woman that had come to identify with her success. I was defined by what I had accomplished and built. Now I had nothing, and I felt like nothing. I would spend weeks on end crying. Simply crying. I was ashamed of my circumstances and what my life had become. I was ashamed of myself for not realizing what was happening. I was ashamed of hurting my daughters. I was ashamed.
It took many, many months to realize that if I did not have my back, who would? If I shamed myself so diligently and harshly, was I really helping myself? If the only thing I could control was, in fact, my thoughts (not circumstances), shouldn’t I use them to strengthen myself rather than disempower myself? The moment I truly understood this, my life changed.
Life has a way of giving us what we need in order to grow. I went to prison to learn. I jokingly tell others, “I got a PhD in life while I was in prison.” I realized so much, and unlearned so much more. I came to the simple conclusion that life is not to be controlled. It can’t be controlled. If we learn to accept life as it is, rather than try to dictate what it should be, life becomes so worthwhile. We begin to understand ourselves deeply and intimately. We are no longer measured in light of our accomplishments, but begin to approach circumstances without attachment or suffering.
In retrospect, I realize I have nothing to be ashamed of. Life happened. I choose to learn and grow from my circumstances, rather than become cynical and victimized. Life is here to serve me, teach me, challenge me, and grow me. The same applies to you. Do not be ashamed of your lessons, or your process. Instead, be empowered. Learn to let go of the illusion of control and honor your thoughts and emotions.
We alone are responsible for creating the life we want. How? By letting go.