I did the impossible. This is a story of how the Landmark Forum gave me the tools to uncover my super powers.
The On This Day feature is incredible. The emotions of looking back through all the years on this day. Wow.
At the moment I have a twisted knot in my gut and a lump in my throat. My cheeks are hot and my upper lip is prickling with sweat. The hammering of my heart threatens to dislodge the lump in my throat and send it hurling through my body, an embolism hell bent on my destruction.
One year ago on this day I woke up a new person. I opened my eyes on a new world, endless possibilities and complete and utter relief. I woke up relaxed and in love with life. My heart felt free and rested, as if it had spent decades beating itself against iron bars and suddenly it was being cradled in loving hands, my hands, with my compassion. For the first time in years the deafening static in my mind was hushed and I felt peace.
I said I would write about it. I said I would share it with the world. I made a commitment to myself and to millions of suffering people. I was going to, I wanted to, and then time happened. I waited to talk to this person or that person and I waited for the time to be right.
The thing is, there is no right or wrong time to tell the world some things. There is only time, pain, suffering and the promise of enlightenment and peace.
That’s it, no pressure.
A year ago today I woke up and felt completely free because I had done something I felt was entirely impossible. I had met, face to face, with my childhood sexual abuser. I met with him and I found peace in the conversation that started with me taking responsibility for the story of my life. I sat across from him as he white knuckled a cup of coffee and I treated him like a person. I spoke to the person that sat in front of me. I didn’t see the man of the past. I created a space of peace and I did the unthinkable…I invited him to step into it.
What. The. Hell.
I know. It seems completely insane but even as I share this I know there are so many people that will be triggered by it. There will be hate, fear, nausea, confusion, self doubt, sadness. So, as best as I can I will share something that transformed my life.
When I completed the Landmark Forum in October of 2014 I had no idea I would be tackling such a monumental task. I learned some tools that helped me understand myself and humanity. I skimmed the surface of what was possible for me but deep inside my being I held on to this story. I held on to my pain. I protected my right to feel or act any way I wanted because I was entitled to it. I was a victim of the most socially accepted kind. I had been sexually abused, molested, raped. Who could tell me I needed to let go of that? So I didn’t. I made connections, I paraded my new bright happiness around and puffed out my Landmark transformed chest.
It worked for a while. I was able to superficially exist in a space of possibility but never fully embraced being 100% responsible for my life. I didn’t understand the concept of being cause in the matter of my entire existence. Now, this, this distinction is where it gets dicey.
A few months passed and I was enrolled in another Landmark program, a seminar offered to Forum graduates. It was a conversation expanding on the tools and distinctions we learned in the Forum. For 9 weeks I experienced amazing things. I watched as other seminar participants had breakthrough after breakthrough. The more I witnessed these people getting free of their constraints, letting go of their pasts, owning their part in the creation of what was possible for them, the more I festered and became aware of my own stories.
At the 10th meeting, the last in the seminar series, I sat at the front of the room, agitated and restless. My knee bounced, my palms were clammy. I had to figure out how I was right and how I could get free while still holding on the story that had both buoyed and drown me throughout my life.
The seminar leader was out of sorts. She paced and the cadence of her voice was off, jerky. She looked and sounded like I felt. Then, something happened. She stood on the stage and she shared that she found an incompletion in her life. She realized that she was incomplete with a rape that happened when she was 18. My heart slammed into my rib cage. The humming in my ears turned to searing heat. I slid to the edge of my seat. I tried to quiet the roar in my head.
She stood there naked, bare and on the verge of something great. Her husband, a retired Forum Leader, stood at the back of the room and watched the beauty of his wife blossom as she peeled back one more layer of her soul. My focus was on what I wanted to hear. I expected her to say there was no way to be responsible for such a horrible thing. I expected validation. Something I’ve sought my whole life. I listened for her to make a stand for every victim that ever hushed their pain and stuffed down their worth.
What she said sent me into a near rage. She stood there and said that what she realized she needed to get complete was to take responsibility for what happened. She had to take responsibility for the story she lived in around what happened. She had to be cause in the matter of her life.
No. No. No.
Victims aren’t responsible for what happens to them. Victims are entitled, deserving, raised up to a higher status than the rest. Victims have something. Victims have their story. I had mine. It was precious to me. It fueled every single context I moved inside of in my life. I needed it. Without it…what would I be without it?
The conversation started to move on and I was crawling out of my skin. I shot my hand up to share, to ask, to prove that it wasn’t possible to get complete with rapists. Bad guys are bad guys. Period.
I’m not sure if she called on me or if she was trying to dismiss me to move on with the discussion but I stood up. I walked to the microphone and I looked into the eyes of over 100 people. I looked at the first people that would know my story. Besides that moment I had only told 5 people.
I wiped my hands on my pants and clenched my jaw. As I asked my question I saw something flicker in the leaders eyes and then they welled up. She sat down and her husband stood up.
“How do you take responsibility for being raped, sexually abused, and molested when you are a child? How can a 6 year old be cause in the matter of that kind of horrible thing? Tell me. Tell me how is it possible to get complete with that?!”
I stood there, my teeth ready to crumble under the pressure of my tightening jaw. I stared daggers into the retired Forum leaders eyes. I dared him to challenge me. Begged for him to try and prove me wrong. There was no answer to that kind of question. A victim is always right.
He took a breath and looked at his wife, she sat folded up and crumpled, white and shrunken in her directors chair. Then he looked back at me and said something I will never forget.
“You can’t. You can’t get complete with something like that because there’s always going to be a bad guy for you. As long as there’s a bad guy you will always be the judge, the jury, you’ll always be right. As long as you’re always right you’ll always be a victim. As a victim, you don’t have to get complete.”
I hated him. I wanted to light him on fire. I wanted to crush every bone in his lie spitting face. Who in the hell was he to call me out and strip away the one thing that held me together?! Without my story, without the power of being the victim, I was nothing.
I stood shaking and speechless. I wanted it to be easy. I wanted it to be what I wanted. I wanted, no needed, to be right.
Then he prodded,
“Right? You just have to be right. You have to have a bad guy. There’s always a bad guy for you and you decide who is bad. You think that gives you power but all it does is leave you a victim of the bad guy. You’re always the victim. Right? Right?!”
I breathed in. I breathed out. In the moment between two breathes something happened. I heard a gurgling, a crackle. I felt heat and tingling and rushing of blood and adrenaline. The drums in my ears reached a deafening pitch and then as if a roaring fire was suffocated so the din of my being was silenced. In the space between two breathes I became present to something. I felt something open up and I saw for the first time in 26 years that I had a part to play and it wasn’t as a victim.
The tears came and what poured out of my mouth was no longer tinged with righteous indignation. I spoke of my responsibility. I spoke of my sisters, my mother, my husband and last of all, my self. I got present to the story I had been living in, ruing in, suffering in. I got present to what that created for anyone close to me. I bled. I ached. A union of both release and the utter ripping apart of the fabric of who I thought I was.
Then, I sat down.
As I drove home that night I was alive. I felt electric. I had to get complete with all of these loved ones. I had to give my sisters peace and my blessing to love their dad. I had to let my mom know that I didn’t blame her for what had happened. I had to write it all down. I had to share.
Over the next few months I did just that. I met with my step dad’s two daughters, my sisters, and took responsibility for the story I had lived in and the power it had over their entire childhood and life. I apologized for them not being able to love their dad because of the fear they had of how that would impact me. I cleaned that wound out with medical grade precision. And then I kept moving. Action, always in action. I went down my list until finally I came to the second to last person I had to get complete with. My step dad. The abuser.
I called my youngest sister and enrolled her in the possibility of me actually meeting with her dad. I asked her to bring him to meet me in a public place. I asked out of love and when fear rose up I karate chopped it in the repulsive face.
The night that the meeting had been arranged for I was numb. I had enrolled several people in supporting this meeting so that I couldn’t back out. I hadn’t figured out what I was going to say or how in the hell I was going to separate my responsibility with the actual actions of this man so many years ago. I didn’t have it all plotted out and I didn’t want to. I wanted to feel it, be it, have it organically sprout up from authenticity and the integrity of a commitment I had made at my Landmark Forum.
At my Forum I had created the possibility of being compassion, love and kindness for the world. I had no idea what that meant when I declared it but it had finally come full circle. I had to set the bad guy free and allow space for him to exist as what and who he is now and relinquish the hold on my story of what he was and what it meant about me.
As I stepped out of my vehicle and stared at the pub that would be our meeting place, I felt a bit lost without the security of expectation and fear. But, it felt good. It felt incredible. It felt powerful.
I crossed the street and heard my sister call my name. I had assumed they would already be inside and I would be approaching a table, two seated individuals and the key to my future of unhindered living. I didn’t expect to see him walking toward me. I didn’t expect to feel complete peace as he approached.
The street lights played the shadows dramatically across his form. I knew him before the glow lit his face and then danced it’s way into the darkness. I knew this man from long ago. But it wasn’t what I once saw. The man that walked toward me looked scared, he looked ashamed, he walked weakly like a dog knowing it was about to be beaten. This wolf of a man, the nightmare that plagued my innocence like a rotting disease, eating away the flesh of my being, was rendered helpless in my presence.
In an instant we were face to face. I had hugged my sister with joy and at the moment of letting go, there he was. His eyes were empty, searching, sadness, black in the hollows of the dim blinking orbs. I had imagined this moment for so many years. What I would say. What physical violence I would wage on his aged body. I had imagined it, played it out, rehearsed and solidified another story. And yet, there I stood, smiling.
I looked at him, searching his eyes for the child within his soul that had been hurt long ago. I peered in and saw his humanity, the truth that we are all whole and complete beings and it’s just one story, one happening, one fucking trauma from completely coming undone. I saw him. I saw his worth as a human, his shame as a man, I saw it all. And it felt amazing.
“Hi, how are you?”
With those four words he seemed to be both destroyed and resurrected. There was something that flashed in his eyes and I think it was surprised relief.
We all walked into the pub and my sister went and sat at the bar. My step dad and I sat at a table and the waitress stood poised for our order. Coffee. He only wanted coffee.
I waited a few minutes. I just sat silently smiling, a freaking zen statue of all the things I’d never imagined possible. I’m sure I must have been glowing because as he looked across the table at me, he squinted just a little.
The next hour passed in a moment. I broke the beginning silence with a short and true statement.
“I have something to say to you and it isn’t anywhere close to anything you may have imagined.”
And then, I went on as he held his coffee cup, knuckles white, palms slipping on the ceramic. I explained that I acknowledge there was abuse. I know and remember it all. Every single moment and heart wrecking detail. What I was there for wasn’t to hash it all out and rub his nose in how horrible a person he was.
I started with explaining my completion with his daughters and how I was sorry that he didn’t get to have the relationship that may have been possible with them over the years. I told him how the story I built about what the abuse meant about me had impacted all the relationships and decisions in my life. I became cause in the matter of my suffering, my fear and my story.
Lastly, I told him that I now see him as a whole and complete human and that I no longer live inside the story of victimhood or believe that what happened has any meaning about my worth.
Then, a power washed over me. Something descended upon my being. It was quick and it was complete. Not only did I feel peace but I felt love. -Oh, now, I know this is the part where so many people will pretty much shit their pants. I get it. I’ve been there. Light him on fire, cut off his dick, peel off his skin and cover him with ants. Really, I get that. I’m telling you right in this moment, you have to step outside of whatever meaning you’re living in and just be present with me…just a little bit longer- I felt love for a human being, love for humanity, compassion and hope for every person on the planet because in that moment I didn’t have to be the judge anymore.
The real power came when I enrolled him in a new possibility for himself. I enrolled him in the possibility that in the current moment he too could let go of the story he had created for himself. He could step out of the bonds of shame and crippling regret and be whole and complete. His story didn’t have to be real anymore or ever. And he cried.
When I left the pub I was new. I can’t honestly put into words what raced through my head in the 20 minute drive home. It was close to midnight when I walked into my bedroom and my husband was in a cold sweat. The dam broke in me and I shared all the beauty I never expected to unfold in the meeting.
On this day a year ago I started something, I set something in motion and the ripples of that one gesture, that single conversation, have traveled farther than I’ll ever know. Since that evening I have had the pleasure of being a stand for my step dad to complete his Landmark Forum and in that space he has transformed his life in ways that even he doesn’t quite understand.
The last name on my completion list was my dad. I had to get complete with keeping my abuse a secret from him for 26 years. I had to tell him that the man he trusted to care for his daughters was actually a child sexual abuser. I waited. I waited. And, I waited. I had a story about my dad. The story went something like this… My dad always said he’d kill anyone that ever touched his daughters. I never told him about it because I didn’t want him to go to prison. Even after all the powerful things I’d completed I still held him as weak.
I finally invited him up and for a visit with the intention of coming clean. We walked around a pond by my house and I just blurted it all out. All of it. This whole story came bubbling out. Then I stood there and watched his face.
It was magical. Because I had come from a place of compassion and forgiveness the story hit him on a completely different chord. He surprised me and I think he surprised himself. And just like that, 26 years of built up ‘what ifs’ was dissolved.
I can hear the questions and objections now. I know them all so it’s not necessary to hash them out. Save it. Put that energy into the complete impossibility that everything we can imagine is possible.
I invite you to try on the possibility that everything that creates that gut ball and searing hate is actually fear. Fear that if the story is gone, the bad guy is just a guy, and we have to step up and own all the stuff we put out into the world, we will fall. The thing is, when you cut those tethers, those safety lines, what happens is incredible. When you aren’t held back, held down, holding on…