Ariana Langford is an emerging motivational speaker and writer. Her main theme, “Finding My Voice,” is directed at dispelling the shame of being a victim, while finding hope and forgiveness. She encourages compassion and personal growth in groups which include victims, offenders as well as general audiences. Ms. Langford lives in Oxford, PA with her husband, children and a variety of pets, all of whom she adores.
When I was young I loved unicorns. These mythical creatures of purity and strength captivated me. As the stories go, these elusive creatures could not be hunted. The way to catch a unicorn was to have a young virgin sit alone in the woods. The unicorn, attracted by her beauty and purity, would come and lay down next to her, resting its head on her lap.
I never heard of any cases where this actually worked. As I matured, my interest waned. Today I wistfully remember that youthful belief in myths when I come across an old unicorn keepsake.
These days, I find myself pursuing other myths. I move through the landscape of my life seeking inner peace and forgiveness. I live a blessed life, have a wonderful husband, children I adore, and a job that allows me to make a difference. Still, inner peace and forgiveness can be elusive.
Just like everyone else, I have been scarred while traveling through this world. For me, it was five years spent in foster care, only to be adopted into a nightmare of abuse and torture. Escaping from that environment landed me in a place I thought was safe until it no longer was. Completely on my own at 17, I was a victim of violent crime only a few years later.
Somehow, I always managed to survive, and by my late twenties, I even learned to thrive. I largely put my past behind me, and found the first cornerstone to a good life: hope. I still struggled with depression, but according to the mental health providers, this was an expected outcome for the trauma I endured. The depression could be controlled if I was willing to take a low dose anti-depressant – basically for the rest of my life. I wasn’t willing to do that, so occasionally I suffer.
As part of my healing process in my mid-twenties, I had to accept my adoptive mother as the broken human being she was. In retrospect it is clear that she hurt because she was deeply hurt. I got to the point where I basically forgave her, and as an adult we had some semblance of a relationship. That doesn’t mean I would leave my children alone with her. Forgiveness does not mean forgetting.
I was able to come to acceptance, if not quite forgiveness, with some of the other people who hurt me. Yet I continue to carry anger and bitterness. I know these things only hurt me, and hold me back.
The people I need to forgive represented systems that betrayed me. The doctor who said nothing when my mother claimed that I hurt myself after the incident with the wire hanger. The policeman who walked away, believing my screaming had been the result of a simple spanking. He left me to pay the price for attracting too much attention. The list goes on. Systems put in place to protect people never seemed to work when it came to me. These experiences left me with a lot of fear and hurt that decades later I recognize surfacing in my present life. Gathering love around me, I face these, head on, one at a time.
Perhaps the hardest area to heal is the one that is hardest to see. For when I get just a bit more honest, there is someone else I need to forgive. Myself.
Wait. What? What do I need to forgive myself for? When you grow up like I did, you have to make sense of the world somehow. I did it by believing that there was something wrong with me that caused all these bad things to happen.
While my head knows that this is an invalid belief, somewhere, deep inside me, this belief lives on. Now that I recognize it for what it is I am actively working on eradicating it from my belief structure. I cannot use a machete to cut it from my psyche. I can only coax it out with love and forgiveness. I need to love myself despite choices I made while trying to survive, forgive myself for habits built up over the years which grew out of fear-based notions. I am working to set aside the shame I carried for the better part of a lifetime. I was taught to keep secrets as a child, and I was very good at remaining silent. But this silence added to the conviction that there was something wrong with me, that people would turn away if they knew who I really am.
I know that we are all beings of Light. Our very essence is pure, and it manifests in the experience of love. Up until now, the silence I kept acted as a gatekeeper – only allowing so much light out at a time. I am removing the blockages, dismantling the dam that limits the flow of life inside me. As each piece of detritus floats away, it tells its story, allowing more light into the shadowy places. Amazingly, I find my voice grows stronger with every step.
I notice that inner peace comes, not when I am chasing it, but when I calmly sit and experience the Light that is within, the Light that I am allowing to fill me more fully.
I remain a work in progress, a traveler on a path still shrouded in mystery and magic. I walk forward with faith in the Love and Light that resides in each of us. And while the destination is unknown, I am certain I will find a deeper sense of forgiveness and peace.
Who knows? Maybe I will sit down in a beautiful wooded clearing, and a unicorn, attracted by the beauty and purity of my Light, will come and lay beside me, resting its magical head in my lap.
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Chris Sopa is founder and owner of Chris Sopa International, Inc. You can learn more about her at www.ChrisSopa.com. Find her at Facebook.com/ChrisSopaInternational, Twitter @ChrisSopa, LinkedIn, and Google+.