“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.
~ Nelson Mandela
By Lockey Maisonneuve
Stop looking at the past for answers.
Like many, I compare my parenting to how my parents raised me. I ask myself, do I keep my children safe? Do they feel loved? Can I protect them?
Am I doing the opposite of what my parents would have done?
Most of my questions go unanswered, as I’ve blocked out much of my childhood. I have uncovered bits and pieces as an adult in therapy sessions: flashbacks of abuse, memories of helping my mother out of bed after another drunken car crash, my father falling down drunk, men paying my father to rape me when I was twelve, my father counting the money.
I do remember from an early age thinking, “This is not how it’s supposed to be.” I wasn’t exactly sure how it was supposed to be; I just knew this wasn’t it.
Even now, I think about how it is supposed to be—for myself, for my kids, for our family.
When I was young, I knew a better life existed, but I have found those answers in my present, where I search for that better life in every day I try to live.
Find the strength in painful memories.
My father left when I was five. Occasionally, he would call drunk and my mother would get on the phone. They would argue.
At 10 years of age, I learned that I would be spending the summer with my father in Florida. Once we were on the plane, my sister explained to me that we were given one-way tickets; we weren’t going back.
Our mother had given us away to a stranger I knew she hated. I didn’t speak to my mother for the next 24 years.
Things went from bad to worse living with him. The abuse started around the time I turned eleven. It was just him at first; then men started coming to the house, waking me up at night.
Despite the trauma, I continued to go to school. I babysat to make money so I could buy food and clothes for myself. I learned how to mask my emotions to protect other people. I learned how to laugh in the face of very serious, scary issues. I learned how to protect myself.
Yet, somehow, through it all, I believed good things were in store for me. I would not be my parents. I would not end up like them.
I still look for that strength of hope in my present struggles.
I found strength in my childhood, and that is the memory and the quality I try to take away for myself. Not the fear or the abuse, but the strength of laughter I found within myself in the darkest times.
Free yourself from your own internal judgments.
My father eventually quit drinking. We moved back to New Jersey where I lived with my grandparents throughout high school. After my father stopped drinking, he abused me two more times. Somehow, these pissed me off more than anything else. I couldn’t justify that he only did it because he was drunk. He wasn’t drunk; he was sober, and he knew exactly what he was doing.
That was when the anger and resentment were planted in my soul. That was when I crafted my story about not being lovable and being dirty.
On the outside, all was well.
On the inside, I was building walls that I didn’t even know I was building and I’ve only discovered as an adult.
On the outside, my adult life became everything I’d dreamed it would be. I married a wonderful, gentle man. We have two amazing children. Together, we built a safe, loving family.
But I held onto my resentment and anger.
Despite our loving family, I still believed I was unlovable.
The feelings of inadequacy would come out at the most unlikely times. When I felt threatened, I would believe I deserved it; when good things were about to happen to me, I believed I was unworthy.
The abuse of my past became the abuse of my present—by listening to the thoughts the abuse had planted inside me, they followed me into the life I had built for myself. This step was one of the hardest for me to overcome, because those thoughts had become so engrained in my own feelings of self-worth.
To banish my own internal judgments, I had to first acknowledge them for the lies they are. The anger and resentment were born of the abuse I suffered, and acknowledging their origins has been the first step to moving away from those memories.
Find purpose in the present.
Five years ago, I was diagnosed with stage-three breast cancer. I went through chemo, radiation, mastectomies and reconstructive surgery. While going through treatment, I remember saying to my husband, “This can’t be for nothing; there has to be a reason for this.”
As I went through the cancer treatment, I learned how my childhood has affected my adult view of the world. All through my treatments and procedures, I kept finding myself alone. I wasn’t alone because I didn’t have loving caregivers. I did, and they were wonderful.
Every time I had to go to the hospital, I would refuse offers from friends and family to come along with me—I would go alone.
Then, I would sit in the parking lot and cry because I was alone. Eight chemotherapy treatments, 28 radiation treatments and multiple visits over three months to the plastic surgeon to expand my skin to reconstruct new breasts.
When I was done with treatment, I was happy to have survived, but I could no longer hold in the anger and resentment. I was angry because I had another thing to survive.
My past abuse had been private, but the cancer was public. Having newly reconstructed breasts felt like I was exposed both inside and out. I had nowhere to hide. It was this feeling of raw vulnerability that was the catalyst for me to change. I was no longer willing to be a victim of my past or my present. I wanted to find out who I am beneath the walls.
I knew I wouldn’t do this on my own—I needed support.
I had to put myself out there so I couldn’t hide. So, I expanded my personal training practice to include rehabilitative exercise for breast cancer survivors.
As it has for many others, I found that being of service to others was my way of breaking down the walls I had built to isolate me from the world emotionally.
I surrounded myself with women who loved me and were grateful for what I provided for them. Their voices began to drown out the anger and resentment through which I had judged myself for so long. Those women made sure I was not alone—we were there for each other.
Because of my dedication to finding new ways of supporting my clients, I found yoga, reiki, meditation, and journaling. Through learning about each of these practices, I found myself.
I found I have a contribution to make, a purpose to be on this earth—and I am lovable.
Let it go.
After my treatment, I had stopped looking to my past for answers; I had rediscovered the strength of my childhood, built on my own self-worth—not simply survival. I knew I was lovable. I had a purpose.
Yet I had one thing left to handle: my secret. What do I do with it? How could I truly release the resentment and the anger if I didn’t release the origin?
I decided it was time to expose this secret. So I started telling a few people, just to try it out.
It quickly became apparent that the more I shared, the more I released the shame, which has allowed the anger and resentment to fall away.
I actually felt lighter, less encumbered by the weight of my secret. As I continue to let it go and share, I find that I’m living more in the moment with people. I am present to the love that is available to me. I am grateful for the love in my life, and it’s easier for me to let go of those that don’t love me rather than try to convince them to love me.
A couple of months ago, I was meditating, and I asked the question, “Can I release my father?” I answered my own question with a “yes.” I spoke to my father; I said, “I release you; you are free.”
And I became free.
Yoga was Lockey Maisonneuve’s catalyst to let it go. Through her practice, she learned to pay attention to her mind and body both on and off the mat. That mind/body connection brought awareness to what she needed to let go of—and that is when she realized she is not what happened to her.
Lockey is a survivor of breast cancer and childhood sexual abuse. As a result of all she learned in her own yoga practice, she is now a certified yoga teacher and the founder of the Let It Go Workshop. This workshop is an opportunity to get clarity around what you need to let go of. Through yoga, meditation, discussion and journaling, participants create the space to let go of whatever is not serving them. Upcoming workshops in Los Angeles, California and Princeton, NJ. For more information, go to Lockey’s website. Connect with Lockey on her website and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.
Lockey has been featured in Shape, Origin, Yoga Mantra + Health magazines. Her programs have been featured on WABCTV, WCBSTV and NEWS12. Lockey is a monthly contributor for PositivelyPositive. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, two amazing children and Bacon—the world’s sweetest dog.
Check out some other great posts:
- Breast Cancer Awareness – Pink Products to Celebrate
- Using Earthing Sandals And Moving On From Cancer
- Alternative Healing – What Makes YOU Feel Good?