Forgiveness on Christmas: Letters from a Non-Believer

Every year I run from Christmas. 

It terrifies me. The shameless consumerism, the pressure to buy gifts and to spend time with everyone–jumping from party to party to fit everything in. It’s emotionally (and financially) exhausting, and so I run. I run emotionally, distancing myself from the songs, movies, shopping, togetherness–what you might call an all-or-none phenomenon. But this year, instead of running emotionally (although that definitely played a part), I ran physically. As soon as I finished my last exam, I booked the cheapest one-way out of the States, and two days later, I found myself in Montezuma, Costa Rica—a sleepy surf town on the Pacific with as many dreadheads as stray dogs (it’s a lot). And I haven’t left yet.

It was a sigh of relief arriving here, where year-round sand and sun obscure any semblance of season. No Christmas trees, no snow, no crazies pushing their Reason-for-the-Season pamphlets at you outside the bar. And the relief this initially brought gave way to something quite unexpected—a connection with the Christmas Spirit! The Macy’s ads, Bing Crosby croons and Hallmark Originals strangle out any pretense of emotion (aside from irritation) that I could have felt back home, but underneath the black hole of what is Christmas-in-America, there truly is a feeling to this time of year. There must be, if I’m feeling it all the way out here.

From a strictly agnostic standpoint, it is a time of shorter days, colder temperatures, and death. It is a time when we hunker down with the closest people in our lives and are grateful for each other and what we have, for we are reminded by the browning leaves outside that life is fleeting. We reflect on the thoughts, encounters, and experiences of the past year, wondering what could have gone better, what we’d rather not repeat in the year to come. It is a very powerful time, a time to allow death of the aspects of our lives that no longer serve us, to let go of past grievances and screw-ups, and to start the next cycle cleansed. And the only way to do this is to forgive—and forget.

So this year, I am holding a funeral for the grudges and heartbreaks, the fuckups and embarrassments.

I am saying my final goodbyes to the people I hurt and the people who hurt me, the shit which hit the fan, the mistakes I made, the love I missed out on. Readers, hopefully you can find something in these letters to which you can relate. And if not, I urge you to address those special people and situations from your 2017, to forgive yourself and them, and then burn those letters, or set them out to sea, or publish them on the interwebs for the entire world to behold (me). Because if you start a fire in the darkness, you’ll have the light to move forward.

To my family,

I forgive you for misunderstanding me. All you want is to make me part of your world, but you don’t understand that my world is very different from yours—that our most fundamental views on life lie on opposite sides of the seesaw. To me, this is cause for strife, tension, and the desire for distance. You love me so much, but I am afraid to show you who I really am, for I fear you wouldn’t love that person the same way. Every time we’re together, I am relegated to the youngest child, in need guidance from the rest of the family.

Who is lost. Who is naïve.

I have never felt more myself than when we are apart. In fact, I feel strangled when I’m with you, as this identity you attribute to me is nothing like the one I have worked so hard to create for myself—and it’s fragile. I push you away because I reject the identity of the person you knew me as when I was younger. But I know you love me more than I am afraid to consider, and even though you frustrate and sadden me, I know you would be there for me when nobody else is. And for all the arguments, heartache and confusion this has caused me, I owe you forgiveness. Ultimately, all you want is to love me, include me, and be part of my life. So I forgive you for going about it in the wrong ways because these are the only ways you know, and I know that above all else, your intentions are good. And of course, I love you back. Even from afar.

With love,

Becca of 2018

To my Exes of 2017,

I forgive you for the pain you have caused. I forgive you because I know you too are afraid to be vulnerable, and this past year has instilled a similar fear in me. I forgive you for the brick wall you built around yourself and refused to let me enter. I forgive you for kicking me out, even when I thought I was making headway. You were only protecting yourself, your heart. You tried to be kind in the aftermath, but emotions are intoxicating, so for the times that you were less than kind, I forgive you. I forgive you because fear, confusion and past heartbreak make giving yourself to another difficult and scary. They are also what make us human.

I forgive you for being human.

We are all guilty of dragging casualties into our problems, and if I were to fault you for this, I would be a hypocrite. I forgive you for being selfish because even though loyalty to your values occasionally manifested in miscommunication, manipulation, and flat-out ill will, I can forgive you because I see myself in you, and I know you never meant to hurt, only to protect Numero Uno. I must also do this. The emotional rollercoaster you drove me down has taught me many lessons which I continue to learn, foremost of which is the importance of nurturing myself before others and being very careful who I allow in to this sacred space of self. You taught me never to compromise who I am, for if that’s what it takes to attract someone like you, then you aren’t right for me, and we must blossom into something beautiful yet apart from each other. I hope for the best for you. I hope that you may unearth and understand your feelings about relationships, love and loss, and that whatever troubles you may come to pass. I forgive you as I let you go, and I wish you fair seas on your way out of my heart.

With love,

Becca of 2018

To Becca of 2017,

I forgive you. I forgive you for the times you put yourself above the ones you love, and for being callous to the ones who tried to give their love to you. I forgive you for pushing your family away, and for the stress this caused, because you only meant to take care of yourself. I forgive and let go of the embarrassments because you were only trying to be funny, or kind, and most of the time that works out all right. I forgive you for running away when life got too hard, for pushing away when life got too close. I believe that you are kind, and I believe that you want harmony in your relationships and happiness in your life. I forgive you for the times you acted in contradiction to this, knowingly or unknowingly. You care to succeed, and you can, so I forgive you for the times when adventure and excitement got in the way of your vision. I forgive you for the times you were less than kind to your body. I forgive you for the times you tested karma, for more often than not it tested you back. I forgive you for the times you strayed from the path because I know you always find your way back—that’s who you are. I forgive you for allowing how others see you define how you see yourself. I forgive you for anger and regret, for unexplained sadness and intentional cruelty. I forgive you because I love you and want what is best for you, and I know the only way to achieve this is to forgive, and to move on.

With love, 

Becca of 2018 


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