I am a huge fan of Sunday afternoon television on the Oprah Network. Today, I watched a rerun of Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant’s special on fatherless men. I am not a man, but I am fatherless. I felt I could relate in some way, so I watched. One statement stuck with me, although many moments came into my soul with a powerful roar.

“Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past could be any different.”
Iyanla Vanzant

I fumbled for my computer so I could remember the words. I had to get them down as fast as possible.

I have much to forgive in my life. Many turns I chose to take that I questioned later in life. There were countless things beyond my control that I prayed I could just wish away.

I forgive myself for the thirty plus years of telling myself, “if only _____________.” Fill in the blank.

On July 15, 1983, my father died. I have spent the last thirty years wondering who I would be if he still walked the Earth. Would I have more self-esteem? Would I have stayed in school? Would I have ever done drugs? Would I have tattoos and piercings and premarital sex? All these fantasies swirl around in my brain. It all boils down to one basic idea.

Would I be DIFFERENT or BETTER had I been raised with my father?

The epiphany that came crashing down for me was that there is no guarantee that any of that would be true. There is no proof that I would be any better today had I had my father.

I speak often about the guilt and struggles that have come with being the parent of a child with special needs. What I don’t speak of enough is the real guilt I feel as a recovering addict. In the arena of forgiveness, this is where my biggest battle lies. Can I give up the hope that the past would be any different? Of course I can; it just takes a little work and a shift in the language I use when telling my story.

I AM BETTER today than I was yesterday. The fact that I hurt my soul and body with substances can’t change that the past won’t change, and that is the fact.

I spent the last seven years battling the demons of shame and hurt. I spent the last seven years trying to shake the idea that had I been different, my life would look different. I get it now, so loud and clear. It is like a bright light held in front of my eyes. I will never know if my life would have played out differently if I had been different.

Forgiveness is the one thing that can hold you down and prevent you from living the life you dream of. Forgive yourself for not being perfect or for being a recovering addict or a single mother or a million other perceived defects.

Without forgiveness, I could not have walked on in the face of fear. Today, I am a strong woman and mother. I am a powerful advocate for those who walk a different path. I am a yoga teacher, small business owner, and writer. Forgiveness made room for all of the above to take hold in my life.

What would shift if you forgave yourself? What would shift if you knew that you only had to give up the hope that the past could have been any different?

Rachel Pastiloff is an author, yoga teacher, amateur chef, special needs advocate, and mother living in Atlanta, GA with her husband and two sons. In 2009, Rachel’s oldest son was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome, with a diagnosis of autism to follow. The diagnosis was traumatic and forever altered the course of her life. Rachel has made it her mission to educate the world about children who have special needs and their parents and caregivers. For more on Rachel visit her blog or follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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