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During an episode of Oprah Winfrey’s Life Class last year, she quoted someone as saying “Forgiveness is letting go of the hope the past can be changed.” I have thought of that many times since then. Am I holding on to the past because I still have hopes it can be changed?

I started thinking about the things I had done or left undone–all the coulda, woulda, shoulda-things. I thought about the things others had done to me that had changed my life in ways i wished I could undo. All the ‘if only I had’ or ‘hadn’t’ thoughts. And I realized how much space those things take up in my life.

I started making a mental list of everything I could think of, but there were just so many things. So I decided to write them down–everything I wished I could change from the past.

Some of them seemed silly when I looked at them. Really, do I still regret not being able to ask my Mother if I could take ballet lessons when I was in first grade? I can still see the black patent leather cases my friends carried with pink ballerinas in pointe shoes printed across the front. I really wanted to go do dance class and have one of those bags. But for some reason, I thought my Mother would say, ” no,” so I never asked. Mind you, I did eventually take ballet lessons and learn to dance in pointe shoes, so why do I still think about that? If I had started 6 years earlier, would I have succeeded in becoming a professional dancer? I suppose what I really would like to change is the confidence I didn’t have then.  And sometimes still don’t.

Then there were bigger things. The lying to my parents about how I got a black eye and split lip on my first date to protect someone else (no, not the man who hit me.) And that I never got to talk to anyone about the fact that I was very nearly raped on my first date and was lucky to end up with just the black eye and split lip. That I had to keep all my pain and grief inside. Most of all, what if I made it possible for another young woman to be hurt by him?

There were the myriad poor decisions regarding who I dated or didn’t. The money I spent and shouldn’t have. The never having a child that I always thought I would have. That my life isn’t at all what I would have imagined it would be now.

So i went down the list, one by one and thought about each one. Then, one by one, I crossed each one out and cried and let them go. I let go any whisper of hope that any of them could be changed.

As my tears subsided,  I felt as if a weight was lifting off my heart. I think I actually felt my heart open. And now I think there is room for so much more happiness to come.

I know that some people have things in their past that are much harder to leave behind. But anything you can leave behind makes room for something new to come into your life. So think about adding some forgiveness to your life.