This I believe:
I believe in self-forgiveness. Six years before having my brain tumor removed, I noticed something was wrong. My migraines began to accelerate in frequency and deepen in acuity. My behavior became violent and prone to outbursts. I knew something was wrong, but no one, not my parents, not the doctor, not the ophthalmologist, not the neurologist, or the teacher, saw passed the behavior to the cause. I grew up in a place where no one believed me, and I learned to doubt my own instincts. I felt alienated. When I did end up in the hospital, from a seizure, those closest to me thought I was beaten in a fight and that I had it coming to me. A simple X-ray showed not only a skull fracture, but also a tumor between the brain and the medulla, all the while resting on the optic nerve. As a sidebar, I at 16 took and passed my drivers test seeing double.
Not all of the stage-two astrocytoma (stage three and four are cancerous) was removed, because of fear that there would be permanent damage to my brain, and, I am relieved to say that no regeneration has occurred in the intervening 21 years. In those 21 years, I lost three friends and nearly a fourth to cancer. I lived the painful legacy of having cheated death, and the trauma of survival.
I wanted people to notice me for having cheated cancer, for surviving, to recognize my achievement, but no one did. I thought I was special, and wondered why no one else thought so. I was not very kind to people, because they displayed nothing for me. I dwelt in a very dark corner.
And, on one very ordinary day last fall, something extraordinary happened: I forgave myself and the sun came out. I forgave myself; at age forty-two, for not being further along with my career, for not making more money, and for not accepting whom I am.
I became a regular guy with a wonderful wife and two angels for kids, a mortgage, cars that need fixing, a house that needs painting, a back yard that has been a project since we bought the house seven years ago, and a future that, for the first time I am excited about.
Each morning is a new beginning. An opportunity to look to myself for strength, not expecting others to be strong for me, a chance to be compassionate and not ostracize those I love, and as a husband, father, and teacher, the chance to explore what it means to be each, and how I can become better in every way. Forgiving ones’ self, this I believe.
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