We often hear the word forgiveness. But what does it really mean? How often is the one who asks for forgiveness and the one granting the forgiveness on the same page?
I avoided Wayne Dyer for nearly 50 years. Wayne wrote book after book and was often a guest of my pal Oprah, but I always flipped the channel. That guy was not for me! Way too New Age!
I am not one to attend New Age or Self Help conferences, because I might run into Wayne Dyer or one of his many followers. However, last year I had to break my Dyer-free streak. One of my most beloved mentors had announced her retirement and I wanted to join in the celebration and experience her standing in her power one more time. I had to go to her final conference.
Wouldn’t you know it….Wayne Dyer was the keynote. First horse out of the gate. I had to see what this guy was all about. Wayne quietly entered the auditorium from the back with no official fanfare, shaking hands and giving hugs like he didn’t have a care in the world. There was no entrance…he simply appeared. A calm energy came over the 3,000 people in the auditorium. Wayne spoke for almost 4 hours without a break. The stories were right from his heart and he grabbed me in a way that made up for the almost 50 years of keeping him out of my life. I later learned that how long Wayne can go without a potty break is a running joke among the other speakers.
Wayne told an amazing story of forgiveness and redemption. His father had left Wayne and his brothers at a very young age and they grew up in and out of foster care, often dependent on others, while Wayne’s mother was doing whatever she could to maintain the family. Wayne had spent many years being rightfully angry, or as he says, “in a persistent rage”. Through a series of coincidences and events that could have only been orchestrated by Bono, or perhaps the hand of God (Bono stood down for this and let God handle it), Wayne managed to find his father’s grave. With a wink and a smile he tells you that he wasn’t there to honor it in the traditional way. Wayne writes very eloquently about this on pages 144-152 of his book, I Can See Clearly Now. His exact words are “I should piss on his grave and leave.” There’s a guy with a plan I can relate to.
Wayne goes on to narrate his conversation (which of course went on for hours…Wayne style) at his father’s grave. He raged, questioned, demanded and cried; then said a final goodbye. Only at the last second, Wayne not only forgave his father, he was overcome by forgiveness. He turned back to the grave and then the final miracle fell into place. He sent him love. After that, his entire life changed. He stopped carrying that million pounds of anger around and was free. Wayne spent a lot of time speaking about forgiveness. Let me save you money on his books and talks. Forgiveness = Good. Forgiveness + Love = Better. Forgiving yourself = Best.
Going to see Wayne Dyer means you will also experience Wayne’s current picks as the next bestselling authors. Wayne is as passionate about other people’s ideas as he is about his own. The next morning one of his guys, Alex Woodard, joined the stage. I am New Age, but even I had to roll my eyes at this guitar toting guy sporting cowboy boots. Alex won me over in less than 5 minutes. He had spent years building his career playing shit gigs, and shooting for big on the country charts. In true country music style, he even lost his dog. Out of inspiration or desperation, Alex got an idea to run a promotion. He asked for people to write him letters and in return he would write a song inspired by their letters. The letters slowly came to him and Alex wrote what seemed like a bazillion free songs in hopes that he’d find that elusive hit. Years went by and he drifted in and out of the music scene and his life just seemed to stall. He was reaching but wasn’t finding. One day, Alex received a very special letter from a woman named Emily. After searching all her life, Emily had found true love in a wonderful man. All too soon, he passed away. Emily wrote this man a letter every year telling him how much she missed him and how much she loved him, but because she had nowhere to send it, she put the letters in a box. After a few years, she had grown weary of the box and decided to send her latest letter to Alex. She had heard Alex’s music, and sent it not because she wanted a song, but to return some of the gifts of songs Alex had given away.
Alex was so moved and lifted by Emily’s letter that wrote an amazing, heartfelt song. As he stood on the stage the first night he was to play the song, he had a huge realization:
A letter is like a prayer. It’s for the sender.
This song sent Alex on a path of healing and rebuilding his life and the lives of others. Standing on stage being lauded by Wayne Dyer is a pretty good recovery. After Wayne Dyer’s 20 minute introduction, Alex sang that song for Emily and another song inspired by a letter written by a mom from Sandy Hook. I blew through every Kleenex I could beg for and finally just used my shirt to mop my tears. The guy got to me. Alex touched the hearts of 3,000 and we were one vibration experiencing the letters and his songs. I’ll say that’s a great recovery. And that letter was for the sender. His album For the Sender was worthy of Wayne Dyer’s recommendation and so much more.
In researching this piece, my feelings for Alex bubbled up and maybe to get the facts straight and maybe just because I needed a little push to get to know Alex better, I bought his book. It’s a quick read, only about 7 Kleenex gave their lives up willingly for me to finish it. Alex is a Pacific Northwest guy and has played with my favorite brother-sister band members from Nickel Creek, Sean and Sara Watkins and spent some time on the road with Shawn Mullins. Nickel Creek got me through one of the hardest times of my life, so I had an even softer spot for Alex. A CD of Alex’s songs came with the book and it was like slipping into a familiar old sweater. Alex’s songs really spoke to me. And, more Kleenex gave up their lives willingly.
I thought a lot about Alex’s message. He really hit home for me. Alex’s realization that a letter is more for the sender really sent me thinking.
Sometimes an apology is for the sender, too.
I think about all the times I have crafted the perfect apology. Rehearsed my delivery. Fretted over the right time and place. During my eloquent apology I find out the person had not been hurt, or even noticed that they were wronged. Or the hurt wasn’t as big as I built it to be. The apology was for the sender. Me.
This year I had an incredible experience. I got to hear a real life sender sing their own song to me. In a letter. Well, a PM on Facebook. And that works just fine, too.
So the backstory…’cause we all have one or two. About a million years ago I graduated from University of Missouri, right in the thick of a recession. I had a degree, but really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I ended up opening the first Steak ‘n Shake franchise ever granted by the Mother Ship of Steak ‘n Shake. It was in my college town of Columbia, MO. The job had a lot going for it. It paid great, I had a lot of fun, I was good at it, and best of all…it horrified my parents.
I worked my ass off. All hours, all days. I unloaded trucks. I flipped burgers. I unclogged soda lines and learned to change fryer grease. I practically lived there the first year. The restaurant was so popular and Columbia so small that I became known as “The Steak ‘n Shake Girl”. I was even featured in a commercial. I ran into customers everywhere I went. Complaints of the long line to get in, cold food and of course, “when are you going to open another one?” I smiled politely and tried to ignore the Columbia, MO paparazzi like Beyoncé only slightly less hot and not nearly as wealthy.
One of my escapes from the restaurant was to drop off the locked bags of cash to the bank. Looking back it was kind of a dangerous job because I was often carrying 10-20 thousand dollars in cash when the managers were busy and the safe was full. I’d hop into my Toyoda Celica and zip over to the bank where the cutest teller in the whole world would count down my bank bag, deposit that cash, and get me out the door quickly and back into the restaurant. The line was for other people. I went to the front.
Guy the Bank Teller was wildly handsome and best of all, did not work at Steak ‘n Shake. And he was mad not for the Steak ‘n Shake girl, but for Melissa Mattern. Me. And I loved that. I got to go out and shed the restaurant and just be me. And he took me to nice places where Steak ‘n Shake patrons didn’t go. We had a whirlwind romance. We were young and in love, but it ended badly. I’m not sure how it ended because I only remember how much fun I had and how nice it was having someone like me for me. And, Guy could picnic like a madman and I dug picnics.
I hadn’t thought much about him until a few months ago when I received a Facebook friend request from some guy named Guy. Since launching the Whispers From Your Angels website I’ve gotten a lot of Facebook friend requests, but I do look before I accept. I thought to myself “I think I dated a guy named Guy, this might be him” and clicked OK to the request.
Two minutes later I got a PM that was very simple. “You are amazing and I was stupid and scared back in 1986. I must say I’m sorry that I was a stupid ass.”
I was dumbfounded. My life had gone on and I had loved some really great men and I considered Guy one of them. To some degree Guy had held onto this for almost 30 years. “Stupid ass” were not words I would associate with him. I didn’t remember what had happened, only that we had fun and it had ended. In fact the relationship was so fast and so furious that I had no pictures of us. Maybe that was a blessing. In my mind it was bittersweet, came and went quickly, and always made me smile.
Alex’s words came right to me. Sometimes a letter, or a PM, is for the sender. I was so honored to be able to answer Guy back with the closure he needed. And also to give him back the smile he gave me. And that letter, too, was for the sender.