My story begins with childhood, which was fraught with difficulty, through a tumultuous adolescence and young adulthood. Looking back all the things that happened, I wonder how I made through all that at such a young age. The one thing I remember holding constant throughout it all is my belief in myself.
My childhood was chaotic. My parents lived separately until I was about 13, when they started living together and we became a family under one roof. But my father was an alcoholic. He got drunk and abused my mother, my brother, and me. Then, when I was 16, I learned that my mother used to date one of my fathers’ friends. This discovery changed my life. I stopped listening to parents. I stopped believing in them. Before I knew about my mother’s affair I was a bright student at school, despite all the chaos. I had believed in my mother in a situation where my father was unreliable. I thought she was my protector.
Later I felt a severe insecurity. I started moving from one relationship to another, looking for someone who would ensure that they would be there for me, no matter what. The men my age did not know or care enough to give me the security. They probably did not understand what I was looking for—but then, neither did I.
I was constantly feeling irritated, gloomy, and psychologically hurt. My academic performances dropped dramatically. I had to take my high school exam three times to qualify for university. When I was 20, just before starting university, I started working in a hotel. A manager there, who said he was 28, invited me out. Pretty soon, we started an affair, and he took my virginity.
Within three months of working in that hotel, I was pregnant. After that, the manager avoided me, so I complained to the board of directors. They gave me the worst news yet: My manager was 36 years old and already married, with a pregnant wife. The board of directors arranged for me to have an abortion, put $250 in my bank account, and sent me home.
Having sex before marriage is taboo in my country—certainly grounds for shaming. Abortions are even worse; they are illegal. By age 20, I’d had both experiences. Girls at the university criticized how I walked, talked, dressed, and smiled. They acted alarmed if I smiled at a man. Guys saw me as a slut and they rejected me. Neighbors gossiped about me and pitied me. They lamented what an unfortunate girl I was, despite being so beautiful and bright. Even my own mother criticized me for not being a virgin.
But I did not fail. I did not commit suicide. I trusted the man I was with; I was attuned to the slightest kind word he offered me, because I craved affection. He ended up taking advantage of my situation. I was an innocent, hurt, lost child… but I was not a sinner.
Soon after having my abortion, I went to university and completed a science degree. When I went to university, I engaged in endless extracurricular activities to keep my mind off the demons that plagued me. I cried a lot and kept myself busy with sports and studies as much as possible. I not only graduated from university after four years with a science degree and second class honors, upper division, but also earned university colors for basketball.
During this time, I did not take revenge. I believe that to seek revenge is to commit sin. Had I chosen this path, I would have become a sinner. I did not feel guilty about anything. Just because I was trapped in awful situations did not mean that I was a sinner, so I decided that I was not a sinner, nor would I be.
I never discussed the complete pain that was torturing me inside with anyone. I felt that I could not have done so, even if I wanted to, because of the judgment I would face. I did not blame or insult my parents or the man who took advantage of a situation I had no control over. But my loving-kindness meditation is still focused on such people in this world.
It is easy to exercise compassion towards those who love you or are neutral to you. Compassion and kindness toward such people occurs almost naturally, without much effort. But exercising compassion toward someone who has hurt you takes extra effort. This is a conscious decision we have to make when such situations arise.
If you are new to loving-kindness meditation, begin by being mindful and choosing to express feelings of compassion, rather than revenge. After a considerable amount of practicing loving kindness, this can become your nature and your habitual response to similar situations. An ideal state of loving kindness is when individual’s mind is freed from anger and hatred permanently, but this has been attained only by the enlightened one and his arhat followers.
All we can do is remain mindful that our anger doesn’t develop in to the state where it is deleterious to others. Relentless anger can lead people to lie, murder, develop addictions, act unreliably, or be hurtful, like the people who instigated our anger in the first place. It is important to remember that people are imperfect—that is exactly why we need to practice compassion toward one another. If people were flawless, society would have no use for concepts such as love, kindness, compassion, empathy, sympathy, etc. Why? Perfect people do not need compassion from another. I am a Buddhist by religion. I made a conscious decision to hate neither the man who impregnated me, nor anyone else. I stick to that vow no matter what.
I am now a professional. I earn a good salary, I live a comfortable life, and I’m almost 30. And I feel special, because I know how to forgive. I am not perfect. I have relationship issues and still get hooked in unhealthy relationships. But I’m working on it, and I will find a good man soon!
My advice to anyone is: Harmlessness of your intentions is the source of real self-esteem. It is the most powerful inner strength we possess. It gives us the ability to believe in ourselves when everything seems wrong. So be conscious about your own intentions and believe in their purity. It is an immense pleasure to share my story with you. Good Luck !
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