Healing—it’s such an interestingly common topic.
Whether it’s amongst friends, lovers, teachers and students, or in just about every self-help book, if I were an alien from outer space with no knowledge of the human history or process, I might just think humans were a community obsessed with relishing in pain and sorrow.
Now, I fully support that healing is single-handedly the most important thing any person can achieve. If we’re able to heal, and I mean really heal, that’s when we start to grow. And growth is essentially the end goal of life in just about every sect of belief. Whether we call it enlightenment or heaven or choose not to define it at all, growth is the end goal.
However, if I were an alien, the fact that growth is a desire living inside every set of human bones and brains, I might also think that humans are pretty tough creatures. And even though many of them love wallowing in their sh*t, they’ve also got some pretty great ideas—ideas that usually stem from healing.
I’m writing this from a beach in Hawai’i, where I live. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, but it is certainly nothing to complain about. And although I adore the island, I think the people have to be what has helped me most. Indigenous Hawaiian culture has a name for this special kind of all-encompassing healing: Ho’oponopono.
There is no direct translation to the English language, but it essentially includes all of this: I love you, I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you.
Healing, in order to find growth and move forward, both as a person and as a nation is so important to Hawaiian culture that they coined a catch-all phrase for it. Ho’oponopono dictates unconditional love, full forgiveness of yourself as well as others, true remorse with the intent to become better, and the fullest and greatest gratitude you can muster.
But take it from me, it’s so much easier said than done. Because although I’ve learned about Ho’oponopono, it has taken me many years to learn how to live it.
Below is my story, my experience of learning to live Ho’oponopono through the lens of heartbreak after betrayal. I am here to tell you that love and loss and learning and even healing are not a one-size-fits-all journey. There is no road map to healing—and just so long as you get through better and more alive than you went in, there is certainly no wrong way to do it.
I opened up an old letter from you the other day. I keep it in the box beneath my bed with everything sacred. And although you pain me now, the letter will always stay. I can’t help but wonder if you still mean those words, even in your silence.
I’m ready. I’m here. I’m always willing.
Does always still exist for you, the way it does for me?
Hell, usually every hour. Because I don’t believe you can make someone such a huge part of your life and then turn them off like a switch.
You still exist in every memory.
Like the first time I wanted to kiss you—on that cliff at sunset. I was done up for a date, but you were ready to swim. I still say it now, believed it then; I will never hold you back from life.
And so I jumped off that cliff, holding your hand, fully clothed.
I wrote a poem about that first kiss, read by thousands,
Loved by thousands.
But mostly, it will always be loved by me.
And the time you wrote about in your letter—when we stayed up late but ended up asleep on your couch. Waking up horribly stiff, but terribly happy, as you called it.
In a tangled mess of each other, you were always the most comfort in human form I’d ever found.
Like the times we’d fight and you’d make me so sad, but I still wanted you to stay through the night. And you always did. We may have gone to bed angry, but you never let me go in sleep.
You big spooned until the sun came up; I’d roll over happy and kiss your cheeks. Problem solved. Our love had a good way of always knowing how to win. Small grievances were no match, and we both knew they’d mean little in the long haul.
So where did that go?
Or the time we took your sailboat out, over to another island, or at least we tried. You were a bit new to sailing, at least on your own boat, and the winds were bad.
So we sat like ducks in the middle of the Pacific ocean, halfway between Oahu and Molokai, making no headway.
We rocked like the Tilt-a-Whirl and our friends all but panicked. But you played the ukulele and we all sang along. I sat in your lap until the sun set; orange over the whole sea—no land in sight.
Just us, and the color of fire.
But that was usually it, us and the fire.
We both thought we were the kind of team that could take on the whole world. It was ridiculously simple. Hardly ever feeling forced or like we needed to try. I had your back, and though you said you didn’t love me, I still know you had mine.
Because even if you’d never been in love, the way you said you hadn’t,
I’d like to think I’m the closest you ever got.
I know, because you’d routinely leave for work at 3:30 am. But I never once heard you get out of bed. Never heard you pack your things, or get ready to go. You were so careful not to wake me; you couldn’t bare the thought.
But that’s not how I know.
I know because after all that effort to wake and ready so carefully, what you couldn’t bare more than waking me was leaving without kissing my forehead first.
Waking me in those final seconds regardless.
Call it what you want. You can say you never loved me.
But love is not a noun. It’s a verb. The actions you take, the habits you partake in.
Some say the devil is in the details; I say its love.
And now I’ve realized I haven’t written about you yet, not for two and a half months. Because I was afraid of what would spill out on the page. I was angry, but I didn’t want to be.
That’s the thing about hurt: you feel rage but it’s not what you’re truly feeling. The anger is a mask for the pain of love lost. And I wasn’t ready to let the anger win. I knew I wanted to remember the love, always, no matter the price.
Because you hurt me—but my memories of you will always be happy, and I will not let them tarnish.
I’ve found healing in honoring our memories, because they are beautiful, and why spoil something in your mind when there is already so much hurt in your heart? I choose to hold sacred what was beautiful, and say my piece with the rest.
Harboring hatred, hurt, or disease will not help me forward. Or help me at all.
So I choose to let it go.
Because through it all—the highs, the lows, the joy, the confusion—you taught me this:
I do not want someone who wakes up every morning and has to wonder whether or not they want me, today.
Whether or not they want to see me;
Whether or not they want to call.
Whether or not they owe me closure, or a conversation even.
Even if when they do it is the best it could ever be.
I don’t want someone who is constantly gambling on me.
I want someone
Who wakes up
And needs me.
I don’t want to be somebody’s “whether or not,”
I want to be someone’s conscious decision—
That they love me
Need me around.
And not just to make them smile
But to make me smile
Because that is exactly who I have tried to be for you.
And then, day in and day out,
Wonder whether or not
They want to be that for me, too.
That is who I tried to be—for you.
So honestly, frankly, f*ck “whether or not.”
I want factual.
And I’m holding out for someone who knows,
That they want to show up inside my life.
So I love you, and I’m not angry with you anymore.
But I have learned. You have taught me more now than I knew then.
We call it Ho’oponopono in Hawai’i.
I love you, I am sorry, please forgive me, thank you.
Choosing to let that sh*t go, Ho’oponopono is healing in a way that leaves only space for true and full and utter correctness.
So now this is my season for correcting—of past miscommunication, hurt, confusion, changed course, and struggle. Both done by me, and unto me. This season is for letting go.
But I’ll keep your letter, and maybe wonder—always—if always willing still stands.
I hope you know, I wish it would.
So to anyone who is hurting, anyone who is afraid of what life will look like after you let go: let the uncertainty take you. Run with it like the wind. There is bravery in loving, even after the pain. Even from afar. Even with nothing in return.
Ho’oponopono: healing comes from forgiveness, of yourself and others. Healing comes from loving fully, releasing fully, and knowing fully that you are enough exactly as you come, then being strong enough to shout it from the rooftops.
Ho’oponopono means you are right on time.