forgiveness is a continual work

(on going to a convalescent home) I have been going there for four years now. I don’t even really look forward to it, but I keep going back for reasons I do not quite understand. Perhaps I am subconsciously hoping it will help me get into the Junior League someday. Still, the moment I walk in and smell those old people again, and find them parked in the hallways like so many cars abandoned by the side of the road, I start begging God not to let me end up like this. But God is not a short order cook, and these people were once my age. I bet they used to beg God not to let them end up as they have….and I struggled to find meaning in their bleak existence. What finally helped was an image from a medieval monk, Brother Lawrence, who saw all of us as trees in winter, with little to give, stripped of leaves and color and growth, whom God loves unconditionally anyway. My priest friend Margaret, who works with the aged and who shared this image with me, wanted me to see that even though these old people are no longer useful in any traditional meaning of the word, they are to be loved unconditionally, like trees in the winter. – Anne Lamott, Bird By Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life

When it is time for the winter of my life, I hope to move through it without any regrets, grudges and old angers. I hope to not be bitter when I am parked in the nursing home hallway like a car on the side of the road. I hope to be joyous even if I am an invalid and have to have someone else take care of my personal needs. I hope to be spending my last days anticipating my Home-going and looking forward to see my Heavenly Parent.

The only way to have those things come to pass is for me to forgive. And let go. And remind myself that I have forgiven and let go each time the old pain surfaces, until, finally, there is no more pain to surface. I am beginning to believe that forgiveness is not a onetime deal, even for the same incident. If the pain goes deep – really deep – we’re talking inner self deep – then forgiveness is a continual work. Like the proverbial onion, there are many layers to hurt and pain and with each one peeled off and cast aside, there is always a new one underneath until we eventually reach the core.

With that in mind, I understand that it is okay to forgive someone for hurting me and when something else surfaces that is a painful reminder of the original hurt, I tell myself “I have forgiven that person and I choose to do so again.”
All pain and hurt is relative to the person experiencing it. In other words, what is painful to me is not necessarily painful to another. The deepest pain is the hardest to heal and forgive. Someone else might see my struggle as futile and repetitious just as I might see their struggle and wonder why it is taking them so long to forgive. We all need to be mindful of how we approach another person’s healing process. God is ever patient; so must we be with ourselves and others.

Help me, O Lord, as I pull back another layer of pain in order to forgive.

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Holding On versus Letting Go

Artists have great strengths – and extremely complicated weaknesses.
It’s part of how God created them.
They feel things deeply and therefore can craft moments that tap into
what others feel but can’t seem to express.
Yet this very strength – feeling things deeply –
can drive artists to self-doubt, perfectionism, and fear of failure.
Nancy Beach, An Hour on Sundays

God, in His Infinite Wisdom created all types of people – ones who feel deeply and ones who don’t. Ones who hold on to grudges and pain and ones who let things go. There is a balance in life and perhaps one of our tasks while on this earth is to live within the balance rather than in one of the extremes.

I have a curious mix of both. I hold on to past grudges like a child holds on to candy. But, like my male parental unit, I drop people, careers and things out of my life without a second thought – when it is time to be done, it’s done.

Why is it I am able to dump the exterior stuff out of my life so completely and yet hold on to the interior grievances so well? Is there a connection? I have a sneaking suspicion there is. Maybe one of the reasons is I don’t want to experience any more pain so I make vain attempts to bury grudges while jettisoning the outward pain-possibilities before they become too painful. Does that even make sense?

The connecting factor between these too opposites is not quite clear, in fact, not clear at all. It is something that will need to be mulled over, masticated if you will, and in time I will understand.

What would happen if I did the opposite – eject the grudges and held on to people (maybe not careers or things) like precious gems? Would I die of pain? Would I be free from pain? Maybe my life would be so good that I would die from joy! Maybe it is the possibility that scares me – the unknown of the matter. What would I do with all the empty space in my soul that once held grudges. Since ‘nature abhors a vacuum’, what would take the place of the pain? Certainly not joy, could it?

What if I made a list of all the grudges locked up inside and systematically forgave and forgot? Is that even possible? Is the solution so simple? Well, the act might be simple to write but probably difficult to actually do. But how do I know that? Maybe it is not as difficult as I think. I think it must be because I like to make things hard on me. I am a difficult taskmaster, one not easily satisfied.

But it may be worth a try. What do I have to lose but some pain?

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no regrets

At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test,
not winning one more verdict, or not closing one more deal.
You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child, or a parent.
–Barbara Bush, Commencement address,
Wellesley College, Wellesley, Massachusetts, June 1, 1990.
William O. Foss, First Ladies Quotations Book

When I was a child my father moved us (mom, sister, me) to Virginia where we all still reside. He moved us here for his career and I hated him for it. Not only did I have to leave behind my beloved horse but my grandparents as well. The result of that move was that I didn’t spend much time with my grandparents. We only traveled back twice a year – once in the summer and at either Christmas or Thanksgiving. I missed out on some important time spent with them.

My maternal grandfather and paternal grandmother died while I was still in school so I didn’t know them as well as I did their spouses. When I was working and on my own I spent every summer vacation at my maternal grandmother’s. I was fortunate to know her fairly well but my inexperience as an adult didn’t provide the wisdom to know how fortunate I was and after about 8 years of spending summers with her I wanted to be an adult and take an ‘adult vacation’ – so I missed the last few years she was alive. I regret not seeing her when I could.

My father moved his father up to Virginia during the last few years of his life and promptly put him in a nursing home. While he was here I saw him almost every weekend, but again, I didn’t relish the limited time I had with him. I regret not seeing him as often as I could.

Now, almost 30 years on, I see my mother twice a week and sometimes I resent it; but then I remind the selfish me that she will one day go Home (hopefully not for a long time) and I don’t want to regret that I spent my days in selfishness rather than see her.

Time is short. Lives are short. Hopefully age and regrets have taught me to mark the days and take advantage of what little time I have with my mother. And with the rest of my family.

No regrets.

 

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