turn away from the past

When one door closes, another opens;
but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that
we do not see the one that has opened for us.
– Alexander Graham Bell

I have heard this adage all of my life – when one door closes, another one opens – or an alternative – when God closes a door, He opens a window. I have heard it said from friends, relatives, and characters on television shows. But do I really believe it? Do we, as humans, believe it? I like think so, with a large number of us optimists, or at least hopeful for the future. But I have never heard the rest of the quote by Mr. Bell. And that second part is far more powerful and meaningful than the over-used adage.

We all spend too much time looking back – we look back in regret, in longing for times gone by, in feeling the pain from long-ago wounds, and in the joy that once was ours. Looking back is good – it always pays to see where we’ve come from. The danger is in looking too long, so long that we forget to live for the future or even today. The danger is in looking so longingly at that closed door, as Mr. Bell tells us, that we forget the future.

Of course I have to interject with a Harry Potter reference (for those of you who don’t know, both the Harry Potter books and the movies are extreme favorites of mine and have been read and seen by me multiple times) – in the first book/movie, Harry discovers the Mirror of Erised and he finds he is drawn by its power to show him what he most desires. He spends much of his spare time in front of it, so much so that Dumbledore tells him that it will be moved somewhere else in the castle and not to go looking for it. “This mirror gives us neither wisdom nor truth…” I bring this up because like Harry, we can spend too much time gazing into the past hoping for a different outcome of the now.

The only way to keep from wasting away in front of the Mirror is to purposely turn our face/mind/heart away and set it toward the now and the future because that is where life is and where life is going. Few, if any of us, have a Dumbledore character in our lives; but we do have God and if we chose to reach out to Him, He will reach back and bring us gently along the path of our choosing, using every opportunity to bring us closer to Himself.

Turn away, but turn wisely.

Turn away, and turn with regrets washed away in understanding and love.

Turn away, but turn toward the now and the future.

Turn away, remembering the Love that sustains you Always.

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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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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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