Finding Peace in Forgiveness.

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

This post is longer than is usually the case, but given the subject matter, I am sure that you will understand. Thank you for taking the time to read and experience it.

My father passed away almost two weeks ago. When a parent dies, it seems that most children feel a sense of sadness, longing, grief and in some cases, regret for missed opportunities and all that will never be. However, those thoughts and feelings are often tampered by the gratitude and precious memories that you shared with this man, your father.

A couple of months ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends called to tell me that her father had passed. Upon hearing the news, tears flowed and I was overwhelmed by a sense of grief, sadness and gratitude. The grief was present for obvious reasons; the sadness because a special man was gone from this world; the gratitude, because as fate would have it, I became best friends with his daughter and through her, was able to see and feel all that the word “dad” entailed, and the importance of the role of a father-figure in one’s life. Nevertheless, when I learned of my father’s passing, I felt a sadness, as I would when told of anyone’s death, but more prominently, there was a visceral void.

I suppose that you can say that our relationship was complicated. You see, he turned his back on our family when I was only five years old. When I say that he turned his back, I mean that his leaving was so complete that it was as if he disappeared from the face of the earth, certainly from my world. In fact, he did for about 11 years. At the time he left, I was the oldest of three girls and my Mom was left to raise us by herself, with no contact or support from my father. As a young child, I didn’t have the tools necessary to comprehend my father’s actions, so for the most part, I was confused, and even guilty, thinking that his actions were my fault. As I grew older those feelings transformed into resentment and anger, feelings that failed to change even after he began making the occasional appearance in our lives. He came bearing gifts, but none that I wanted or needed.

The truth is that I didn’t know this man and I knew no more about him than the passing stranger. What I did know was that he wasn’t there to give us food, shelter, clothing or love. He wasn’t there when I had measles or chicken pox, to pick me up when I fell or to soothe my tears over some perceived devastation that all children endure. Complicating the matter is the immutable fact that he is the man who gave me life, and my rational and logical mind knows that were it not for him, I would not be writing this post.

As is expected, people continue to express his or her sympathy at my loss. I’ve noticed that people use the words “father,” and “dad” interchangeably, and when the word “dad” is chosen, I feel very uncomfortable.  I find it impossible to apply that word to our relationship. In fact, I feel wrong even trying to do so. My mind keeps returning to the same question: what is the difference between a “father” and a “dad?” Why have I always been unable to refer to this man as anything but my father? In fact, more often than not, I instinctively referred to him by his first name, John. Yet, this is a topic for another place and time.

In reality, I’ve been pulled between the angry, confused and sad child that my father deserted, and the older wiser me that realizes that his actions were about him, not me, and that the anger and resentment has harmed me much more than it hurt him. I don’t know how to feel about a man who is a virtual stranger to me, but is a primary cause of my presence in this world. The icing on the cake is that as one of his next of kin, I am the one who has to make post-death arrangements, as well as pay for them. My inner child is stumping and screaming that life is not fair.

Yet, as often happens with life, a sense of closure occurs in the most unexpected ways. In my case, I was standing in line at the pharmacy after having had an amazing experience with my yoga therapist, which I will write about in a later post. I was next in line and I casually noticed that someone had gotten in line behind me. It is a dapper elderly man whom I later learned was a young 82 years, and  a transplanted Californian who moved to Austin five years ago. He said, in a friendly and sincere voice, “How are you today?” The question moved me because so often these days, people don’t take the time to concern themselves with others. This man was different. I turned toward him as I answered and politely asked, “And how are you?” His response took me by surprise. He said, “I am better than great. I couldn’t possibly be better!” I suppose that his answer intrigued me because I can’t recall feeling that way in some time.

As we continued our conversation, I learned that he and his wife had grown children, with lives of their own. Five years ago, they decided that with their children gone and they had no reason to tie themselves to California. They decided to set out to discover a new place to live. Serendipity brought them to Austin, Texas and he is, by all accounts an amiable and happy man. For reasons that I didn’t understand at first, I felt an undeniable bond with this stranger, this man who I’d never laid eyes upon. Before long, it was my turn in line, so I started toward the counter. All of a sudden, I experienced one of those proverbial ‘light bulb’ moments, and in my heart, I knew both why I’d met this man and why he’d affected me so much.

I turned back to him with intense curiosity. Although I hadn’t realized it before, there were definite similarities between him and my father. He was the same height and build with a similar hair cut and the same quick smile for strangers. When I was a kid, this was the type of man who I’d always imagined my father to be. I believe that there is a reason for everyone that we meet and that they arrive at the exact moment when we most need them. Even in his passing, my heart yearned for a compassionate, loving and attentive father who loved and hugged me liberally. I longed for a father just like this man, and I believe that this man represented all that I did not have in a father, and that, if for only a short while, he was God’s blessing to me.

Unconsciously, I reached out to him, grabbed his hand, and thanked him for his kindness. For reasons that I still cannot explain, I felt compelled to explain to him that my estranged father had just died and that meeting him was the balm to my soul that I’d desperately needed. He expressed sympathy and thanked me for bestowing such an honor on him. He hugged me in a fatherly way. I turned back toward the counter, picked up my scripts, waved goodbye and continued on my way.

I was aisles away from the pharmacy picking up a few items when I heard someone call out to me. It was my new “friend.” He’d searched the store for me because he wanted to properly introduce himself and learn my name. He told me that “When he thought about our meeting, he wanted to know my name,” and believed that every experience was a gift to treasure. We exchanged introductions, shook hands and turned to go on our ways.

As I walked away, I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders and an overwhelming sense of peace filled that hollow in my heart. I experienced a letting go, and a sense of forgiveness that eluded me during my father’s life, but now was possible at his death. It is true, forgiveness is more for you than the other. I do not claim to have let go of years of anger, resentment, disappointment and longing in a matter of 15 minutes. Yet, I’ve begun the process and to me, that is profound. As I attend to my father’s post-death arrangements, I intend to extend him the peace and respect that I never received from him. Doing so, brings me peace. It seems to be coming together, as it should be.

Blessings, Lydia

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Quote Tuesday

English: Each Path to its own success and New ...

English: Each Path to its own success and New Beginnings… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I read a recent Kelly Rae Roberts blog post, she reminded me of this William H. Murray quote that I love:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Blessings, Lydia

Quote Tuesday

path

path (Photo credit: Elephant wearing striped pants)

Just move one step in the direction of our soul’s longing. Do not worry about where it leads. Don’t try to imagine the specifics of what you will eventually create; it will come.

~Ann O’Shaughnessy

The Missing Pieces

Pieces of a puzzle

Pieces of a puzzle (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond. ~Rumi

For some time now, I haven’t posted regularly to this blog. It is not that I’ve lost interest in it. In fact, I realize that I need it more than ever, but I’ll get back to that later. Anyway, for months, my head has been stuffed with so many complex thoughts that it has been impossible to separate the wheat from the chafe. If I am to be honest, more often than not, my thoughts are not happy, happy thoughts, but those that I like to pretend don’t exist.

I mean, who wants to admit that, more often than not, their head bombarded with negative self-talk. Who wants to acknowledge that they are oftentimes overwhelmed with sadness and depressing thoughts that they can’t seem to shake. More importantly, I convinced myself that no one wanted to read about my particular bouts with my own ‘darkness of the soul.’ No, that would certainly fall into the category of t.m.i. (too much information).

Granted, this is a personal journey blog. With that said, it touches upon the inevitable thoughts, feelings and challenges that I experience on my journey towards self-discovery, mindfulness, and inner awareness. I created this blog, not to sell or market any product or service. I did not create it with the intention of attracting scores of readers; although I welcome and treasure each person who happens by. I created it as a forum upon which I could be a witness to my thoughts, feelings and impressions, and where I could confront my ego self and come to know my real self. In other words and without the woo-woo words and phrases, I wanted to tell my story, and more importantly, uncover my truths and expose the lies that I tell myself.

The thing is that I’ve come to realize is that from the beginning, I’ve censored my story. Except in passing, I choose not to write about fibromyalgia and the way it has a firm grip on me and every facet of my life. I didn’t write about the feelings arising from the loss of a hard-fought for career as an attorney, and the resulting loss of self-esteem. I didn’t write about the effect of constant pain on the body. I didn’t write about my loss of independence, which having grown up poor, was essential to me. I didn’t write about the irony of the yearned for ‘clean slate’ at the very time that my health prevents me from acting upon it. I didn’t write about the grief that etched itself into my being, and I certainly didn’t write about the depression that sometimes overwhelms me and brings with it a blanket of loneliness, darkness and at times, hopelessness. I’ve created a blog that embraces the positive, while denying the more difficult and undesirable truths about myself.

Yet, these missing pieces are, like those of a puzzle, integral to my story, to who I am and to who I am meant to be. Without exploring and integrating them, my story is incomplete and in some cases, prone to inaccurate conclusions. Without experiencing life’s lows, we cannot fully appreciate its’ highs. Similarly, to know and appreciate the light, it is necessary to welcome the darkness. I intend to begin doing just that.

I’ve learned that blogging, like journaling, is an invaluable tool that allows me to piece together things about myself that were previously unnoticed. In my case, I writing has always given me the opportunity to be open and honest about my thoughts and feelings, while, at the same time, forcing me to acknowledge and accept them in a new and different way.  It is through writing that I’ve uncovered valuable details about, for instance, why I believe and do the things that I do.

Granted, I am not turning this blog into a litany of ‘poor me’ posts. Instead, I will strive for balance, and as Rumi writes, I will meet the darkness, depression and other negative thoughts, and invite them in. Yet, I can assure you that I won’t be laughing as they waltz on in. Instead, I will begin with a grudging respect, for they are an undeniable part of who I am. 

Blessings, Lydia