pri.org

My friend Josh and I were recently comparing notes on e-trading. Day-trading, to be specific. Josh spends most of his free time doing it: up an hour or two before the market opens, studying and investing. I’ve done a little of it, and have been successful on a small scale. But I’ve noticed that e-trading messes with my peace of mind. It makes me even more nervous than I already am. I told Josh that I’d swapped out morning e-trading for morning Blogging. No adrenaline rush; no financial ‘score’, but quiet, meditative mornings and no losses.

Josh had questions, so we talked a little more about Blogging. How many Posts had I written (since I began on April 27, 2019)? How many Views was I getting? Hearing my answer to question one, Josh asked, “Where the —- do you get your ideas ?!” Eyebrows raised. My response was frustratingly (for him) simple, I think:  Just by Living Life and being observant: of my own feelings, and the feelings and experiences of those around me.

pri.org

It’s true. Most of the time I write because I’m listening to, thinking about, or feeling something that needs exploring. As I get into the topic (I never know whether or not I’ll Publish until I finish), I have to feel like I’m learning something new about myself, and about Living Bravely, as I put it on my Main Page. I have to feel like what I’ve learned might be of some value to other people.

Every once in a while, however, a topic comes into my mind and heart that feels extremely personal. I write to soothe and release something that’s causing me pain; like finally digging out a thorn, gifted by the rose bush I pruned a week ago; deeply stuck and aching.

warrenphotographic.co.uk

I’ve always loved animals – especially cats and dogs. (As a kid I also had birds, rabbits, snakes, fish, lizards and wild creatures rescued and nursed back to health.)  When we moved into the house where I currently live, the large yard seemed perfect for pets: two puppies from the animal shelter; two weeks-old kittens rescued from a parking lot and a soccer field. As time goes by, of course, these spunky little creatures, full of life, mature and grow old. It’s never easy to hear, when a pet you’ve had for well over a decade tells you “it’s time to go”.

Having faced this reality with one of my cats on Wednesday of this week ( a lot of tears and a lot of tissues; a very compassionate veterinarian), I hadn’t even recovered emotionally when one of my dogs collapsed two days later. She’d been severely arthritic and now couldn’t move, whimpering in pain. Bless You, Dr. Mobile Vet: the super nice guy came that very morning.

“All Creatures Great and Small” telegraph.co.uk

But I wasn’t ready for the reality- check he gave me. The vet watched me with my dog, trying to help her stand — her hind legs kept buckling — so he could examine her. With a kind, and sorrowful face he looked down at us and said, “This is Assisted Living. This isn’t the way you, or your dog, want to live. Am I right?” His words outed me. I’d become a Care Provider to my animals – first my cat, then my dog – not even noticing that no one was happy or thriving. Enormous energy expended, in just trying to keep them alive and comfortable. This very experienced, wise and compassionate man (Patrick) then gave me a gentle lecture about what I needed, versus what the cat and the dog needed. I know it sounds simple, but, whether you’re providing care for a loved one or a beloved pet, perspective gets skewed and boundaries get blurred; it’s partly why care providers – especially those who’re caring for family members – become crazed with emotional and physical exhaustion.

When we deeply love a person or pet whose Race is Run and it’s time to stop, the Heart is seldom clear about the exact right time to say ‘goodbye’. This week I had to accept that my own reluctance to ‘let go’ was far less important than honoring Life and its natural cycle. Even as they left my Life, my animals were gracious in their last lessons about Love.

thedailymash.co.uk

I love poetry, and admire all poets:  established, fledgling, and even those who’ve yet to put  their feelings into words. Reading poetry, for me, evokes the same kinds of emotions I get from almost all artistic expressions:  I intuitively understand that the Artist is hoping to reach some deeper part of me. And I submit, willingly; enthusiastically; with relief.  Poetry is like an intimate conversation between the Poet and the Reader; but one that allows the Reader to step away, take time to process and absorb, then come back. As many times as is needed, or desired. Some poetry (much of it, really) is so poignant and eternal in its power that it can’t be felt or withstood by the human heart in just one ‘dose’. Instead, it begs to be read, over and over again, as time passes and our perspectives change.

bookriot.com

To some, classical poetry, prose, sonnets, etc. might seem way too “dated”. Awkward speech, elusive references – so difficult to access, and find meaning in. But, like music, painting, sculpture, photography, and almost any other artistic expression you can think of, poets have their own unique ways of connecting with our hearts and minds.

Think of it this way:  in our daily experience of living, many of us have intimate friends; as well as  acquaintances, work colleagues, and a bazillion ‘superficial’ connections. Only our intimate friends might hear our innermost thoughts and feelings. In times of great loneliness and despair – or during utter jubilation — the right poet can touch , and comfort your heart in ways that even a dear friend can’t.  A poem can ‘speak’ your exact emotions as you’re searching for the words; or, searching for the courage to express them. ( Enter the mega-million dollar industry of greeting cards).

Today I was reflecting on – and trying my best not to feel discouraged by – recent horrific episodes of gun violence in the United States, which now seem to happen on a daily basis here. Exhausted by the chatter ( so much Talk, so little Action) on social media, I turned to a poem. Brace yourselves, younger readers:  it was written in 1802.

The very first line, etched in the minds and hearts of all English Literature (my undergrad) students – is so applicable as to be heart-breaking, in the context of our seemingly disconnected – from what truly matters – collective State of Being. Although this poem was written to express the writer’s despair about the Industrial Revolution in the United States – a time of huge unrest and economic upheaval for the majority of citizens – it also aptly describes our 21st century conundrums and terrors in a bold, yet tender, and deeply prescient way:

“The World is too much with us; late and soon. Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers. Little we see in Nature that is ours. We’ve given our hearts away…This sea that bares her bosom to the moon; the winds that will be howling at all hours, are gathered up now like sleeping flowers. For this, for everything, we are out of tune:  it moves us not.”

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William Wordsworth continues his lamenting in this poem. I’ve only included the lines that express my own feelings of helplessness on this day, contemplating the grief that survivors of two mass shootings, in 48 hours, must be feeling.

Poetry is a quiet place to turn, when the World is too loud, too oppressive, too chaotic. It’s also a gentle reminder to reflect:  have we laid to ‘waste our powers’ and ‘given our hearts away’ in certain aspects of Life? Are we so ‘out of tune’ with Nature that its beauty and grace pale, compared to so many distractions?

thehardtimes.net

Some might tell me, “Get over it; that’s how Life is!” They might scoff at the very idea of trying to make sense of senseless acts. Clearly, there is no “sense” in random acts of hate and cruelty; that’s not the point of my reflection today. More importantly,  since Wordsworth’s 1802 poem (and even much before that), there’s plenty of evidence that human beings haven’t yet ‘given our hearts away’ as a species. I’m focusing on that today, taking comfort in a very old poet’s thoughts; hoping they’ll be shared and felt in countless ways; in ways that make a difference, as we all continue searching for words.

poet Maya Angelou, 1929-2014

It’s natural  to search for meaning, some sort of anchor or True North in all of existence, following the untimely death of someone in your family or friendship circle. It can feel like you’ve fallen off of a cliff:  arms and legs cartwheeling, trying to grab hold of something, anything, to slow down the momentum of this new reality.

Trying to comfort someone who’s grieving is almost as difficult,  as I recently experienced with a friend. Words are just words. Cards and flowers are meant to express love and care, but can feel like absurd gestures when offered to a widow who was expecting another 30 years with her husband. Loss can feel like such a solitary thing, especially in Western culture. We tend to perceive the grief process as something that can never truly be felt, never fully experienced, by anyone but the closest person left behind. In my friend’s home, wooden blinds tightly covered her windows; she seldom went outside; and visitors, even friends, felt like intruders (as she later told me). As I thought about what I could, or should do as her friend – if anything – I recalled a travel experience that comforted me in its dramatic contrast.

I was in Egypt, walking with my companions through a square in Cairo, at around 10 o’clock at night. There were so many people out and about: a chaos of jostling bodies packed so closely that it almost felt intentional; a kind of slow, seductive dance that a thousand or so people were engaged in; enjoying the relative cool of the evening. One of my friends was Egyptian – totally used to this scene — who held tightly to my hand, pulling me along in the crowd as we pushed toward our destination (a coffee bar). The lights in the square were pale gold orbs on top of tall, futuristic-looking poles:  not bright enough to fully illuminate our walk, but some help in the growing dark. The lights washed the faces in the crowd in sepia tones. It was an odd, dreamy, slow-motion party filled with animated conversation in Arabic or Farsi (and probably other languages as well).

The coffee bar we were headed to was in a swank hotel on the Nile River. It felt like everyone in the square was headed there also. As we made our progress, I heard a loud, high-pitched scream: more of a wail, now that I think back on it. Knowing what can happen in large cities at night, I instantly assumed there’d been some kind of violence. I felt a little panicky. But my Egyptian friend didn’t react to the first, nor a second scream; he just kept pulling me along at the same pace. The crowd didn’t seem agitated either. I kept looking behind me, expecting some awful visual. Peoples’ bodies behind us were parting to allow what I thought might be law enforcement through.

All in black, some faces covered and some clearly visible, murky shapes of women were forging through the nighttime crowd, 2or 3 abreast. They were shrieking and crying, raising their arms above their heads. Their cries were painfully loud and visceral. The emotion vibrated in my body and made tears well in my eyes. It felt overwhelming. My friend gave a quick tug on my hand, indicating  that we should stop walking and step aside to let the women by. It seemed that at least 100 women passed us, all sobbing in the most heartfelt way. Next, a group of men came from behind the women, holding what looked like a stretcher on their shoulders. I was completely transfixed: there was a human body on the stretcher (wrapped in white cloth), and this crowd of men and women appeared to be part of a funeral procession. At 10 o’clock at night. In a crowded public square. In the middle of a sea of strangers.The grief of the mourners was not only on display, but a full-on public expression of emotional pain. The interest of the onlookers around us intensified; they began shouting out what seemed like commiseration and chanted prayers. Some tried to touch the body on the stretcher as it passed.

At the coffee bar my friends were nonchalant about what’d just happened. But I wanted and needed to talk about it; to be eased-into the idea that this was actually a very natural way for people to cope with death. As unsettling as it was, the group-catharsis I’d been a part of was also mesmerizing. I know that other cultures have similar rituals, but this one, in particular, was the most primal I’d ever witnessed: a mixture of deep sadness, surrender, release and relief. The relief came in being comforted by so many others who were physically, emotionally and spiritually ‘present’ for the mourners.

When my widowed friend finally emerged from her seclusion I spoke in a flood of words: what I’d been thinking and feeling about her, and her loss. She seemed appreciative, but reluctant to talk. When she did, for just a moment, the tears came, along with the look of “What am I going to do now??” Just as quickly, however, she changed the conversation. It made my stomach hurt, to be honest. There was still so much sadness.

Everyone processes loss differently. Sometimes just surviving the day, by carrying-on with routines, is the only option. But, might being able to let loose — to scream  and howl one’s pain to the skies – as in the crowded Cairo square, with so many people engaging with you in your despair – be a healthier way of coping, than suffering in quiet solitude? How many emotions do we feel we must endure in silence because they’re too fearsome and powerful to let loose? Why are we so reluctant to let others know the depth of our sadness, while it consumes us completely? There was community, that night in the square:   a joining of people’s hearts, in the midst of unfathomable sorrow. There’s a message in that, I believe – for all who feel alone in sadness and despair – and for those of us who stand as close as we dare, wondering what to do.

Here in the U.S., June is “Pride Month”. This Community for sure  has cause to celebrate but, also obvious and factual reasons to believe that ‘the work’ hasn’t even really begun, and will not allow much rest. I’m certain that the headlines in my city, reporting ongoing injustice and violence toward human beings whose lifestyles are considered offensive, are not exclusive to where I live. I wonder, however, if a month dedicated to marginalized (and often demonized) human beings is impactful, in increasing awareness and changing minds. I used to include the word ‘tolerance’ — next to awareness (compassion, and love). But tolerance, for me, just isn’t a strong enough “ask”. I even wonder about that word, as though permission is sought, or needed for being true to one’s Self.

When I was just a child, homosexuality was not exceptional. Both of my parents were literary nerds, and Oscar Wilde was a featured favorite in our household. My father had male friends who were gay; and, my parents’ dinner parties drew male and female same-sex couples. I can still recall that, during one such party, a guest had brought Mapplethorpe’s recent coffee table book, which buzzed in the conversation all evening ! I suppose this upbringing was more European than WASP: I didn’t ‘register’ people-in-the-process-of-being-themselves as anything more than ‘different’ from my parents. It was only when I grew older that I realized the pain, the fear, and the legitimate threat experienced by non-heterosexuals.

As I mentioned in one of my previous Posts (“The Legacy of Suicide”), my mother took her own life when I was 10 years old. When I was about to turn 12, my father re-married. I adored my new step-brother Jeff immediately. He was just a year younger than me, an only-child and a bit spoiled by my step-mother. He was brilliant in math and science, and possessed a dry wit before he’d even entered the ‘ironic’ teenage years.

As we grew into those years, we remained very close. It was only when he left California to pursue his first graduate degree did I feel things between us change. When he returned, Jeff had an ‘edge’:  wary, cynical; not just witty, but sarcastic and almost mean. Unhappy. One evening in early September we were all gathered at the family home, celebrating my birthday (I was turning 30, I think). The champagne flowed freely; the house and yard reverberated with laughter. Suddenly, my step-brother shot out of the front door (I was standing on the porch with friends) and announced he was leaving the gathering. He had tears in his eyes. Jeff tried to brush past me but I grabbed him, looked deeply into his eyes and demanded to know what had happened. He told me, “I just came-out to Mother and Daddy!”. It was a punch to the gut (How did I not see this??), but I held on to him – or tried to. He wrenched away and I went inside to search for my parents.

Jeff’s life after that night took him to places – physically (he went to another out-of-state university for his PhD), and emotionally — where I could no longer connect easily with him. To his credit, when he was in town he’d always suggest a get-together. But in our parents’ home, in his mother’s presence, things were pretty horrible. As I later learned, my father had accepted Jeff’s lifestyle, but my step-mother had turned bitter, resentful and vicious. Jeff’s choice, as she saw it, had deprived her of her own anticipated future as a grandmother. It was a terrible, divisive, painful wedge in our lives.

What happened after that I can only describe as Jeff’s slow descent into a kind of ‘hell’. He ultimately married a man he seemed to truly love. But Jeff became a heavy smoker, drinker and drug-user. The only time he seemed in high spirits was while ‘high’. I remained close to him, but my love was not enough. He felt he’d betrayed his mother, and she was doing nothing to convince him otherwise.

When Jeff was in his mid-40’s, he developed an aggressive lung cancer that eventually spread to his liver and brain. He called me on the phone, to tell me when they’d first found it in his lung. He begged me not to tell our parents; he expected even more anger and recriminations from his mother. When he became critically ill, our parents thought it had all happened in less than 6 months. But Jeff had been nurturing deep sadness, confusion, and dis-ease for over 10 years. I know that, in the end, my step-mother realized the mistake she’d made. She herself connected the dots:  Jeff’s despair and decline, with how she’d responded to his sexuality – punishing him, as a profound disappointment — for years. He just wasn’t the kind of person to give his mother ‘the middle finger’ and get on with his life. So he got on with his death.

Pride Month, if it’s the best we can do in the meantime, is “ok” with me. But I know I’m not the only one who’s lost someone I love, because they just couldn’t take the pressure of trying to live and love outside The Mainstream. In my view, a ‘Month’ is just “ok”, but not in any way enough to support our fellow human beings in feeling whole, happy, and cherished.

It’s almost summer here in the U.S. I love this season, but every year at this time I regress a little, back into feelings of sadness surrounding my father’s passing. Though I wasn’t his exclusive care-giver, I was with my father every day for seveal months, and felt like I lived at the hospice home where he spent his last 6 days.

As anyone who’s attended a parent (or any beloved person) in decline knows,  ‘the end’ releases a flood of emotions. Beyond the profound grief, I felt cast-adrift from the months-long anchor of being ‘present’ for whatever might be needed. It took me a bit of time to recover my sense of Self and what I needed. When I did, I turned to my ‘answer’ to so many questions in my life, Travel.

The reason why I settled on Sicily started with seeds-planted years prior, when my father and stepmother traveled there, afterwards sharing their photos and reminiscences. It was also definitely a kind of homage to my father. And even though early summer might not be considered the ideal time to travel to Italy and Sicily, that was my available timeframe…

So, I took off on my own:  my first time traveling solo internationally. The initial flight was direct, San Francisco to Naples. As the plane descended over “Napoli”, the early-evening light shrouded Mount Vesuvius in a dreamy, sherbet-colored mix of pale blue and orange. An extraordinary vision. Once in Naples, I was then supposed to then catch shuttle to Sorrento. But due to the delayed Air France flight out of SF (everyone enjoyed first-class meals and unlimited champagne, once we were airborne), I’d missed the shuttle.  My (amazing) travel agent connected me with a private car (yes, I’ll use that company again, no question!) that got me to Sorrento in about 40 minutes:  a hair-raising high speed ride on a glittering, congested freeway that looked like a luminous gold and red snake stretched out along the Bay of Naples.

It began in Sorrento: the feeling of being held in a nurturing embrace that I was so in need of. The sea-salt smell of the air; the warmth of the people; the light filtering through the ubiquitous lemon trees (and real Limoncello); Sorrento’s proximity to Capri (which was a fantasy-like beauty unto itself); all of this jump-started the healing process, getting me ready for Sicily.

The flight from Rome to Sicily was a short hop into the vastly different “vibe” between Italy and Sicily. Everything slowed down. I’d checked-out Lonely Planet beforehand, so my itinerary was set:  Palermo, Taormina (a shimmering jewel of a city tucked into a breathtaking coastline), Messina; little seaside villages called Isola Bella and Cefalu On just the level of exploring a new place, for me, Sicily was totally unique in its beauty, art, food, relics and social atmosphere. And in terms of the indescribable calm and peace it let me borrow for a week, it was – and remains – a very special experience that restored my health and my heart.

As any Sicilian will tell you, Sicily is proudly distinct from Italy. As a traveler, I don’t think of the two as being in competition with each other; but I will say that, if your goal is to bask in a slower, super-savory, southern-Mediterranean experience that lets you just be lazy and indulgent, Sicily will prove lovingly unforgettable.

Taormina, Sicily

We’ve all heard or read the quote (a paraphrase of Friedrich Nietzsche’s) “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. If you’re one of the lucky people who’ve not yet experienced deep grief – the kind that steals your life force, dims all hope for the future, and lasts much longer than you ever imagined you could sustain emotional pain — then you probably haven’t taken Nietzsche’s philosophy for the “test-drive” it deserves. Of the many Life Lessons within the human experience, profound grief is a process that halts all but the most vital body functions needed for survival. Sometimes even food, water and sleep seem unnecessary and even absurd to the grief-stricken. In my experience, it’s not a matter of ‘becoming stronger’ in the aftermath, but more accurately, experiencing a metamorphosis.

Shortly after my son turned 18, I had a very strange encounter with this kind of grief. I became so distraught that I felt certain – and still do – that my entire body, on a cellular level, was altered by it. Like a lot of kids his age, my son had been weekend candle-burning (at both ends) as high school graduation neared. So, when he complained one March morning of a sore throat and fever, no surprise. My son stayed home from school a day or two, while I went to work after making sure he had juices and pain relievers at-hand. But by the end of the third day of illness, his fever still hovered at 103 degrees. His body was wracked with pain. He couldn’t sleep. I took him to the ER, but they were mystified. A dose of Cipro was given by injection. A few days later, we were back in the ER – at about 2:30 a.m. My son’s temperature was now 105 degrees and an Intensivist was called-down from the ICU wing to intervene. I was almost in full panic mode at that moment, but still not feeling the full brunt of what was about to come. Grief had not yet entered my heart, as extreme worry was still in charge.

There’s a special look that medical personnel give one another – it’s a signal transmitted by eyes, intensified by the half-covering of surgical mask — that telegraphs, “Uh-Oh.” Of course, I caught that look and there was no going back:  I made the leap from concerned Mom to hysterical She-Bear in a nanosecond. Stark reality was revealed in a high-speed jumble of “No-time-to-waste-your-son-is-dying” stream of words that shot out of their mouths (there were now four Intensivists crowded around my son) as they punched a thumb-sized hole in his right side and began draining his lung of what turned out to be three liters (go ahead, envision a Pepsi bottle, because that’s accurate) of infection. My horror was only surpassed by the instinct to comfort my son who was clearly in shock.

Lemierre’s Syndrome  is an “ infectious thrombophlebitis” of the jugular vein. It’s basically a sore throat that turns into an abscess that ruptures, sending nasty bacteria into this main vein and creating, very rapidly, sepsis throughout the body. It is almost always fatal, crushing the heart with fluid and causing its failure. Lemierre’s is extremely rare, typically affecting males between 18 and 25, and so sudden that the patient usually dies before a diagnosis is even made. My son had had this disease for almost 8 days and had begun the dying process while in the ICU for another 9 days.

In cases of massive, full-body infection, multiple bags of IV antibiotics are strung up on metal posts that look like aluminum Christmas trees, circa the 1950’s. As I lay in the lounge-bed (picture a sort of double-recliner) they wheel in for the family when things are really bad, I’d given myself over completely to Grief. My son’s skin was waxy white. He was totally motionless. A machine was breathing for him. The machines all around the room were indicative that his body was wholly dependent on them.

The thing about Grief is, it’s so personal. It’s like your shadow – it’s yours alone, an image created as light is absorbed by your body. But the shadow of Grief lingers, even when the light goes away: flat, clumsy, gray.

It was in this “shadow form” (as it felt then), in the early morning,  that I wandered into a hallway, a short distance from my son’s ICU pod. They’d taken him in to surgery. The ‘good’ outcome was the removal of his infected lung; the ‘bad’ outcome was the strain on his heart, then death. I was so deep in my sadness that I barely noticed a very disheveled man shuffling toward me. Dazed by sleep-deprivation, I still had the thought, “How did a homeless person get on this floor?” I looked up at the man who was about 20 feet away from me now, and gave him the ‘caution’ with my eyes:  “This is not a good time to hit me up for change”.  I noticed his eyes seemed bloodshot. An alcoholic, I thought. His hair was longer, sun-bleached, and looked matted. We were the only two people in the hallway – at about 7:30 in the morning – on this hushed, serious, people-here-die floor. I kept looking at him, resigned now, to hear whatever he was going to say (just get it over with and leave me alone!), too tired to resist. In fact, I was sure that I’d start crying when he spoke. I was still sitting, and now this man was right in front of me, standing over me, sort of swaying. Like he was coming off of an all-night bender.But I didn’t smell alcohol. I could see that his clothes weren’t actually dirty, just really baggy and worn. He leaned in close, maybe 18 inches from my face. I recall thinking, “This is very, very weird”, but didn’t feel the need to brace myself for an attack of some kind. And then he spoke. One sentence. Wait — no, he couldn’t have said what I thought I heard. Shocked right out of my stupor I said, “What? What did you say???!” The man backed up a little bit, gave a small smile with his lips, not a grin at all, and repeated, “Your …son’s …going to be …ok.” And then, he did a 1-80 turn and started walking back to wherever he’d come from. I assumed I had just hallucinated, but kept looking at his back as he walked away, knowing he was real and what I’d heard I had not imagined. Who was this guy and how did he know about my son???

When my ex-husband Tom (he’d come from out of town and stayed with us at the hospital for two weeks) got back from moving his car out of a Red Zone, I told him about the man. Tom jumped up to look for him, but no luck. I described him in more detail, thinking that maybe the man was one of Tom’s Vet (Vietnam) buddies ( a lot of them now looked like hard times). But Tom said he hadn’t shared our son’s illness with anyone but his side of our immediate family. So, where did this guy come from, we wondered? There was no way a stranger could’ve entered the ICU, or heard us talking with the doctor about our son’s critical condition. As we waited for the surgeon to let us know the outcome of the surgery, we spent over an hour trying to make sense of my experience, exhausting ourselves even more, mentally.

Four hours of surgery later, my son’s sweat-soaked and bleary-looking thoracic surgeon Dr. Kwajah came to where we still sat. He told us that our son was alive, still gravely ill, but used those magic words, “He’s turned the corner”. Tom and I looked at one another and had the same thought, which we’ve talked about many times since. We were both fairly sure that our son would die and that Grief would over-take us. But someone had appeared and assured us of a different outcome. Grief can be unbearable and feel enduring. But in the shadow of it, miraculous transformations are also possible.

There’s a human behavior that completely confounds my ability to get my head — and heart — around it: When a victim or survivor of a heinous crime chooses to extend forgivenessto the one who inflicted emotional pain, injury, or even caused the death of a loved one. It’s not that I don’t understand the choice; I’m simply amazed by the grace and resilience of the human spirit.

Those who’ve been damaged by another human being — the kind of damage that takes years, and a lot of therapy to mend — have every right to shut-down, curl into a ball, and retreat from the world. But, as we see within stories in the media, some people take an alternate route to healing, even after horrific harm has been done to them: the path of Forgiveness.

I’ve been thinking about the emotional injuries I’ve sustained over the years. It’s hard to live into your 60’s and not experience rough moments and rough people. In most instances, ‘Forgiveness’ was not in my repertoire. Lately, however, I’ve paid more attention to the words of those who’ve suffered much more than I, at the hands of vile, or just ignorant people. As a result, I’ve come to a completely different understanding of the Power of Forgiving.

First, the Act of Forgiving does not condone, excuse, or honor in any way the injury or the person who committed it. It does, however, acknowledge and recognize the depth of hurt and suffering caused, but in a way that restores power back to the injured person. When someone hurts you deeply — say, a severe violation of trust — besides the emotional pain that comes with the sense of betrayal, something else is actually taken away from you. What is temporarily lost or, more accurately, ‘eroded’ is your confidence, sense of security, sense of personal safety, and a host of other things (depending upon whatever the injury was). When we Forgive the person or people who’ve caused us harm in some significant way, we take back our power and strength so that we can begin to heal, regain balance and perspective, and avoid becoming jaded or cynical.

The Act of Forgiveness doesn’t need to be a public declaration: it can be as silent and as peaceful as a prayer sent up into the skies, as in those beautiful Japanese and Thai lantern festivals in which problems and worries float away in a swirl of golden light.