Saturday, June 6, 2020

June 6--Some Personal Life History

Forgiving is not forgetting; it's actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. It's a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don't want to repeat what happened.  --Desmond Tutu

     I am a hillbilly from central Pennsylvania. I grew up in the magnificent countryside between State College (Penn State University) and Huntingdon (yes, with a "d," my high school).
     In hindsight, my parents were quite blatantly racist. I was born later in my parents' lives, so that most of my many cousins were much older than me by 10-20 years. Very early in my life, one of my cousins "ran off" and married an African-American man. That was in the late 1950s, and there was absolutely nothing worse that could happen to a family back then. Even as a young child, though I couldn't understand it all, I was appalled at the hatred, nastiness and bitterness that consumed our family for many years after my cousin departed.
     Rarely would a day go by that I didn't hear the "n" word and "q" word. My dad, I expect from some childhood hometown events, hated Catholics. My oldest brother, Arlie, went to West Point, the pinnacle of success and patriotism. My other brother, Ken, worked in the family sawmill business, so unfortunately, I was around him a lot. I've often said Ken was the role model for Archie Bunker. My brothers are 16 and 14 years older than me. This proved to be such that I was almost a separate generation.
     I had friends in high school who dated African-American guys. My dad and I rode to a lot of high school sports events together. If he saw me in the crowd anywhere near an African-American male, there was hell to pay on the ride home. Clearly he was terrified that I might scar the family like my cousin did.
     Here's what happened. My best friend from 7th grade on is Catholic. I love her. I could never understand how being Catholic was a character defect. The African-American guys my friends dated seemed like perfectly OK humans, so I couldn't understand how skin color was a character defect. I went off to college and had gay friends, so I couldn't understand how sexual orientation was a character defect. Do you see the pattern here? Getting to truly know someone in those groups that we are prejudiced against goes a long way toward eliminating the prejudices. It takes away the "us vs. them" mentality.
     Getting back to the Tutu quote... I wanted to remember all this. I chose early on to not repeat the pattern of hatred toward other humans that I was raised with. I surely didn't want my sons to grow up the way I did. I know I'm not perfect at accepting every other human unconditionally, but that is my goal. There's good in the worst of us, and bad in the best of us.
     Let's live and let live,

Friday, June 5, 2020

June 5--To Move Forward

It's simple: When you haven't forgiven those who've hurt you, you turn your back against your future. When you do forgive, you start walking forward. --Tyler Perry

     When you don't forgive, you are clinging to the past, in effect, wishing that it could have been different. This takes a lot of energy. Upon forgiving, all that energy is freed up to move forward into a better, certainly more interesting, life. It's simple, yes, but not necessarily easy.
     Sometimes past hurts are so incredibly painful that we have buried the memory of them. It takes courage to return them to the surface and let them go.
     Whether or not we can see it, every experience has some gift to offer us. A lifetime of abuse by my older brother Ken made me a much stronger person. I've learned a huge amount about myself as a result of dealing with his incessant teasing and verbal abuse. Would I care to repeat all that to obtain these lessons? No. But recognizing the "gifts" has enabled me to forgive and move on. I see so many ways in which Ken was a troubled soul--I just happened to be an easy and convenient target for his nastiness.
     To ponder: Where might you free up some energy by forgiving?
     One step at a time,

Thursday, June 4, 2020

June 4--Daily Practice

Forgiveness is not an occasional act, it is a constant attitude. 
--Martin Luther King, Jr. 

     This quote brings up two general thought lines for me.
     When I am in a good space within myself, centered and at peace, very little disturbs me. With very little disturbance, there is very little to forgive. This is my favorite place to live.
     Beloved spiritual mentor Edwene Gaines offers this daily practice. Each night before falling asleep, note if there is anyone or anything from the day that requires your forgiveness. Then hold that person or situation in your heart, blessing and releasing he/she/it. That way resentment doesn't disrupt a good night's sleep.
     Like all of life, forgiveness is a practice, or as Dr. King states, a constant attitude.
     Getting lots of practice,

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

June 3--The Grace of Years

You will come to know things that can only be known with the wisdom of age and the grace of years. Most of those things will have to do with forgiveness.
  --Cheryl Strayed

     Today we celebrate our younger son's 31st birthday. When our sons were still at home, particularly as teenagers, they vehemently disagreed with our chosen parental choices for handling many a situation. Big duh, right? Many times I said, "I know you don't like this, but unfortunately, there are some things you simply won't understand until you are a parent."
     There was a particularly troubling discipline incident when our younger son was about four years old. (No physical harm or abuse involved, I promise.) He never forgot it, and brought it up occasionally as an adult how upset he continued to be about that incident. We listened patiently to his frustrations. Then in his 20s, he dated a woman who had a young daughter. He encountered the same incident with the young child, and (miraculously) knew how to handle it properly. The next time he spoke to me after that, he described the situation and said, "Mom, now I get it." It was a huge release and forgiveness for him.
     As we age and acquire more roles--spouse, parent, employee, employer, leader, etc.--we can't help, by grace, to advance in wisdom. Holding grudges may at first appear to be the best path, but for our own serenity, we must learn to forgive and let go. The roles in life are challenging enough without carrying the burden of grudges and resentments.
     While aging can be an "interesting" experience, I am so grateful for the wisdom that age and grace have brought me. Had I known then what I know now, how different might my young life have been? I wouldn't change a thing, but I surely hope in my next lifetime, I arrive already knowing all that I have learned in this one.
     Getting wiser, one day at a time,

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

June 1 & 2--Never a Better Time

June 1--When you forgive, you love.  --Jon Krakauer
June 2--We can never obtain peace in the outer world until we make peace with ourselves. -- Dalai Lama XIV

     The "Daily Peace" book from which I am drawing these quotes is so divinely on target--I love the synchronicity. April's theme was strength, May's, acceptance, and now the June theme is forgiveness. That's not one of the favorites on my to-do list, but as we look out into our world, there's no better time for forgiveness than now.
     One of my favorite phrases about being human comes from Edwene Gaines, a dearly-loved spiritual mentor. She says, "We've all done stuff we wouldn't want to tell our grandmother about." That pretty well covers it.
     I would change the Krakauer quote above to "When you forgive, you love yourself." It's releasing the angst energy from body, mind and spirit, an act of great self-love. Forgiving doesn't condone a harm, or cause it to be forgotten. It takes away the emotional charge, possibly bringing some meaning to the event, and allowing space for "new and good" to enter one's life. It's making peace with ourselves, which can then extend out from us.
     I've done a LOT of forgiveness work in the past. I highly recommend the processes in the book "Radical Forgiveness" by Colin Tipping. Then there's self-forgiveness, which I find to be a lifelong practice. It's a mandatory one, because I want to be at peace with myself.
     Serenity is priceless,

Sunday, May 31, 2020

May 31--It Starts Here.

You don't need to be accepted by others. You need to accept yourself. 
--Thich Nhat Hanh

     If I don't accept myself, I can't be accepted by others, because I am continually telling myself I am unacceptable. Acceptance begins within. When I do accept myself, "warts and all," I am naturally more accepting of others, and that sets up a circulation of acceptance.
     It would take a lot of effort if we had to jump through different hoops for each person whose acceptance we felt we had to have. It's way easier to accept ourselves and let the acceptance by others flow naturally from that.
     Bottom-line, however, we don't need anyone else's acceptance. We don't need to prove ourselves to anyone, nor justify our existence. Alas, that's not so much how current human consciousness sees things. It takes personal strength to ignore both the praises and criticisms of others. Self-acceptance is the key.
     Focusing now on beauty,


From the Colorado State University Gardens in Fort Collins

Saturday, May 30, 2020

May 30--JOY!

Where the myth fails, human love begins. Then we love a human being; not our dream, but a human being with flaws. --Anais Nin

     Husband, dog and I are in Fort Collins visiting our sons and family. Due to the pandemic lock-down, this is one of the longer stretches we've had between visits, and it has been torture, mostly because we just couldn't predict when this visit might happen. We reunited last evening, and I managed not to hug them, though I can't say I'll make it through the whole visit 6' away. The whole situation is flawed (not what I would have chosen for 2020), but as a family we are adjusting and coping as best we can. All three kids (sons, Derek and Eliot, and Derek's partner, Caila) work with the public (FedEx, Starbucks, Whole Foods), so the big fear here is that they could be carriers and infect us, their "higher risk" parents.
     I have been blessed with a long marriage of 34 years so far. It certainly started out as the dream, young, in-love, happy, excited to build a life together. That construction is a messy, complicated process which does ultimately reveal our flawed humanity. We're good at some things and not good at others. We have baggage from growing up. Life triggers us into growth situations. Loving can get very challenging, especially when raising other humans gets thrown into the mix. Ultimately all flaws are exposed. And yet love has continued to grow. At some point, in all lasting relationships, we love each other because of our flaws, not in spite of them. It's a magnificent place to land.
     Flawed, and OK with that,