Immortality comes through love. This is what I just recently learned at the passing of my own father’s life. It had been close to 40 years since I felt love towards him. His wounded heart only knew one language- anger, and over the years it hardened into a bitterness that made it unsafe to love him. But now that he is gone, I am struck often, and forcefully, with tears of missing him, the father that I loved, and the wasted tragic years in between when I was unable to feel or express that love towards him.
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I was born a middle child between an elder sister and younger brother. We were never close, and now that my father has died, I am able to see not only my relationship with my father more clearly, but also with my siblings, as well. It was a dear friend who shared with me a poem called “Elder Sister,” which described all the ways that she, as the first one, had to break through the barriers and bear the collateral damages of my parents abuses. She was never interested in me or even liked me, but as this poem taught me, her love was a like a shield that kept me from getting the worst of what happened in our family. Maybe that is why she resented me so; I could be playful, joyful, even at times, completely oblivious to the ways she guarded me from the hardships I didn’t even know were happening.
It has been a long time since I recalled being a little girl, in love with her dad; but since my father has passed away, the block that prevented me from recalling what it felt like to be loved by him, to trust him completely, has fallen away. Mostly it makes me feel really sad about all the things that kept me from feeling that way about him again. Even with all of the efforts I made in the last 8 years to rebuild a connection, what occurs to me now is that the places we can’t forgive and let go are our own making. My father was not an easy man to love… but ultimately the love I withheld from him, I actually withheld from myself.
One of the things that death clarifies like a magnifying glass on a dying leaf in the summer sun is the regrets that collect inside of us over a lifetime. These regrets are kind of like soul missions that we missed the cues on. They require an immense capacity for forgiveness. I began to understand the quality of these regrets while listening to the outpouring of love for a young woman who recently passed in my community. She had a challenging illness that brought her great physical pain and limitation, but she was so totally immersed in love that her pain was continuously transmuted to something beautiful and whole in her evolving artwork, in her relationships everywhere she went, even in the tragic ending of her too short life. All you could feel is love. Her father said it best, “I have no regrets, except for what I will miss in a future we won’t share.”
Sometimes, waking up on Monday gives me a stomach ache. I think about all the things before me and am overwhelmed before I put my feet on the floor. I don’t want to have this relationship to life on any day. So I have come up with a few antidotes to the Monday internal crunch. First, I meditate, usually on the powerful Shakti goddesses that fill me up with protective energy and the feeling of abundance. Actually, I start everyday with meditation because it so dramatically changes the quality of how I think and feel.
I have spent the last four years seeking forgiveness with my father. Multiple trips with my family to Florida, a cruise for his 80th birthday… nothing softened him. He was consistent with his anger and demeaning ways right to the end, but now that he is laying in his final hours in a hospice, the secret door to the forgiveness that has been eluding our relationship came clear to me. All this time I had been thinking I wanted to forgive him for the many ways he demeaned me. But in the end, it was never about forgiving him at all. His behavior towards me only worsened with his aging, keeping me from seeing the way toward him. All along, the real block to forgiveness was in me. I couldn’t access any memories of feeling loved by him, or remember when I loved him and that was what kept me from forgiveness.
The Olympic coverage has to make you think about how we learn courage. Watching people throw themselves in the air for 3 or 4 spins to land perfectly on their feet is mind boggling when you consider what happened inside of them on the first day they decided they were going to learn how to do this trick. What is that special energy that opens us up to the unknown, the potential of serious injury with the gusto required to perform these supernatural acts?
Sometimes I can’t figure out how to create a positive relationship to what is happening in and around me. A young woman I know, who has been struggling with a disease they have no cure for, lays in a coma after a brutal procedure to stabilize her neck. Cancer metastasized in another young woman fighting for more time with her young kids. It is difficult, witnessing old age turning diseased and the pain of letting go of a body that is broken and worn down. The thing that I return to over and over is that the entire of truth of our worldly experience comes down to our body. Health and well being are the ground for everything else that happens to and in you, which explains the ridiculous percentage of national income feeding our health care system.
When I believe that I am unlovable, the world closes in. This is true for all of us. The only real opening any of us can work towards, pray for and believe in is our own inherent loveablity. For this we need only practice being loving. Most difficult, especially when things are not working is to love ourselves. I have been praying and chanting and suffering these last days, waking up anxious, praying some more about the truth of my life, the weight of my flaws, the potential I have of creating the life I dream about.
You have to have bad days, even bad weeks sometimes. You know the good ones in comparison to the bad ones. This is what I am reminding myself this week as things anticipated are not happening and things that I thought were fine are completely broken. Making mistakes in a product business is really costly and generally takes a significant effort to dig out of. It is almost always the smallest, most obvious details that are overlooked… Mistakes that no one notices that snowball into huge mistakes.