A friend reminded me of this today… Forgiveness is a gift we may give to others as well as ourselves.
**I had posted this just a few months ago when the tragedy in Newtown, CT occurred. I wanted to share it again because I still see these things to be true.
In this time of immense sorrow and despair and mourning, all seems to be lost, again. In the blink of eye families, a community and a nation were shattered. Through our tears we try to make sense of a senseless act. We question all that we know to be true and right and just. But, in the midst of this tremendous pain, I dare to hope because, after much thought and prayer I have found 12 things that I know to be true.
1. Yes, there are bad people in this world but I know in my heart that most are inherently good. This tends to be highlighted in the face of adversity, when we band together to come to the aid of those that are hurting. Goodness is always there, just waiting to be released.
2. Forgiveness is necessary to heal. It can be the most difficult thing that someone can do, to forgive someone who has wronged them. But holding onto hate eats away at your spirit.
3. Tears are freeing, just like laughter, and necessary in order to move forward.
4. Prayer, falling down on our knees and lifting our hands to the heavens, allows us to be weak and vulnerable. Thus enabling God to come in and show us His amazing grace.
5. Pointing fingers and casting blame is a waste of time. Coming together makes us an impenetrable force to be reckoned with.
6. Love out loud. Make sure that you never hold it back.
7. Wanting to turn the news off and The Voice on should not make you feel guilty. It should make you feel human.
8. Sometimes a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with a good friend is the best medicine.
9. Do not live in fear because then it wins.
10. There is great love and compassion in this world, open your eyes and see it and be a part of it.
11. Good always triumphs over evil.
12. Our faith and hope and love allow us to shine brightly and, in our darkest hour when all seems lost, we will be the light that overcomes the darkness.
At forty I still feel young, especially when I’m with my college girlfriends. Age and time seem to fade and it’s just like when we were back under the oaks, listening to the Indigo Girls and drinking cold beer under a Carolina blue sky. I long for those days again, when life was simple and major decisions had nothing to do with houses and children and 401K’s. When the biggest crisis was who you were asking to the grab-a-date or finding where you left your bike the night before. It was a time when it was ok and almost expected to be a bit foggy at 11am and when everyone who depended on you was always a bit foggy too.
But time passes and life throws curves and rocks at you, you fall in and out of love and you find what matters most, all while amassing an adult life that you thought that you were supposed to have and aren’t sure that you really want. And with that brings problems and crisis and you find that your family and friends are real people with real problems, not the fairytale figures you created them to be in your youth.
People disappoint you and surprise you and horrify you and you realize that you are grown up and have to be strong because being weak is not an option. Yes, you may have moments of weakness but they can’t last because you have others who depend on your strength so that they may live their own lives and figure out this cycle for themselves. You see people who cannot be strong so you try to give them your strength to get them through and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t.
And a lot of times all you can do is hope for the best and pray. Pray that this too shall pass and all will work out for the common good and a million other clichés that I can’t even think of right now. Some rally to help and others are just too busy, too tired and too mired down in their own “stuff” that they just don’t realize that their strength is needed. And that’s the way life is.
It’s exhausting really, this whole getting older thing. How is it possible I went from eighteen to forty in the blink of an eye? A wife, a mother, three kids and a frog. A mortgage, tuition, bills, work. Those days under the Carolina blue skies seem so far away and lately I find myself longing for them. I feel a little guilty for wishing myself away from a man and a family that I love so dearly. But I think that we tend to feel like we are a little invisible at this stage in the game, that our value is measured in our ability to do laundry and make lunches and put together projects rather than what (and who) we truly are.
I had quite the blow out with my nine-year-old son the other day; it was about something silly, like picking up his belt off the floor. He told me that I was the worst in the world, that I was no fun and all I did was tell him what to do. Well, instead of walking away I turned right around and proceeded to tell him that I was fun and cool and that people (outside of this house) really like me. I told him I was talented and was capable of doing things besides laundry and dishes. Had I taken a moment to breathe, I would have realized I lost him at “fun” and “cool”. Right then I looked pretty crazy, even to myself.
But in that moment I longed to be the person that I was, the person that I felt that I had lost and could only get back by returning to my beloved college days, sheltered by the oaks and my memories.
This place and these days were filled with light and laughter and, though we didn’t know it then, peace. Funny that our university motto was “Numen Lumen.” At the time I had no clue what it meant but thought it was funny to say, even funnier after a few Busch Lights. After looking up the meaning I was a bit in awe of what I found.
“Numen Lumen- If you were an ancient Roman, and you went up a hill or down into a hollow, and you felt something holy or scary or beautiful, you would say that you were sensing the “numen” of the place. So “numen” means some sort of indwelling of God. “Numen lumen” is saying that the Divine is the guiding Light.”
What I took from this explanation was that I was a part of heaven, for just a little while. Now some are going to say that its blasphemy to say that college life and all that goes with it is far from holy and they may be right. But for me and many of my friends it was where we really began. It was light and love and peace. It was where we figured out how to show up for each other. Yes, we were carefree and a little reckless at times but we were also figuring out how to get out into the world and fend for ourselves while watching out for each other.
Now, no one who went to Elon College (now Elon University) is going to liken it to the big bad world but it was our first experience away from the shelter of our home and our parents. It was where we learned that family is not only defined by blood.
The reality is, I cannot go back and when I try it’s never the same but I can still feel the beauty of that time. I still have moments when I long to return and sometimes I do. When the sky in Virginia turns Carolina blue and my kids catch me staring up for just a moment too long and ask “what are you doing?” I just smile and look at them and say “Numen Lumen.”
Most mornings I like to get up early and go for a run. I love the quiet of that time of day, when all three children are snuggled in their beds and the sound of my husband’s slight snore lets me know that I have a few moments of solace before the mayhem of the day begins.
The morning chill greets me as I open the door to the day, a quick thought of, “do I really want to do this when I could be warm in bed?” crosses my mind. Quickly, I shake off the thought and head out to the road. Now I could tell you I am entranced by the bird’s morning song or the grey glow that surrounds me, announcing the sunrise. But no, I have one focus. To get running and get home to a steaming hot cup of coffee.
It’s the first few strides that are the hardest, then I get in my groove and get a rhythm. My initial disdain for this task turns to enjoyment as my feet pound the pavement.
I am one of those runners that makes you laugh. I don’t look like the women in the Nike commercials, long strides, glowing completion, beads of sweat falling perfectly around their temples. My face starts to look like the color of a ripe tomato, my mouth is open and I look down at the ground for the better part of my run. Not a pretty sight, I know.
That morning was no different from the others, head down, focused on getting one of my “to do’s” checked off but I began to notice something. As I ran along the side of the road, my feet always landed on the white line. I kept on with my pace and saw that I continued to do this up and down hills and even when the ground went flat. When I strayed from this path I felt uncomfortable and went back to what I knew.
And there it was, that morning I realized that my entire life has been spent playing it safe, walking the line. Taking chances makes my stomach turn. I’ve done pretty well living safely and under the radar not calling too much attention to myself. Rock climbing and spelunking were things that I had to do because of school trips, not by any choice of my own. I couldn’t understand why people did these things for fun.
Becoming a mother also led me to believe that I had to be conservative and cautious and that my focus had to be on my children, so I shelved my dreams and took on the diapers. But now my children are older and wanting to take chances of their own. At 9, 7 and 4 they are daring and fearless, something that I have never been and I find myself hoping that some of that rubs off on me.
My feet have always been on that line, doing what I think I am supposed to do instead of what I feel called to do. But I have started to notice that I am being drawn to the other side of that line, the side that isn’t so safe and predictable; where you could end up slipping and falling in the ditch because the road isn’t so even and stable. I have found that this makes my heart pound harder and my head swim and my knees shake a bit but I have also found that I love that feeling.
Not following that line has afforded me some incredible opportunities one of which was taking a trapeze lesson on a team building trip for work. I don’t do heights. The second floor of a mall, coming down an escalator, glass elevators all make me want to throw up. But I had to do this…I mean it was for work, I don’t think I would have been fired for not jumping off a platform and flying 20 feet above ground but I couldn’t risk it.
So I suited up in my harness and climbed the 5 flights of stairs (which seemed like five hundred) to the platform where a boy, yes he was tens of years younger, was going to hold onto my harness and keep me safe. Now I have given birth three times, that is scary in and of itself but there were “things” in place to keep me calm. Yes drugs. I said it. I am not a warrior mom who pops that baby out and is booming around in fancy p.j.’s an hour later. Not me. I do not like pain or heights. There now you know two of my weaknesses.
I shared my fear with him (like so many before me had) and he just smiled and said “When I say ready it’s not a question.” What the hell does that mean? I found out quickly it meant “when I say ready you are going to go even if I have to kick your feet out from under you.” And so he did. And I soared and almost soiled myself. But I did it and with a little trick to boot. And I went back up the five hundred, I mean five flights of steps and did it again. I shook like a leaf every time and I was sweaty and looked awkward and so not pretty.
That day I stepped off the line. I still try to step off that line every now and again because sometimes the risk of falling in a ditch is one I am willing to take.