By Deb Avery
A gentle summer breeze caressed her face as she sat in the garden, eyes closed, breathing deeply. It brought a smile to her upturned face as she sat there on her cushion atop her yoga mat and the lush green grass.
It had been a long journey, this life of hers, and she hoped there were still miles to go. She also hoped that maybe—just maybe—the remainder of her journey would prove to be a little more peaceful than the past. But she was ready to continue on and enjoy the magic along the way. She let her mind drift backwards to destinations along her journey that had been frightening, painful and at times had even felt hopeless. Yet now, when she looked back, she was able to see things from a much different perspective. Instead of viewing her past through the lens of hurt, anger, shame and blame, as she had for so many years, she was now able to view events through the eyes of compassion and forgiveness.
After almost six years, six long years of pain, grief, resentment and regret, she had finally found a place of acceptance—a place of peace, both with her journey and with herself.
Deep within her heart she knew that it would be easy to tumble off the mountain top and find herself in the abyss, yet again. She had fallen before, many times, but each time, broken, bruised and bleeding, she would somehow drag herself back up. Sometimes resting for days and healing just enough to continue on.
She had learned with a fierceness that had been seared into her very soul, that the people who hurt us are actually hurting within themselves. All the manipulation, hurtful words and actions came from a tortured psyche and spirit within the abuser themselves. She had learned that we have our own wounded and tortured spirits inside ourselves that cause us to accept less than we deserve. And that self-love and self-esteem we can allow ourselves to be controlled, victimized, battered and abused.
She had learned slowly, through many tears and much probing into still painful wounds that one of the hardest lessons to master was the one of self-forgiveness. For that came only after the probing of our deeply wounded self, assessing the damage and much needed healing. And that healing came only after the discovering of the wounds and allowing them out into the open, in the brightness of the sunshine, all the while dosing them steadily with plenty of compassion and self-love.
The road to healing is paved with tears and self-realization. It is sealed with acceptance. When we can accept without blame, regret or bitterness, then our hearts and minds can open to a whole different level of viewing the situation, ourselves and the world around us.
Yet she knew her journey was not over. Far from it. The real journey had just began. There were other mountains awaiting. This mountain top was not the destination. She would enjoy the view and rest for awhile, then continue onward. She would have to traverse the other side of the mountain, through the valleys and across the rivers, only to find another mountain to climb on the other side.
But she had learned over these past several years, not to worry about the terrain ahead. To do so took away from the beauty that was the path today. She had finally learned to enjoy her surroundings wherever she found herself at the time. For there was always beauty along the pathway.
Sometimes it was in the sunrises and sunsets, sometimes it was in the flowers and plants that lined the way, and sometimes it was found in the delight of those who accompanied her on the journey; humans, animals or plants. She had found that all were companions on a similar journey.
There was always a chorus of life surrounding her, a symphony of life. She knew that if she only listened, the Earth herself would speak to her in loving, gentle tones. The breeze would speak her name and the trees, animals and rocks would respond to her presence. The connection to others was as deep as an underground river and it flowed through all of life.
She brought her awareness back to the present. She had long ago stopped struggling with her mind. It went where it needed to go and she had learned to go along with it’s flow and just be aware. It was only through this awareness, this being with whatever is, and flowing with the journey—no more struggling and fighting the currents—that had brought her to her present destination.
She opened her eyes taking in the deep green, blue and variegated hosta that grew along this shady side of the garden, the pink and blue hydrangeas, the lovely foxglove in many colors, and the English Ivy that covered this section of the small garden.
It was here, among these plants and under the shade of the oaks, that she had prepared a place for the black marble container holding her late husband’s ashes.
At first, she had barely been able to look at it, much less sit beside it as she meditated and did yoga. For years she felt anger, guilt, shame and countless other emotions whenever she glanced its way. But a lot had changed. She had changed.
Their long marriage of many years had not been the perfect one that most thought it was. There was an undercurrent of submission, co-dependency, control and fear. Yet, there was love—on both sides. No doubt there were issues, deep, troubling issues, but underneath there was also love.
One was of a more selfish nature, brought about by insecurities, fear of change and loosing what one had. The other was of a nature to put others needs before their own and to try to love another more than one loved themselves. But they were both the only kind of love they had known.
In many ways it was a classic relationship of co-dependency. They had fed each others fears, keeping them alive and strong. Their fears, in turn, only thriving and growing with the years. They grew to the point where it had almost consumed them both. In the end, it proved more than one could bear and events lead to a tragic end. For she had lived a lie for as long as she could.
He pushed too hard, and she had finally pushed back. She had declared her independence and unwillingness to go on in a marriage that for years had caused more pain than joy. That act of self-defense, the fact that she wasn’t going to be there for him any longer, culminated in events that she could never have imagined. Anger, rage, deep pain and perhaps regret, took a toll on her husband’s neglected health and a stroke had taken his mind, his consciousness and eventually his life, a week later.
The guilt was enormous. That combined with the hurt, anger and shame—it was almost more than she could bear.
She had taken and taken until she could take no more. She had placed all blame on him and his behavior; the abusive words, the constant belittling, the controlling behavior—it was all him. Yet slowly, after his death and with time and distance, she realized that the key word had been taken. For reasons she had only realized through her inward probing and excavation, she began to understand, she had allowed herself to be the victim. And along with that realization came the self-blame, the guilt, and the shame.
The self-blaming came swift and vicious. She was floored by its intensity. For her it had always been easier to forgive others than to forgive herself. Therein lay a huge part of her problem. She always forgave, took it in stride and went on. Somehow she always convinced herself that all would be well. Now, after years of inward exploration, studying, learning and growing, she realized that self-love had been the answer all along.
She had learned to lay aside all blame and realized that everyone does the best they can, with the knowledge and awareness they have at any particular time. Situations in life bring us to where we are at the present moment. And she realized that without all that had happened in her life—each decision, each person, each experience—she would not be where she was today. She would not be the same person she was today. And despite being far from perfect, she was finally happy and comfortable with who she was. She had truly learned to love herself. So simple, yet so difficult to achieve.
She sat there in the coolness of the shade, surrounded by three huge, old oaks, for over an hour. As she had done many times recently, she smiled and bowed to the urn and the life of the one whose ashes were held inside.
Birdsong and the gentle breeze kept her company as she slowly raised herself from the cushion, rolled her mat and gently stretched, arms and face raised skyward, and ending with hands together and a deep bow. This was her way of expressing gratitude and honor to all.
As she turned to bring her mat and cushion back inside, she once again faced the black marble urn nestled among the plants, and spoke these words as she bowed deeply once more:
“I think it’s time now. I’m think I’m ready to take your ashes to the shore, as you would have wanted.
I ask for forgiveness for all the pain I caused you over the years. And I forgive you of all the pain you
caused me. We were both suffering and we did the best we knew how at the time. And now, I think the
time has come to set us both free.”
Editor: Peter Schaller