My parents loved to read. They loved the language of a well-told story, especially historical fiction, and passed that love for reading down to my sister and me. Sometimes my mother or father would share a story from their own childhood as a value lesson. My grandmother in Oregon loved to take me out into her garden where I would help her pick peas or feed her flock of chickens that cackled and scratched around the yard. I always felt as if my parents and grandparents, especially my mother and maternal grandmother, saw me as their hope for a better future. They courageously dreamed new dreams for me, hoping to release old family limitations and patterns in their own lives.
I remember times during my childhood that were filled with laughter, times when my mother, my sister, and myself would be thrown into hysterics by an unexpected mishap during one of our songfests or a family outing. We would roll on the floor giggling! I have passed many of those stories on to my children and hope they will be shared long after I am gone.
But I'm also keenly aware of the many secrets my parents and grandparents harbored. There are family secrets that I have spent a lifetime uncovering, trying to unravel the patterns that have unfolded throughout my own life, patterns repeating themselves over and over again in my family's history. What was my mother hiding and why? Why were my grandmothers so angry at the world? Why did my father mistrust anyone who got too close to him? Was it shame, guilt, fear, or self-judgment? How can I shift their grief into positive lessons for healing, not only for myself but also for my ancestors and my descendants?
These unanswered questions have guided my adult journey, leading me to explore inner dimensions in a way that I never expected. Something deep within urged me forward with the prayer that I could contribute to shifting old family patterns between men and women, parents and children. The realization that I could not change anyone else, only myself and my reactions in the world, was the greatest gift I ever received from the Divine! If taking responsibility for my actions was the solution, I was willing to take it on.
Now I am older, and wiser, and the naiveté that I had when I originally embarked on this journey as a young mother has been replaced with a profound appreciation and respect for the challenges I faced along the way. It has taken me to remote inner realms that often felt overwhelming and dangerous. There have been times when I wanted to give up, run, and hide. But there was another, stronger, voice within that urged me to stop, regroup, and problem solve with a new strategy. Always at the core of my journey was Divine Love and guidance, encouraging me to expand my perspective and see myself and others with compassion. I won't pretend that I have always been successful at this but I am grateful that God's compassion was always present and eventually I was able to see the greater good in a difficult situation.
Now when I see my children learning their life lessons through their marriages and children, I understand even more. Life is an amazing journey and we are invited to make choices throughout the adventure. Sometimes we wish we had chosen differently but regrets are vain. The value of age, and time, is perspective. We can always make a new choice that directs us to new outcomes. Continually we are encouraged to take responsibility for our actions and decide if we like the course our life is on or choose to set new intentions, altering our life's course.
As we begin our entry into the holiday season, may each of us reflect on the past year's choices with a compassionate heart, for ourself and others. What about our choices do we appreciate? What do we want to shift? Who do we need to forgive? Life is an amazing journey that constantly changes. Read the signs along the way. Reflect. Release. Compassion is the key. When we can forgive ourself, we find the compassion to forgive others. When we can seek forgiveness we hold the key to transformation.
"It is a wonderful day in a life when one is finally able to stand before the long, deep mirror of one’s own reflection and view oneself with appreciation, acceptance, and forgiveness. On that day one breaks through the falsity of images and expectations which have blinded one’s spirit. One can only learn to see who one is when one learns to view oneself with the most intimate and forgiving compassion." (Beauty: The Invisible Embrace, John O'Donohue)