She ran around chasing her multiple ‘to-do’ lists the whole time. She managed to tick things off it with fare speed. Yet her chores never ended. She didn’t allow herself the slightest slip-up. She slowed down for nothing or no one. Despite running herself down she kept carrying on. Yet she thought she wasn’t quite hitting the mark. There was so much more to do. She lived so much in the future that she could never see the landscape of her own heart or anyone else’s. She didn’t know that if your own cup is empty, you can’t fill someone else’s.
She thought she had everything under control. She didn’t ask anyone for help or advice. Even if they offered it, she seldom took it. She did her own thing. Deep down she knew that she didn’t know best but had no idea how to admit it. She took herself way too seriously. She bull-dozed her way around the marshland of her life and crushed a poor little soul every now and then. She didn’t know how to apologise even when she was truly sorry.
She took herself off to far-away places as and when she fancied, oblivious of the impact it would have on those left behind. She just wanted to fly high, be happy, be free. She made it look like she had it all figured out when in fact, she was lost. She had no names for her feelings. Somewhere along the way she had learnt that it was ok to be a martyr and a bully and she managed to play both those roles to perfection. She didn’t know that it wasn’t ‘hard work’ but kindness that made a life good.
She had been unfulfilled and ignorant in so many ways for so many years but she had no clue. She was under the impression that she was successful. There was so much that she did not know. But none of it was her fault.
Could I forgive her?
She was the mother of my son before Day 0.
Could I accept her? Even love her? Embrace her? Could I?
Having a couple of daylight hours still left after work is a luxury. This evening I was lucky. I walked aimlessly along the Southbank and ‘The F-word’ exhibition caught my eye. F for Forgiveness. Bold posters with simple, human messages from ordinary people from all over the world, telling stories that transform, offering a dynamic and challenging exploration of forgiveness through real life situations.
There is nothing ordinary about forgiveness. Forgiving others. Forgiving myself. I constantly struggle with it.
One mother said “When I was told that my son had been killed in action, the first words that came out of my mouth were ’Do not take revenge in the name of my son.’ It was a totally instinctive response.”
When Saagar passed away, one of the strongest feelings that came up for me was – no one should have to loose anyone they love to suicide. That was the driving force that kept me alive and goaded me on but forgiveness is a subtle and powerful thing that happens at another level. I am very conscious of the fact that it is something I really need to address but keep putting it off while it keeps gnawing away at me. Perhaps, it is not entirely by co-incidence that I chanced upon this exhibition.
Scarlett Lewis is Jesse’s mother. Jesse, her youngest son, six years of age was one of the twenty children murdered in the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre in Newtown, Connecticut. Brave Jesse helped save the lives of many of his classmates by encouraging them to run while he stayed behind to protect his teacher—both he and his beloved teacher were killed.
Before going to school, in what may have been a premonition of the day’s tragedy, six-year-old Jesse wrote on his home chalkboard, “Nurturing Healing Love.” Working through her grief in the midst of the emotional devastation felt by all of the parents who lost children, Scarlett embraced Jesse’s words and consciously chose a different way to manage her distress. While many parents vented their pain through anger, blame, and overwhelming grief, Scarlett went on an alternate path by deciding to consciously choose Love to come to terms with this heinous crime.
To send her message into the world, Scarlett founded the Jesse Lewis Choose Love Foundation (http://www.jesselewischooselove.org) whose stated mission is, “To create awareness in our children and our communities that we can choose love over anger, gratitude over entitlement, and forgiveness and compassion over bitterness.” The foundation’s goal is to help manifest a more peaceful and loving world. Scarlett’s efforts in advancing Love to resolve the world’s problems has become her path to healing.
For all my mistakes , of which there are too many to count,
For all my ignorance, of which there is much too much,
For all my failings, big and small,
I need to forgive myself.
For not helping him look for his misplaced ear-phones,
For not letting him know how much I loved him,
For not spending as much time with him as I could have,
For not seeing through his silent anguish,
For not being with him in his deep despair,
I need to forgive myself.
For all the anger against the world and myself,
For all the disappointments in others and myself,
For all the days and nights spent in darkness,
For the greatest indulgence of all – self-pity,
I need to forgive myself.
For the sake of peace inside and out,
For the sake of those who care for me,
For the healing of body, mind and soul,
For the fulfilment of every moment,
I need to forgive myself.
To be able to move forward and make a positive change,
To not make the same mistakes again,
To be able to experience freedom,
To be able to appreciate who I am today,
To be able to value the abundance around me everyday,
I need to forgive myself.
When I was being with ‘non-resistance’ on Day 375 I felt light and at ease, like a fresh water stream running through a quiet forest, cleansing everything that came in it’s way. Whereas yesterday, while I was filled with anger I felt like a grimy old brick wall spattered with blood.
Over the course of today, some of that water has washed off some of that dirt. Both things co-exist, each finding expression in different ways at different times.
How would my son want me to be? He was very forgiving. If he knew something made me happy, he put his own feelings aside. For instance I know my cycling worried him a lot as he thought I could easily get hurt. He expressed that concern in the gentlest way possible because he knew I enjoyed it so much. He didn’t bear any grudges. He was open hearted and accepting of other people’s decisions. He just wanted to be happy and make others happy. Could I ever be like him?
The candle that I light for him everyday brings light to this world and to my life, just like love does. His thoughts and memories do too. Here’s an adapted poem that another grieving Mum shared with me.
“Light a candle, see it glow,
watch it dance, when you feel low,
think of me, think of light,
I’ll always be here, day or night,
a candle can flicker, sometimes out of sight,
but in your heart, It still burns ever so bright,
think not of sadness, that I’m not near,
think of memories and never fear
I have not left you, I’m always here”
“Twinkle Twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are.
Up above the world so high,
Like a diamond in the sky.”
My crazy diamond! Isn’t it strange how everything I hear and see, speak and sing, smell and touch, has relevance to my love for him and the connection between us? My life is a string of memories of him and blessings to him. The kids now know as do I, that whenever they look up at the night sky, the brightest star they see, is he.
The mind shouts at me,” YOU let him down!”
Time after time. Again and again.
Trying not to agree or disagree.
Not add or take away anything from it.
Do my damndest hard to ignore the bark of a mad dog.
Stand back from it.
Just watch it like sound waves coming off drum membranes.
Observe the noise without joining in.
No defence. No attack. No judgement. No advise.
With no desire to fix anything. Or change anything.
Wait for the noise to fade, giving in to compassion ….. for myself.
Not absolving or blaming myself.
With what is.
Knowing this to be an opportunity to extend my love not just to one person but through him to the entire universe – the stars, the sea and the clouds.
That is what this is about.
It is certainly not about me. I just happen to be.
I am incidental. In this place.
I am nothing, yet my nature is vast!
I am just a hollow and empty space.
At this point in time. In the here and now.
We missed the start of the 25 km walk by an hour and a half because of a roadblock. The workers only spoke a quaint dialect of Hindi, so luckily I was able to communicate with them and get through as a special case. Phew! Thank God! It was so real…I was hugely relieved to find myself in bed breaking into a sweat at 4 am.
In reality, we got there well in time for registration and freshly cut pineapple slices among other things. A gorgeous athletic looking lady took us through a cheerful and enthusiastic warm up routine to an upbeat salsa-like song. Great start.
Once again, nature was on our side. The weather was as perfect as could be – temperature in the high teens, light breeze and gentle sunshine. I did look at the sun tampering down its brilliance by hiding behind a thin film of cloud and smiled. I even blew a kiss at it. I deeply felt like ‘someone’ was watching over us.
The views along river Thames were just stunning – a content herd of calves basking in the sun, lush green grass, cute little cottages and huge mansions with pristine gardens, rowing boats and elegant swans. The organisers had thought of everything. It was a very pleasant experience. We were a team of four so time flew while we chatted and took pictures as we walked together. It took us about 5 hours to complete the walk including 2 breaks.
The finish line was flooded with tears from my eyes and many others. The medal said:
“Life is like the river, sometimes it sweeps you gently along and sometimes the rapids come out of nowhere…”
After getting back home, I lit a candle in front of his picture as usual. Instantly, the thought appeared in my head, “Maybe I didn’t make him feel special enough”. I had to remind myself that at the vigil I had wanted to whisper in everybody’s ear, “It’s not your fault”.
He would have loved Lagos (Portugal). It has a warm, light and relaxed vibe about it. The air is clean and fresh, the sky and the sea emerald blue. It is multilingual and multicultural with a German bakery, a Dutch supermarket, an Irish pub and a smattering of tokens from all over the world. 8 months of the year one can get by in shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops which is what he preferred to wear even at the near freezing temperatures of the English winter. He would also have thoroughly enjoyed the real piri-piri sauce given his passion for hot food.
The one thing he would not have liked is a dark period in the history of Lagos. In the 15th century it had a market at which slaves, imported from North Africa, were sold. The building that housed the slave market has a wide porch and double arches. It still stands on the seafront as a constant reminder of that inhuman practice.
This is the new normal. When I am in a new place, I wonder what he would have thought of it, how he would have reacted or felt. The ones we love are always in our hearts.
While these thoughts were going on in my head, our Yoga teacher this morning read out this ‘Mantra of love’ –
“Because I am the only person I will have a relationship with all my life
To love myself the way I am now
To always acknowledge that I am enough just the way I am
To love, honour and cherish myself
To be my own best friend
To be the person I am happy to spend the rest of my life with
To always take care of myself so that I can take care of others
To always grow, develop and share my love and life.
Non-judgmental attitude and practice in everyday life is something that many of us strive for and idealise. In essence it means not to be critical of other people’s thoughts or actions based on one’s own biases, thus allowing for new ideas and theories to emerge. As a medic, it is imperative on me to not have any pre-formed notions or opinions of my patients even when they are alcoholics, unkempt, very posh or anything else.
I notice that while we strive hard to be non-judgmental about others, it’s very different when it comes to ourselves. I find me judging myself often – about the stuff I write, or even think, my behavior on occasions in the past, my lack of understanding and knowledge of certain subjects, my low energy levels at times and even how many things I managed to tick off my to-do list on a given day! It’s silly but true. Acceptance of oneself with all one’s failings and frailties surely must be the foundation of accepting life and everyone else.
“Of course there is no formula for success except, perhaps, an unconditional acceptance of life and what it brings.” Arthur Rubinstein
I do bear in mind that everyday may not be good but there is something good in every day. I stay with that ‘something good’ and keep my attention on it. That makes the rest of it tolerable. I am ok. In fact, I am good. How are you?