George hurt himself. He was simply trying to put out the garbage one evening when his dog, Devin, body- checked him and proved once again that stone is harder than face. George wound up with a boot on his foot and luckily did not need one for his face. Devin was apologetic, but Devin was a hockey defenseman in a past life, so he was doing just what came naturally.
George felt bad about this accident, but it was dark and wet – and hey! – unplanned. George’s incident was on my mind when I took a wrong pivot during a tennis serve return and heard about it from my hip. It was the final point in our doubles match and I was still talking to myself about being a clumsy idiot as we all gathered our stuff to dress and leave the court. In the process of limping back to my chair, I managed to spill my water bottle into the tennis bag and knock the open can of balls back onto the court. Naturally, bending down was not on my bucket list at the moment, so I expressed some displeasure. (Well, that might be a euphemism for my actual words).
Rich, one of our foursome, said: “You know, Wally, we are old enough to forgive ourselves for these kinds of things”. That brought me up short. He is absolutely right! We talked in the last post about asking for and accepting, help. Forgiveness – particularly self-forgiveness – is a necessity as one ages. (Of course, you could make the argument that it is essential at any age — but you might also figure that younger folks at least have a longer runway left to learn this lesson). If you can’t achieve a reckoning in later life, what a tortured soul you will have been. Don’t ask me how I know this.
I confess to storing a long list of my gaffes that remain unforgiven – well, at least by me. Most are not blockbusters, but rather insensitive sins of commission and omission over the years. These items, like the Ghost of Christmas Past, often impinge on my consciousness at pretty inopportune times – you can tell by the sudden scowl on my face while involved in some otherwise pleasant conversation. My wife calls me out on this (rightly) and suggests that I have on my ‘Isabelle-face’ (my good-hearted mother was also similarly afflicted). Rich’s comment brought home that we ourselves have the tools and ability to come to terms with these silly aggravations. Items that no one will remember in 5 or 50 years. He was giving me permission to forgive myself for not being always at my best. It felt good! I’m going to start giving myself some mulligans… why not?
The Ho’oponopono Prayer is an ancient Hawaiian practice of forgiveness. It goes like this:
Please Forgive Me
I Love You
I remember reciting this once at a large Thanksgiving gathering at my home.
I said I was sorry for anything I had said or done to offend any of the guests seated at the table.
I asked for their forgiveness for those shortcomings. (I also added that I forgave them for anything they may have done to offend me.)
I thanked them in advance for forgiving me and for being significant in my life.
I told them all that I loved them.
One person came up to me afterwards and shared her appreciation of the sentiment. However, it mostly made the rest of the family uncomfortable, if not bewildered. Several wondered if I was referring specifically to them, some became defensive, and others had no idea why I chose to share this piece on a day of giving thanks. It was one of my greatest miscommunications in a group setting. This time, I was able to smile and quickly forgive myself for causing more disconnect and confusion than the sense of closeness and clarity I had sought to create.
Wal reminds me that I haven’t always forgiven myself so readily and even when I did, the occasional flashbacks and corresponding emotion – – feeling like I was just punched in the gut, still lingered. I wonder if there will always be a consequence of a wrongdoing that while forgiven, is permanently linked to guilt. Or, if I am able to truly forgive myself, is the connection broken and I am free from ongoing remorse.
Of all the words I value, acceptance is number one. Indeed, if I accept things (people, incidents, actions) as they are then I would have no reason for forgiveness. If I never judged something or someone to be lacking or wrong, or a mistake, it was just as it was supposed to be. Thus, there is nothing to forgive. And while I subscribe to this concept and practice it when I harken to do so, it is not yet (and likely never will be) a consistent habit. So, for now, I’ll use Wal’s story and my age to remind me to allow myself more forgiveness and perhaps find it easier to forgive others along the way.
Reflections on a Brittle Body
I’ve said before that during this pandemic isolation a lot of reflection happens. Thinking occurs when there isn’t a lot of activity to distract and I have had some very pleasurable moments reflecting. I took time to look around and see things I never noticed before. However, sometimes reflection can go south and stir up concerns that may never have surfaced otherwise. Such is the case when I collided with my pup. The night was dark, the ground was cold and wet. I had taken out the garbage and recycling bins and was headed inside to chill. Just at the moment as I was headed up the path to my back door, my devoted companion came charging around the back of the garage and at top speed came 60 lbs of muscle . It happened too quickly for either of us to dodge and in an instant there I lie on the cold wet stones on the path to my house. I fell forward and was worried I had hurt my face so just for a moment, stunned, I stayed put and took inventory.
It’s incredible what you think of when your head is under an evergreen bush and you feel the wetness of the ground soaking into your body. Immediately feeling foolish, I took stock of any pain that would need attending to and all felt good til I tried to stand. I realized my left foot was most likely broken. Carefully I climbed up the brick steps on my knees and crawled all the way into bed. There was little doubt in my mind that indeed a bone had snapped . The dog, feeling guilty and repentant, kept licking my foot saying he was sorry.
I began thinking how in a moment things can drastically change. My body, which years ago would have sprung back with a little bruise, had become brittle and rigid with time. While lying in bed looking up at the ceiling all kinds of fears came rushing in. Will I need surgery, will this be another part of my body forever aching and causing pain? Is this the moment where I am no longer able to care for myself and live alone? Will I no longer be mobile, able to get upstairs to the bathroom, drive my car? All these thoughts came rushing in during this forced reflection, things people my age have to consider. Did I do something stupid to cause it? If I am more careful in the future can I prevent accidents from happening. My imagination was running away with me and not in a good way. I remember saying out loud, “All right! Knock it off”. Tomorrow I’ll have it checked out and do whatever has to be done!
But the feeling still lingered that as we age we become more susceptible to silly little accidents that could cause a drastic change in our lives. So, do I spend the rest of my life carefully studying the landscape for mine fields or just dismiss the whole thing with the …whatever is going to happen will happen… attitude? Hopefully, somewhere in between is middle ground that doesn’t inhibit my lifestyle or cause it to come crashing down.
I guess I will have to think on it!