Now that I have been retired for over a year now (and what an interesting time to have retired…during a pandemic), I find that I have more time to notice the thoughts and memories that seem to so randomly populate my mind and flash up on my internal screen.
What I also notice is that I have a tendency to replay the negative scenes and continue to convict myself of the same crimes and issues with the same sentence of guilt and remorse. Indeed, I have done things in my life that I am less than proud of. I have not intended to hurt others, but I have – due to my own issues and insecurities. I regret those times and ask the Universe for forgiveness (where I cannot ask for forgiveness directly from others since they may no longer be available or I have no idea how to contact them or even know what their current name may be…). What, I then ask myself, will it take for me to finally forgive myself?
It’s interesting to me that it is so much easier (perhaps more familiar and well practiced) to replay those negative scenes and recriminations than it is to replay some of the brighter moments where the kind and loving pieces of me came through. Why do I feed my soul this diet of regret and remorse and guilt so much more easily than I feed it the nourishment of love and self compassion and self acceptance?
I think that I may not be alone with this. And I think, that for me, it is time to work on changing that. As I then decide to work on this, another memory comes up. A time when I was 19 and home from college for a summer. I volunteered once a week at a local nursing facility as their hairdresser (I was lucky enough to have a father who encouraged me to learn a skill that then enabled me to be able to support myself through college).
I had never been in a nursing home before. It was a shock to me to see the condition of some of the patients and how they lived, how alone they seemed, how at times neglected they seemed just sitting in their rooms staring off into space or at the tv without really seeing anything, It hurt my heart to see this. And so, with my youthful energy and belief that I could make some difference, I did my best to do everything with as much kindness as I could muster.
I remember one older woman that they brought to the room where I worked. She was in a wheelchair, hunched over, unable to speak or even sit up enough to look at me directly. I began to work on her hair. I gently washed it and combed it, all the while being intentional with touching her with as much kindness and love as I could. As I combed her hair, I notice that she had an accident (as I noticed urine leaking onto the floor). I called the staff for help, and as we waited for them to come and get her to help clean her, I kept gently combing her hair and softly touching her face with my hands.
As I kept doing this, she moved one of her hands to reach for my hand. I had no idea what she was going to do, and was a bit anxious about it, but let her do what she was trying to do. I moved my hand a bit closer to hers, and she took hold of it. I had no idea what was going to come next. She began pulling my hand toward her face…..I held my breath, hoping that I wouldn’t get hurt in some way. And she pulled my hand all the way to her mouth (I prayed that she would not bite me, as I was ignorant of what could happen, whether she was aggressive or not, so many unknowns)…..She brought my hand to her lips and kissed it ever so gently. She wanted to kiss my hand, to express some of what her reaction was to how I was touching and treating her. I stood there for a while, unable to move. Stunned. So touched and so full of emotions. I had reached out and touched another human being and we had connected. The moment was powerful, and one that I will never forget. When the staff arrived, I once again touched her face ever so gently and held her hand for a moment before they took her away. We touched souls, that dear woman and I. And she moved permanently into my heart.
I am beyond grateful to have had this experience. I am so very honored to have had that moment of grace. And, I am grateful for the memory that still can move me to tears when I think about it.
Yes, I have regrets and things that I wish I would have done differently. And I am here now, and trying to do better now. …though still quite imperfectly. But, I can also let myself acknowledge and remember the times that the light in my soul came through. And I can give myself some grace in what scenes that I choose to continue to replay in my mind and heart. Maybe we can all do this. We did what we knew to do at the time with things that we regret. And we have such loving special parts of us, parts of God/Universe that we all carry, that we also deserve and need to honor and remember. We have gone through some dark times and there will be more to come, but there is still much human kindness and love in this world, and inside of each of us. We are more than our mistakes. We are more than our regrets. We have much to give. By acknowledging and remembering these parts of ourselves, we then can perhaps allow them to come out more and more. We can come to each other, flawed and so very human, and we can love. We can love.