“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope
The desire for revenge is a facet of human nature, and science leads us to the conclusion that the capacity for forgiveness, like the desire for revenge, may be yet another aspect of being human. Forgiveness - or the lack thereof - can be akin to a double-edged sword, cutting deep. If one does not forgive, it only serves to eat away at that person's cornerstone, akin to a stonecutter’s hammer and chisel, slowly chipping away at the large slab of marble. The act of forgiveness also cuts deeply into one’s marbled essence, much like a battle scar, especially under the worst of circumstances. Herein lies the story of true forgiveness, attained when it was previously thought to be lost and unattainable - a double-edge sword melded in the blazing fire. Speaking with the conviction of experience, to do so will surely set you free.
She sat stoically in front of the blazing fire, her face a mixture of emotions that ran rampant as she stared at the lockbox resting on the massive walnut desk. It was his desk, his lockbox. She barely wanted to touch them less alone be in his study but she had no choice. She had a responsibility to confront what lay within the confines of the box. He had been her husband. She was not used to making decisions or choices for herself. What secrets would this lockbox divulge?
The last several days had been surreal, but she had proven herself to be a survivor and would continue to be one despite any challenges she must face. In some odd way, with his death she now felt a peace much like independence - something all together new. It was hard to believe his passing had allowed her this progression. His death had been unexpected and quick. Despite the fact that he had been no friend or true spouse, she had never wished to impart any suffering upon him. He was, after all, the father of her children, and she had at one time loved him though it was difficult to recall such emotion.
Colleen had been married to Angus for twenty-four long years. He’d used every manipulative trick in the book to keep her beside him, including threatening to take their children far away. She hadn’t doubted him at the time, although now, she saw it for what it was: only a threat. Her children were adults now, but the hurt of the threat still hung with an impenetrable thickness in the corners of her heart. Thank God her children did not know nor would she have to explain such things to them. She couldn’t, after all, begin to explain to herself why she had stayed for so long despite a strong desire to flee.
He had not been physically abusive. Instead, he shown her off like a trophy, an ornate piece of jewelry or a prized racehorse. Still, he had berated her continuously within the confines of home or behind closed doors. No one really knew the extent of what she had endured. She had been his lackey, always doing his bidding because she had been so intimidated, and she had never expressed her own thoughts or desires. Quietly, without malice, she’d done as instructed, biding her time. “One day,” she told herself. Well, it looked as though ‘one day’ had arrived.
She grasped the brass key to unlock the box, turning it over repeatedly in slim fingers. Listening to the crackle of the fire and the peaceful strains of Chopin, she suddenly moved with determination from her seat. The box was ornate and larger than a jewelry box. Disconcerted to be looking in his lockbox, she paused momentarily and slid the box closer. Chiding herself since she no longer had anything or anyone to fear, she reached to place the key in the small lock. It slid in easily, and with a small twist of her wrist, it clicked. The box was unlocked.
In the dim light, she lifted the lid to reveal a little black notebook that completely covered what lay beneath within its confines. Curious, she lifted the notebook and set it aside to find a package wrapped in brown paper nestled neatly at the bottom. Retrieving and untying it, she gasped. Inside, she found stacks of money. Perplexed, she looked down, amazed. A quick count told her there was easily five hundred thousand in the velvet bag. How on earth had he managed to tuck so money away?
Inside the brown paper package, she found a small black velvet bag that housed more stacks of money, but these stacks were tied neatly with a blue ribbon. Inside the velvet bag, she found a brief, handwritten note: For Italy. This bag alone likely had ten thousand in it.
The soft delicate strains of Chopin continued to play, encompassing the room and dissipating the heaviness in it. She felt a newfound freedom settle in her and her breath came more steady despite the situation at hand. Indeed, the music and money seemed to fill her soul with a lightness she had not known for many years, and she felt the diminishment of a burden she had long carried. She sat for a short while, staring at crackling fire. There was nothing she could have found in the lockbox would have surprised her more than this. Or so she thought.
Eventually, she turned her attention to the little black notebook and timidly opened it. Uncertainty filled her anew. What secrets might his book disclose? On the first page she found an inscription, in his handwriting, that read: “To Colleen, with gratitude”. Reading on, she saw that beneath the first line, he had written a small paragraph. She was prepared to read whatever he had written, ever sure it was yet a final admonishment detailing her shortcomings. She steeled her self as she read:
“I have never shown you love or the appreciation you deserve. I know I am flawed and should not have married - I think I am unable to love anyone. Still, I was selfish. However, it does not mean I am unaware of what I lack nor does it mean I am not appreciative of what exists. I know you deserved better. I hope this money will help to forge a path to a new life and the dream or Italy you've always held. Be happy. You are not unworthy."
He had signed it only 'Angus'. She slowly flipped through the book open to find nearly all the pages were filled with entries, dated as far back as their marriage began twenty-four years earlier, and the most recent entry made only days before his death. Beside each entry, he had written an account of her patience, her humbleness, her loyalty, and her commitment in conjunction with some event or misunderstanding that had occurred during the marriage. But more importantly – and more surprisingly - he had also outlined a detailed account of his faults and his shortcomings alongside each of the entries detailing her attributes.
She had thought she could not be more surprised when she'd found the money, but nothing on the face of God's green earth could have amazed her more than what she’d just read and what was detailed in this book. If she hadn’t been sitting in her seat, she may have fallen to the floor in shock. Surprise and astonishment suffused her being. He had meticulously recorded nearly every single time he had faulted her, but instead of laying the fault at her feet, as he had been wont to do in life, on the pages herein he had described the events in total and undeniable truth, finding fault only in himself. He had known full well when he was wrong, as these writings clearly dictated, but he had never once been able to own it or say he was sorry. She had thought she had known him, but in truth, she realized she had known him not at all.
Peace accompanied by sadness infused her heart. She relaxed and leaned back in the leather chair, contemplating the man of their marriage. He was like two separate identities - Jekyll and Hyde. How sad that he had never been able to say, “I am sorry” or to acknowledge his own weaknesses and faults beyond these writings. Instead, he had carried that burden to his grave. She felt profound pity and immense sorrow for him. But she felt something more: undeniable, utter regret. She regretted that she had not striven to understand or help him more. Perhaps she should have even attempted to love him more when he could not love himself. In truth, and despite his words to the contrary, he had loved her to the best of his ability by releasing her from the burden of their years together and acknowledging that he blamed her for nothing when she thought he blamed her for everything. How ironic that it had taken death for him to reach such a pivotal point. There was also immense irony in the fact it had taken such an event for her to see the truth in the man she had married - the man she had once loved.
Grasping the smaller velvet bag against her chest, she leaned back and exhaled as a multitude of emotions left her. At long last, she allowed the flow of tears and wept, a release of well-stored emotions from the many years. She was like a bird, learning to fly. This was the final gift from a man whom she barely knew despite living with him for so long, and the unexpected gift helped to release the anger and resentment she had thought she would take to the grave. Still, more importantly, it helped her to forgive him. This gift he had given her in death was truly invaluable: it was the gift of forgiveness. In peace, she could now mourn the man who could have been but never truly lived.
“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” – Lewis B. Smedes
Echoes resonate, reverberating
In the stillness of man’s soul.
Rays from a lingering wolf moon
Reflect and follow the shadows
Of scattered grains of sand,
To create a dance
Older than life itself,
Choreographed in the crux of man's life
And derived from stone cold, aged hearts.
The endlessness extends and settles,
Stretching across vast miles of sand
To scour the the earth's dark night
And perpetuate the restlessness
Found only in the glow of a desert moon.
3 reasons your cat may be a CIA agent:
Top Investigator Award: (1) Always knowing what I’m eating despite my attempts to hide it from him (100% powers of perception with boiled peanuts or chips and dip); (2) Always knowing I’m about to walk in the door and taking a dump right beforehand to ensure the room is adequately “fragranced” and warmly welcoming; (3) Always knowing my alarm will go off in 5 minutes and alerting me of the same by either bouncing across the bed at 100 miles per hour or purring loudly a scant 1 mm from my face.
3 reasons the aliens left without bothering:
Aliens Deserted Us Because Of: (1) Our low minimum wage; (2) Our uninspired alien films; (3) Our slow means of travel.
3 reasons why the FDA actually approves of alcohol/ nicotine:
Alcohol & Nicotine Abuse Encouraged Because: (1) They would like us all to die before a certain age so that our benefits go unclaimed/unpaid; (2) We’re much more tolerable and likeable when indulging (judging purely from personal experience); (3) The alcohol and nicotine business is booming – a bourbon/tequila/vodka for every actor and fancy or hip cigarettes to suit every taste and style.
3 excuses to call out of work so you can go fishing:
Reasons to play hooky and go fishing: (1) You fell asleep and forgot to paint your toenails; (2) You have accrued a total of 8.25 hours in sick leave (and it’s literally burning a hole in your pocket, much like money); (3) Your friend reports the fish aren’t biting (a bad day fishing is always better than a good day at work).
Wait… what is that hiding in the corner?
Three things hiding in the corner: (1) Good Lord, it’s my bra – from 1976; (2) Time to sweep - it’s a collection of toenail clippings; (3) Oh my God - it’s my ex.
Ever felt like you were slowly sinking, despite your best attempts to tread water? Or that the boat you’re in is gradually going under as water levels rise and cover all port holes? Or that you’re swimming in water that’s becoming warmer with each minute, while a fear consumes that you will eventually be boiled alive? These are all descriptive analogies that embody a sinking feeling of hopelessness or a calculating depression that can threaten to consume someone and lead to an early demise.
I have, thankfully, only felt a sense of such severe symptoms once in my life while going through a bitter and ugly divorce. With such feelings permeating my being, it made routine, everyday life immensely difficult. As a result, I was lacking in the ability to make rational decisions and be my own advocate. Fortunately, I sought help and found it in counseling and an anti-depressant medication. I would like to stress that these two treatments did not cure my severe symptoms, but together, they enabled me to function somewhat adequately and make healthier decisions. Eventually, as my life settled back into place, I was able to discontinue the medication or treatments.
I was one of the fortunate ones. The sense of swimming in a cooker can easily be recognized as depression or mental illness, and others who struggle so profoundly with such disorders, often have problematic results with treatment strategies or medication treatments. I have a thirty-four year old daughter, who since the age of thirteen, has struggled relentlessly with achieving the correct chemical balance for a bi-polar disorder. Not only does she struggle with the key diagnosis of being bi-polar, but she is also faced with the challenges of other linked conditions that co-exist with the main disorder. All can be fine for days, weeks, or even months, and then all hell will break loose as a chemical imbalance or immunity to medication rears its ugly head – and the struggle begins anew.
I guess my daughter is also lucky. She is insured by a parent despite her advanced age. Also, a combination of medications also usually works for her to a large degree, making her condition somewhat manageable on a day to day basis. I am aware that there are many others who are not so fortunate to achieve success or partial success in a variety of treatments. For so many, insurance is not a possibility, as many are unable to work or qualify for assistance. I am more than sure that just seeking assistance under such dire symptoms is a hardship in and of itself. Also, many who do have insurance continue to struggle more than my daughter does with achieving a balance in treatment options.
I simply cannot imagine struggling on a day to day basis under such adverse and dramatic circumstances. I wish, in this country, we had more options accessible for those who do need help and that there was not such a stigma attached to mental disorders. I am sure that each one of us, at least on one occasion in our life, has felt the need to seek an additional means of support or help for we are all human, falling short of the mark, be it intentionally or through no fault of our own.
It goes without saying that this subject leaves the door open for a multitude of further comments, comparisons, and possibilities. I’ll just end this brief discussion by saying I wish no one ever had to feel this way or struggle so. Still, life is what it is, and unfortunately, it is not always easy and usually not fair either. These facts alone mean we should always be willing to listen, help, and assist those who are struggling. We should also be mindful of those who do not display such needs in an observable fashion. Listen with your hearts, minds, and all senses in addition to your hearing for you never realize what difference a small kindness could potentially make in someone’s life, especially in the life of someone who feels they are swimming in a cooker.
A life is made
In the darkness
Of a night.
Years of strife
It glows amidst
Of persistence -
The light becomes
The light surely
As it begins anew -
Elixir of Kings
One hot and brandy-sweetened night
A year or two ago
’Twas filled with massive want and waste -
But left no warm afterglow.
I woke to learn my bank account
Had plummeted to empty
For I’d spent far too much
On endless drinks aplenty.
What’s worse, I did not recall the taste
Of that which cost so much,
French cognac at its finest,
The drink of kings and such.
Louis XIII is a true elixir
A drink of divine delight
Still, a glass or two will cost you
Take all your money in a single night.
I fear I had not just one – or two
But bought the room a round
And now I’m dead broke even though
I'm the most popular guy in town.
I often wish to forget the failures, the shortcomings, and the dismal times – when I've cried, hating myself or someone else. Yet, in doing so, I have to wonder: would I too then change? Would all the many experiences that shaped and made me stronger, wiser, more appreciative, and more humble dissipate into thin air as though they had never existed? Would I then progress to a formidable, less desirable version of myself: a vapid, selfish, irresponsible, and less sympathetic individual, easily despised for those things I would surely lack? An immature brat with no self-awareness or powers of perception?
While at times, I wish to forget all the negative, really tough experiences in my life, I recognize that in doing so, it would not be the smartest choice I’ve ever made. I’ve certainly been dumb and chosen unwisely before; still, this would be the cumulative effect, the mother lode, of all things dumb and unwise, much like a huge rock rolling down a mountain in a landslide, easily smashing what I’ve worked so hard to build. It would be an easy path to choose, but a really devastating, destructive one nonetheless.
So instead, I’ll make a concerted effort to dwell on those things I could easily desire forgotten, and as always, I’ll forge ahead. I’ll continue to do what I’ve always done by putting one foot in front of the other and reflecting on myself as though looking in the mirror. In making these proactive choices, I’ll endeavor to take in, to learn from every minute experience as long as I draw breath even it such a choice includes hurt or pain.
It would be so easy to forget, but I've always chosen the hard way - never learned anything the easy way. Therefore, I'll not forget, for in doing so, I will be a perpetual learner of life and truly live.
Of leaves and flowers -
Can you hear them?
In the sun
Now just a reflection
In the ice.
In the haunted,
Walls of home,
Memories of you.
Do you feel them
In your heart?
Of new birth
Seen in the
You, along with
A new umbra -
Is it really you?
The Enchanted Owl
Each night, the owl could be seen, even at a distance, as he made his flight across the skies. Against a backdrop of moonlit clouds, his silhouette was striking, creating a nearly manlike image in its magnificence. He appeared much like an ethereal creature derived of ancient days or a mythological god. There was no doubt as to his importance in the world’s grand scheme of things. He was a creature of allure, of mystery, and of dreams.
From the bedroom window, Luna welcomed the owl’s arrival each night after the moon rose high. He swooped in with an ominous shriek, perched proudly on the high tree’s branch, and then proceeded to cock his head at a ninety degree angle to study her with rapt intensity as though he could perceive her innermost desires. His amber eyes always struck her to the core, filled with both mystery and ominous wisdom, and something more: something akin to unknown truths. Oh, but how Luna longed to know what the owl was thinking whenever he looked at her in such a way.
Tonight was no different. The owl watched her, enraptured by the sight she made as she stood in the moon’s glow. When he looked at her in such a way, she was wont to wonder if he were a mere bird. Instead, her mind drifted to other possibilities. Perhaps her nocturnal visitor was a man, a mortal, who had fallen under a spell of enchantment – a kind, handsome man who was a lover of all things associated with the moonlight. Oh, but the way the owl studied her. What did he know? What did he long to say? There was certainly much more to this owl than what met the eye.
Tonight, Luna recognized that the owl’s appearance was different somehow, and yet, she could not put her finger on exactly what made it so. His eyes of amber fixed on her without interruption, with an intensity unlike previous nights. Impulsively, Luna leaned out the window and extended her hand. Cooing softly, she beckoned the owl with a smile of utter innocence. The owl shifted, straightening to an impressive height as he plumped his feathers, apparently well pleased by her actions. Slowly, the bird moved along the branch toward Luna’s outstretched hand, his eyes never faltering in their focus of the woman in the window, a figure in flimsy white, enshrined in flowing strands of long, red hair, much like a fairy or garden nymph.
Luna’s coos became softer, sweeter. The bird stopped just short of the window. A need to touch the owl engulfing her, Luna lifted her hand and stroked the amber streaked feathers. As she did so, the owl’s eyes lightened to spun gold only moments before the moon shifted behind the clouds, leaving them in darkness.
Suddenly, in a flash of light, the moon reemerged to illuminate the window and a tall, broad shouldered man who stood before it. Confusion filled Luna, and she stumbled backwards.