The gap between this garden post and my last spans 15 months of a global era charged with all the circumstances that make my kumbaya soul weep. It’s not inflation, the economy, the pandemic, the immigration crisis, or politics. No. In all things, it’s the pervasive anger, contempt, divisiveness, unwillingness to listen or compromise, and the refusal to forgive.
And so it was a humbling experience recently to find myself in a circumstance that stirred in me the kind of blistering anger and stubborn unforgiveness that I find bewildering in others.
Early on in the said situation, I admitted my shortcoming, explained myself, and apologized. In my mind, it was a relatively minor infraction; poorly chosen words said in the heat of a moment. I fully expected to get past it quickly, especially during the holidays. The other party didn’t see it that way, didn’t accept my apology, and was particularly harsh about it on Christmas Eve. Everyone else in the room pretended not to notice.
Forgiveness is something I value highly and always try to give freely. To have it withheld from me was hurtful. As often happens, hurt turns to anger. I retreated, allowed my resentment to grow, and vowed never to forgive the unforgiver. I stewed about it. I seethed. I allowed it to invade most of my thoughts for the next few days.
Then, on the Monday after Christmas, I received a coincidental reminder from a friend about not letting the heartless world rob you of your joy. It was a quote by writer Kurt Vonnegut that my friend just happened to post on social media. It said in part, “Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.”
Reading that, I realized I had relinquished my power over my inner happiness to someone else. Regardless of how that someone else chose to handle the situation, I had the ability to regain my own peace of mind. The ice that had so quickly formed around my heart began to melt.
“Feeling angry and unforgiving may be a comfortable state of being for someone else, but it’s definitely not for me. This is not who I am,” I said to myself and later to my husband who agreed 100 percent.
I began to look around me for more reminders of who I am. That same day I asked my husband to stop the car so I could take a picture of snowy, cloud-shrouded mountains that looked like they belonged in a fantasy film. The next day I marveled over a colorful sunset between winter storms. The next I found unexpected inspiration in some of the messages (two borrowed from poet Ralph Waldo Emerson) on the front of the Christmas cards taped to our coat closet.
Believe in the magic.
Every hour and season yields its tribute of delight.
Every moment of the year has its own beauty.
Peace and Love.
More wonder, more twinkle, more merry, more joy.
And at the top of the display, a Thanksgiving card that said only, “#blessed.”
The most important reminder, though, were my roses. No. There is nothing blooming in the high desert in the dead of winter. Yet, when I went out on the front porch on New Year’s Day to refill the water bowl we keep for stray cats, I couldn’t help but notice pops of red on the other side of the railing.
There, still clinging to the bramble bush, were several spent roses. The backdrop of snow through tangled canes framed them in a way that reminded me of the Bette Midler song, The Rose. Most people who know the lyrics remember the last lines about the progression of winter, snow, sun, spring, and the rose. But there’s another line elsewhere in the song that means more, especially today.
“I say love, it is a flower, and you, its only seed.”
As this new year begins, I find that I’m oddly grateful for the humbling experience with anger and forgiveness (or lack thereof). I needed a reminder about the power of choosing how we’re going to feel, how we react to forces beyond our control, and how every one of us has the power to plant seeds of love.
We – you and me – are the only soldiers capable of combatting the animosity that is spreading ever wider in our world, our country, our communities, and sometimes in our own social circles. Take my hand and let us skip happily into 2022 with the expectation that we can make a difference by freely scattering seeds of all the goodness that lies within each of us. In the simple words of the holiday cards displayed on our coat closet …
Magic, delight, beauty, peace, love, wonder, twinkle, merry, joy.
With these seeds, we are indeed #blessed.