I was surprised into looking at the arc of my life a few days ago. I heard my name called as I was walking through the building and turned toward the lovely smile of someone I hadn’t seen in over a decade. She told me she has been reading my memoir and wanted to talk. Gulp! I must admit, those words always make my heart race a bit because I have to wonder if I’ll be up to reliving the answers to questions that are bound to come. Important moments in the years curving behind me flashed through my mind; our lives overlapped when mine was resting in a very different space. Anyway, I smiled like I knew what I was doing, and we made plans to meet. In the meantime, I replayed some seminal minutes I had experienced since our time together . . . the time I expect she wanted to talk about, the moments she’ll want me to recall. It turns out I was right.
I’ll bet you can identify some crucial, influential minutes that have ultimately helped to define the days and years still shaping the arc of your life. Like the smoothly-rounded stones that mark paths for walking, life’s moments lead us onward. I liken them, in my naïve way, to DNA – picturing a type of energetic, intricate and interwoven code of memory – living and moving deeply within our hearts and minds.
Here it is the Fall season of my life’s arc but, at the same time, I believe it was just 10 minutes ago the adult me first found love. Just 9 minutes ago my son was born; 8 minutes ago my daughter was born; and only 7 minutes ago their parents were divorced. It was 6 minutes ago love came to visit again; 5 minutes ago my son died; and 4 minutes ago a second marriage disintegrated. 3 minutes ago I wrote a book, trying to understand it all; and 2 minutes ago I discovered the grace of forgiveness. And then, only I minute ago, I finally understood what I’m meant to do.
Her questions, as I anticipated, took me back into a reality where moments of pain and loss were abundant. Yet, and here was the best surprise, I was grateful. For during our minutes together, I was totally at peace. Our talk finally led her into the center of her wondering, and me, into the center of my peace: really . . . could I, a bereaved parent, having experienced a resulting divorce, honestly forgive and move forward? Good question.
There’s nothing quite like grief’s ability to overwhelm you with its damn teachable moments. But thankfully, I held on long enough to absorb one of its most important messages about forgiveness. And here’s what I now understand: forgiving is a deliberate, conscious decision to let go; it is neither about forgetting or condoning, but about releasing the despair and anger that can hold us prisoner. It’s an empowering place, giving us all new opportunities to reshape the trajectory of our own arc . . . moment by moment. Each of those moments, milestones; each a setting for celebration or sadness; each preparing the ground for practicing a new reality; each either catapulting us into joy or urging us forward into acceptance, and finally, forgiveness, of ourselves or others.
Yes, I told her with a smile, I was able to forgive. And most importantly, I added, I had forgiven myself. It was then I felt my arc shift just slightly, once again.