About five weeks ago, while I was in Italy studying with my yoga teacher, I got a phone call from my brother. My biological father, who I hadn’t spoken to in three years, was dying of cancer. He had never met my daughter, his only grandchild, and I had not seen him in about ten years. I did not meet him or know where he was until I was 10 years old. There is, as you can imagine, much more to this story.
I hung up with my brother and wept.
Two days later, Peter, my father, heard the voice of my daughter, his granddaughter, for the very first time. I asked him if he wanted to meet her. Through tears, over the phone, he expressed how wonderful that could be.
I have decided to start being more honest about my life in writing. Before I was a mother and a wife, I was fairly open about the challenges I faced, and wrote about much of it freely. Since moving to Switzerland, which places quite a premium on privacy and silence, my writing and public sharing has become increasingly scarce and hushed. Certainly, that has been affected also by the privacy I wish for my daughter and family, as well as the very real strains on time that I have found in motherhood. However, as I review the past three years, it is clear that my silence has been largely dominated by my immigration to a place that has, despite my best efforts, never felt like home.
Maybe it is because I turn 40 this week. Maybe it is because I am faced with the mortality of my own father, and have come face to face once again with the fleeting, wondrous and unapologetic nature of life. Maybe it is because I have finally simultaneously accepted and reached my limit in the struggles I have borne quietly here in beautiful, idyllic Switzerland. Or that I have both accepted and reached my limit on the abuses I bear from certain family members or colleagues. For all of these reasons, I feel called to share; as a purge, as a potential connection to others who might read, as a basic trait of my own humanity… and most importantly for me at this time, as a clear mark of my process of acceptance and forgiveness.
These two active states of being, acceptance and forgiveness, go hand in hand, as they are deeply connected with the process of loosening our grip on what we want now and what we wanted in the past. They radically alter our need to be right or to be safe. They shift our perception from dream-state to pure presence. Acceptance moves us from fear and clinging. Forgiveness places us in the seat of our heart and out of our stranglehold on the past.
Within two weeks of my brother’s phone call, I was sitting at my father’s bedside, holding his hand and tenderly laying aside years of my own suffering to share in what has always amounted to a profound connection. It was maybe the most intense and radical process of acceptance and forgiveness I have ever encountered. He met my my daughter, his granddaughter. We wept and laughed and shared our hearts.
This process continues to tenderize my heart and break me wide open. It has proven to me how strong and resilient I am, as much as it has brought me to my knees.
My old anger sifts through my heart like sand in a sieve, and I am left with the shells and beach glass of grief and sadness… but also those of joy and wonder and connection.
I wade in the tides and collect the beauties, only to set them free to the ocean again.