My daughter Skyped me this morning and she had a new haircut—with bangs. I instantly was transported to another time. I was laughing and chasing a two-year-old little girl in pink shorty overalls. She had bangs and long, straight dark hair; it flew behind her as she ran, looking back to see how close her young mother was getting and shrieking with laughter.
What has been one of the hardest things for me is not as much living with what has happened or failed to happen but in submitting myself to the hidden gift that grief unlocks within the pain of losses I did not think I could bear. For years I lived in pain, then anger, then cynicism, then self-loathing… around and around. Slowly I came to know a love that was greater than the value I had accepted of my life and I began to feel myself drawn up onto my feet… with a seed of hope that there might be something good arise from all that has been. This love made me see that there is overwhelming suffering in this world and yet there is an enormous yearning in people for life, for love, and it is not meant to be in vain, this longing.
If I could accept my life’s journey and myself as it was, as I was, I must accept it all and acknowledge the love and healing, as well as the losses. There is so much more to a life than the worst that has happened to us or the ugliest thing that we’ve done. What could be different if we could really grieve and let go of what has festered, and then take our life, our experiences, back into ourselves… accepting it all as part of us?
If not grieved, regret takes hold, diseases our lives and our bodies and takes away our own humanity as it takes away everyone else’s caught in our regret. There is loss and there can be unspeakable pain, no question. But regret steals our grief and refuses to allow our wounds to heal, re-wounding us over and over, never to leave us in peace.
Somehow life is found in trusting the reality of the moment we are in… as it is. What is now, is. Things were done that can’t be undone. Things weren’t done that cannot be done now. We have this moment, this clarity, this reflection, this opportunity to grieve well and free ourselves to live as fully as we can each of the moments remaining in our brief lives. Regret is a demanding slavemaster, leaving us with only more regret. We not only lose what was, we lose what could be right now… and so the cycle goes. Another day, another month, another year and we look back and wonder… and feel more loss because we remained frozen in fear that gave birth to regret.
I came to see that if I really wanted to know freedom; to love and be loved more fully I needed to enter into those things I regret and do what must be done, feel what must be felt, grieve what didn’t get fully grieved. Let the wound be dug out once and for all so that I could learn to live and to love. I also have learned that I can offer myself in love, take responsibility for what was or wasn’t on my part and be rejected by someone I have brought pain to in the past or who has caused me pain. As a parent I know this too well. It is so difficult to let go and let someone walk away, possibly never to return.
But if I give into fear and do not grieve the loss that fear produces, I will not live the life of freedom that I am here to live. I will not be able to receive one who comes back to me. I do no one justice by lying in the ashes of self-recrimination that result from embracing fear. Not one of us was meant to live in the chains with which we bind ourselves.
There is no day like today to walk out of our prison and be responsible to the life we have been given. What is the worst that can happen if we choose faith over fear? Discovering that we are wrong and faith is merely smoke and illusion? Or discovering that faith means something, and everything we thought we knew about God faded away and the doors of our self-crafted prisons just slid open. It seems human nature to stay with the familiar, even though we sense that this isn’t what life was meant to be. What lies in the mist, beyond what we think we know, can seem like a fool’s game.
I listened to my beautiful daughter share, with growing clarity with each passing day, the passion of her heart to create change in this suffering world, while her own two-year-old slept peacefully. And she is creating change even now, although her full impact on this world stretches out ahead of her. If I had a do-over, what would I want to be different than this beautiful love we have? Whatever was has brought us to this place. There is now a strength between us, a certainty of each other, a knowing and being known, a respect borne of trials, a hope and faith we each came to in our own way that we were created by a loving and personal God who longed to heal and restore; believing in a promise that in submitting our lives to Love we might experience the kind of relationship a parent and child longs for in their hearts. And each of us has come to see that it takes us both. To lay down regrets and the loss of yesterdays. To love in the moment we are in. To connect and keep connecting. To find a way.
I think perhaps a person’s greatest purpose is to give into love and submit oneself to what love asks… even if it seems folly, if it challenges everything we think we know, even if it is not met by another on this earth and the road seems to stretch out long and solitary.
‘Give in to love or live in fear. No other road, no other way.
No day but today…
Forget regret, or life is yours to miss.’