Keep an open mind, I said to myself as I walked into a lovely apartment bathed in fall’s abundant sunlight. There were some women I knew from my community volunteer endeavors, the collective group ranging in age from fifty something to the mid-eighties.I spied coffee cake and fruit, so I was already winning. As we went around the room, I was instantly taken by the introductions from the women who had grandchildren and great grandchildren. I could have listened to them talk all day and skipped the lesson. I don’t have many people in my life of the grandparent generation and sitting in that room suddenly enveloped in their lives, filled some sort of hole within me. (I did ask if anyone wanted to adopt me during my introduction but there seemed to be no takers.)The speaker was young and vibrant and a mother of six kids. I was prepared for a complicated lecture that would fly right over my head. She began with this point — we each carry our own light into the world and it is our job to find out how and where to best use it. I was instantly on the edge of my seat. Last spring, I had dinner with my friend Laurie who, halfway through a margarita, began to talk about the very same topic. “Don’t let anyone dim your light girls,” Laurie preached to me and my workout buddy Nancy. The next day, after the tequila haze had softened, that message continued to speak to me. For months after that dinner, particularly when things in my life weren’t as rosy as a Facebook post, Nancy and I would look at each other and repeat the mantra ‘no one is ever going to dim our light.’ Each time we repeated these words, it brought a strange sense of control and calm back into my life.Our lecturer continued with this point; the light we are each given is a powerful gift, but sometimes we can crossover into someone else’s light, and that is where problems arise. We have to make space for other people’s light, she explained, and not mess his or her spiritual journey. When we crossover where we don’t belong, feelings are hurt and relationships can be damaged.
This past year I have knowingly, and unknowingly, crossed over into other people’s light. I have had friends and family members do the same to me. Sometimes it was a brief argument which was resolved quickly; and in one case it was a hurricane of a fight that left in its wake so much damage we have yet to come back together as friends. It’s something we all try to avoid, but then life gets in the way, Just yesterday, I heard a story about a woman who was so frustrated at a gym she yelled at the front desk staff. Her words not only hurt these innocent victims, but I would bet a hundred bucks that the guilt she felt post-tantrum probably seeped into the rest of her day.
As I sat in the back of the room, I couldn’t see the faces of the older women. I wanted to read their reactions to her words. I wanted to know, from these women who had lived decades beyond me, what the secret was to not letting the hurt destroy you. I wanted to know if the things that they had done, or the hurt that other people had caused them in their forties and fifties, had left a mark. Was I sensitive to it all because I was still in my fifties, or would I always be this way? I wish that my skin was thicker by now and words and actions would bounce off me and I could recover easily. I also wish that I had a better filter so that I would not be able to hurt anyone that I loved, for a minute, a day or the months that sometimes are the chasm between deep-rooted arguments and forgiveness.
A new month has begun and it is time to start fresh. I will take each day one at a time but I will also work on sharing my light with those around me in a positive way. I will try to be better at forgiveness, something that doesn’t come easily to me. In the end, forgiveness is the only way we can survive in this world. In the end, we each have to make sure that our light is never dimmed and that we make choices that don’t hinder the light of those we love most in this world.