The Luck of Forgiving Trees

I wish I were a tree. Evergreens provide a healing tea; the ancient birch, Birkano, have a mother spirit encouraging everything around it to grow. The yew tree promotes visions to the mystics who sit beneath it. Red Cedars have unusually deep roots generating great endurance under sun and rain.

I wish I were a tree who could stay quiet when my limbs were lost, or go dormant in the chill of winter snow. Tree communities have roots entwined beneath the soil, relying on each other for support. Each separate tree pulls water, nutrients, and energy from the earth, but not one tree punishes its mates, nor holds a grudge, nor blames the other trees for falling.

Instead, I am a human. And we humans like to muck about in the dirt differently, churn in the chaos of our own pain, and unleash a suffering in the wake of our fury. We like to penalize each other for our pain.

When I am resentful, it is a festering wound, a slow drip of nitric acid, the shock of a paper cut, reminding me just how powerless I am. Blame and Ego, my self-righteous pets, slather salt into the wound, and voila, more pain.

The only thing worse than my resentments might be my guilt. And it is almost unbearable if I am not allowed to assuage it. If, for some reason, I cannot confess it, or someone refuses to hear it, I become obsessed with ridding myself of its barbs.

I recall carrying the guilt of a singular act for what felt like a lifetime. I would hold international peace conferences in my head, stare at the nighttime ceiling justifying my actions, cry in the shower over my loss, and consider ways to build a time machine.

Years later, I could see that no one was even thinking of me, or of my crime any longer. But I did. I still wanted to make it right. I was unable to find atonement for 30 years. When I finally sat in front of the woman I had wronged, she simply stated that I was then young and largely alone, that no one helped me to make the right choice because they would ultimately benefit from my fall. It was a profound thing for her to say that to me. I wondered if I had been meant to suffer all those years so that I would never again betray myself. My sin had harmed me the most.

There was a time after that when I felt forgiving others was an absurdity, meant for people who fancied themselves a god. I felt that forgiving someone would be an act of superiority, that forgiveness implied a pious condescension, an inherent power to bestow another’s freedom or hold them eternally imprisoned. I refused to forgive others because I did not believe I had the right to judge in the first place. It seemed distorted to be submissive, to beg another human to measure us. Detachment from the errors of those around me felt closer to the lens of a divine source.

This silly business of hate and judgment, this human condition of lording over another person’s injustice reeks of something rotten. I suppose I have grown quite calloused, almost numb in the face of everyone thinking they have the answers. I am tired. My mirror holds the vacant eyes of a refugee. I go numb in order to survive.

No one holds the corner market on pain. Some people hold their pain up like a thing of worship, but it is futile.

The only way out of the pain is to feel it. Go deep into a hermetic state and wail. Purge the venom and suspend time until your blood runs clean again. Raging is understandable, but it won’t make a lick of difference. Love is the only way out. Dignity, which is just self-love, and Brotherly Love reign supreme.

I suppose the lucky trees know a thing or two, and we would be wise to emulate.

Why Online Dating is a Spiritual Experience: Part Four – Take the apple, Eve.

I’m no saint, and I always resonated far more with the defiance of Adam’s first love, Lilith. But let’s face it, even Eve was tempted to know more, and plucking fruit from the tree of knowledge was inevitable. According to biblical wisdom, not everyone wants to be submissive, nor blissfully ignorant!

My pursuit of finding love via an online dating site was in many ways my bitter fruit. At night I would lay awake and consider the bones of the dead. I was sincerely sad that I was unable to really love so many men who wanted to love me. I too felt the burn of rejections, even though I understood that these things are rarely personal. Chemistry was a wicked beast. I would stare at the ceiling and imagine this very specific love that I hoped would transcend the electrical wires and universal airwaves and land smack dab on my profile, the absolute result of divine power and an extra kick from my own earnest intentions.

He would be in many ways my twin. There would be sentences we didn’t have to finish and serendipitous events that made me gasp and sigh. We would often be content to watch Netflix and eat our dinner on the couch. We would play hard in the outdoors and always talk about what we were reading. There would be an incredible sense of safety and a comfort I had never known. Oh to be held in my sleep! I would not worry about my aging body or morning breath or foul moods because he would be blinded by his love, and I would finally experience a mutual devotion. He would be unique and emit an entire world of splendor. He would be devilishly witty and he would have all the strength that comes only with a person who had truly suffered, endured and rose from the ashes like an immortal god!

I was always nervous though, since I had in fact had that sort of love twice before (once in college and once in my late 40’s) and then later came to see that it wasn’t real. It was an illusion, and it was deeply painful to be ripped back to reality. Thus, I was doing my best to have faith and yet not be fooled again.

Then in early February, I met him. His name was Samuel.

Samuel and I met for the usual 40-minute coffee date. Three hours later, he walked me to my car and unexpectedly kissed me in the middle of broad daylight. I was stunned. But as I drove home, I found myself slowly forming a smile on my weary little face.

Sam was very smart, educated, undeniably handsome and tall. He was responsible and reliable and deeply committed to his community. He was cultured, well-traveled and had an interesting past. He lived in the city where I was moving in just a month’s time. And he was a writer.

We emailed long and intense exchanges then for almost two weeks. Sparks were flying! We agreed to have our second date the night after Valentine’s Day, to take the pressure off the holiday angst. He made me dinner.

At first I felt like a stranger again, but we warmed up and eventually began sharing lots of stories and opinions and shedding the strains of …well the strains of dating! Two people agree to face each other and try to form something that will be ultimate and profound. That is a lot. And I think we felt it all. But I truly liked him, what he stood for, the way he lived, how he moved and what he wore. He was really amazing!

Until he wasn’t.

I think this is where I would like to turn back the clock and insist that he stop talking. I would like to control the things that he shared so I could remain in this bliss a bit longer. My spiritual core understands that there was no way we wouldn’t always end up in the same spot – in the truth. Because truth is all humans really want in the end. And Sam chose to tell me the truth right then and there on the second date in his darling apartment.

It was dark, disturbing, traumatic.

I cannot even go there. You must understand. When a person shares these things, the most spiritual reply is to honor it by keeping it safe. And he trusted me to do that. What I can tell you is that some people, like Sam, have experienced some very traumatic things and they have to walk the earth with it. They have to get up every day and make their way and find some tricky way to be okay and to manage and to live.

But the one thing that can really get in the way of that coping and survival is the harsh reality of a romantic intimacy, where someone will demand a part of your heart that is mangled and protected.

We stumbled for another month. We pushed and pulled on the phone and through emails, only securing one more brunch in person. But Sam was unwilling to do what I felt was an honest and thorough look at his past. Some part of him began to shut down the moment I suggested there was work to be done. He never really let me back in. I moved into the city and invited him to visit. He muttered something about how the pandemic was just too much. He had expected me to live with his gaping open emotional wounds, the same wounds that destroyed his marriage, or I could just move along.

I chose the latter.

Slower Now

Most of the time I live my life in extremes. I am intense, passionate, deep, addictive. I like to leap across the sky in oranges and crackle with lightning, or bury myself inside a cave of sooty bitterness and brood and churn.

It keeps things interesting for sure.

Still, there is a lesson to be learned from the constant raging fire. Lots of ashes to wade through now. Lots of bruises and cuts and scars. I am a warrior spirit and I am battle weary, my friends.

A wise woman knows when to go to the stream and let her feet soak in the cool water. Take a moment to gaze around and listen and smell and feel the air. Now take about 100 more moments just like that today.

The water rune of the ancient Nordic ways looks like an upside-down L, like the Leek plant. It is called Laguz. Lah-GOOZ. I draw it in ink upon my wrist today to remind me that a wise woman will pause in the glory of washing her wounds, purify, cleanse, purge. Soak in the salt bath and let the filth and grit seep from her pores and flow down the drain. Cool blues, frothy whites and rich greens heal me now.

It is my broken way to drive my face into the dirt with willful self-destruction and a sorrow too big to snuff. I want to race against it, pound it out on the pavement, cackle and cry.

A wise woman knows when to stop fighting and sink into the pools of quiet lapping renewal.

Let the goddess power of Laguz spill over the damned and splash and rise and swell into my soul now. Let me treasure this rainy day and be still. I will be back out there fierce and ready soon enough.