I woke this morning heavy hearted. I know wherever you are – in a cafe, masked in a concrete city, swimming in the ocean, ready to get on an airplane looking at your seat partner with trepidation, or surfing the news for the latest…
I know you might be heavy hearted too.
So I wanted to tell you about a time nobody showed up in my living room to write. Years ago, I had built a writing class on the ancient Hawaiian practice of reconciliation and forgiveness, called Ho’oponopono.
It sounds so easy – there is a mantra part to the practice –
I love you.
Please forgive me.
Writers who committed to the class began to text me last minute, saying things like forgiveness is so hard, I’ll see you next Thursday.
Or, I know this practice but I’m not ready for it. I’m not ready to forgive.
Five people showed up – I’m used to a whole room filled with writers, and the evening was filled with soul cracking stories.
A year later, I taught Ho’oponopono to 100 people online through a series of writing exercises. A Hawaiian woman opened and closed the ceremony with a Hawaiian chant. What I remember most about that day, before I really knew how to do online writing events, was nobody wanted to leave the class.
Everyone wanted to read their stories of love, forgiveness and gratitude.
Soon after I changed my online writing groups, so everyone can read and have their stories heard.
Writing is a form of reconciliation.
We have seasons on Hawaii, sometimes subtle, sometimes not so subtle. This year I’m noticing the seasons. I wake up to something in the air that whispers change is coming. Change is a function of fall, so it’s no surprise this is when we have our presidential elections, when school begins again.
I remember the thrill I got in my body every fall, looking out my bedroom window at the oak and maple trees turning red and gold, and the sadness when the last leaf fell, but the excitement of being back at school and giving my skin a rest from the sun.
I got to smell ink and paper and chalk again.
My mother never said the words I’m sorry to anyone that I can recall. When my father was dying he did say he was sorry. I asked him why he was sorry, excited to finally get an apology from him. To my surprise he said he was sorry he never took us on vacations.
I assured him Asbury Park was better than any vacation. Then I changed his bladder bag. I kissed him even though he was highly contagious, I wiped his ass when the nurses wouldn’t answer his call button. I drove to restaurants around Atlantic City to find him is favorite last meals, oysters in creamy clam sauce.
I thought he was going to apologize for what he did all those years ago. For throwing me down concrete steps when I told him I was leaving my husband. I thought he was going to apologize for his rage when we were growing up.
But after my father died, after I moved to Kauai and began to write, I didn’t understand Ho’oponopono is not about changing someone else. I didn’t need my father to say I’m sorry, I was the one who needed to ask for his forgiveness.
So many times this year, I woke up heavy. Whenever I feel heavy, like I can’t get out of bed, I walk with the night sky. Sometimes she’s pink and other times it looks as if she’s on fire. I go to the edge of a cliff and talk to a tree.
In the hardest of times, the moon and the sun and all of nature is there for us, quietly shining.
In the hardest times – and I believe many more hard time sare ahead – I want you all to dig so deep, so deep inside yourself that you can forgive someone in your life, someone you never thought you would be able to forgive. Perhaps your ex husband or the neighbor boy who held you under water for too long when you were a child.
Perhaps you need to forgive your daughter or your son.
Forgiving each other puts more love into the world, not rage. It lets the air slowly out of the taught balloon without popping it.
I can almost hear the small hiss of the air being released, and the love that will follow.
Hard as it is, this is our work, everyone.
Today, when change is in the air, when the birds at Kalihiwai sound like they are arguing their way into darkness each day in the valley, I want to say to all of you – I love you, I’m sorry, please forgive me, and thank you.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
We will get through this together, because there are good people in the world. I meet them every day.
You are one of them.