The word that keeps ringing in my ears is compassion. That mixed with forgiveness and a keen eye on the future, one that I want to be free to step into.
One evening a very long time ago, on a brutal winter night with the howling wind creeping into the rooms of our distant northern home, my mother turned to my brothers and I saying in a voice I hadn’t hear before, “Pack your bags. We’re leaving.” I didn’t know what to do. Pack? Our bags? Where are we going? We didn’t do anything because it didn’t make any sense, explain please? In her voice I heard a mixture of desperation, determination, sadness, a lot of anger, all covered in a layer of fear. She was frightened, she was also confused. Her confusion lead us to freeze, sitting it out until we got further instruction. We never got further instruction.
This command to pack our bags came at the end or during a fight with my dad. She had reached a point where she must have thought she couldn’t take it another moment and that the solution was for us to pack our bags and leave. But to where? It was the night. The plane came once a day and the few times we had flown away from this remote town was only after months of planning and anticipation. No one just up and went and caught a flight outta there. And flying was the only way out. No roads. No nothing. Just the plane.
Even if miraculously we could have found ourselves on a plane, where would we have gone and what would have done next? I was excited for a brief moment when we were told to pack because for a fleeting moment I actually envisioned leaving. I felt it. It was freedom, for the briefest of moments I saw that leaving could be a choice. In those few seconds I conceptualized that there could be a different way to live, out there somewhere, with my packed bag, that we could create something other than this. And the this was really hurting us all. Perhaps we would go to my grandparents, but then what, would we live with them? What would my mom do to take care of us? Sure she was a teacher, but you need a dad and a husband to take care of a family, right?
This was the late 60’s. Divorce was taboo. Women working on their own to take care of a family? That wasn’t modeled anywhere that I was looking. And then remember the biggest factor coloring the lens through which all our beliefs had to pass through, religion. The man was the head of the household, god like really, and all authority lay in him. We were pawns with very little ability to believe, act, speak or make decisions unless they were in direct alignment with his. Our lives had to first go through him, only being allowed to parrot his beliefs and way of being in the world. Any attempt at independence in thought and action were literally beaten and threatened out of us.
Remembering this incident recently, I felt compassion for my mom. She wanted to get herself and us out of there, away from him, at least in that brief moment. And if there was that one moment odds are there were more. Yet she was hindered and blocked by the entire belief system and structure of her family, her community, her religion, all set in the larger context of the climate of the day, which frowned upon a woman getting all full of herself, to think she could leave a man! My mom should have done so much better than she did. She should have protected us, and I will never forget that she didn’t. But, I have to let it go. It doesn’t mean I forget, and forgiveness is a little unclear for me right this moment. But, I also have decided to exercise compassion for the limits and real constraints of the time and place she was living.
I’m choosing to have compassion. I don’t know exactly where this is going to take me, but it feels right. I feel lighter and have more hope. In having compassion for others it’s interesting to observe that there might be more of that from me towards myself as well. It’s hard to be so hard on people, it doesn’t stay focused, that energy. It spreads out and over others that don’t deserve to receive a harsh spirit from me. And again, I’m included in that… crazy huh? I’m the last one I should be harsh on, but harsh I have been. (sigh)
It can be a new day.