“The practice of peace and reconciliation is one of the most vital and artistic of human actions.” -Thich Nhat Hanh
I grew up accustomed to angry bursts of violence. My parents divorced when I was thirteen, but the years leading to their final separation made the divorce more of a relief than additional pain. Communications were mostly done in different octaves of yells and even now, my children often have to remind me about how loudly I am speaking. We were all stranded in that family, wanting what everyone wants: to be valued, acknowledged and loved. No one in my family had enough of themselves to offer anything to anyone else.
The only rule I was ever entirely dedicated to for my own children was the enforcement of reconciliation on a daily basis. They weren’t allowed to leave the room, or even go to bed, when they were young until they worked through their conflicts. I am sure they thought I was crazy and maybe I was. With me, I carried the many painful ways that we abandoned each other everyday in my childhood. The rage and injury was interrupted with only brief moments for recovery, only to come back for another round.
I have consistently worked to control my emotional breakdowns within my family but am still caught off guard at the ferocity that they still hold. More and more I can sense the buffer slipping and pull away to get some quiet and perspective. But sometimes too many forces collide and I am beside myself, literally, watching some out of control, hysterics coming from my own mouth. It is usually little things that trigger us- a ruined load of laundry, a blender’s contents exploding, burnt waffles… sometimes all of them colliding in a singular moment in time. Something cracks.
I am able to witness almost at once how much damage these tirades inflict. Caught between shame, guilt and the initial fury that took over. There is no room left for ego. Sometimes apologies aren’t enough. Each person caught in the tantrum has to process for themselves. Reconciliation is an act between people, one that can only be effective because everyone agrees to it. Sometimes it is easier to hold onto our pain than it is to let go of it and accept someone back into your heart.
I believe that it is less painful to risk being hurt again than it is to stay angry but I know that I cannot convince anyone of this. For many people don’t believe that their hearts get stronger and more resilient with use. They don’t trust their hearts to live through more than one heartache and they confuse humility and humiliation. Don’t misunderstand or think that I am in any way, making light of the nakedness and vulnerability that embodies reconciliation and forgiveness.
It might well be the most courageous form of love that we humans are capable of and the only real hope we have of ever being fully realized. It is not really ever in what we do right that makes us most ourselves. It is how we do right by what we do wrong that shapes us and leaves a legacy of our humanity.