Windless and Still

By Mark E. Smith

Life can be brutal – dehumanizing at its worst, where some of us lose so much at points, we feel that all we are is flesh and bones.

Yet, we push through it – most of us, anyway. Not all. We scrape the depths of our souls for whatever is left, and that marrow revitalizes us enough to start a comeback, following some path, yet to be totally revealed, that we hope will lead us out. It’s never linear, though, is it? We still find glimpses of hope veiled by dark patches. But, we reach and claw, and keep finding our way out.

How long does it take, we ask. Each of our journeys is different, in scale and in time. Months for some. Years for others. A lifetime for a few of us.

I think about this in bed on an August morning at the shore. My wife and youngest daughter are still asleep. I guess it’s around 7:30 am based on the last time I rolled over to check the alarm clock. No shower today. I have no desire for one.

Our daughter stirs, chirping, as we call it when she sings herself awake. I both revel in her adorable character and envy her. I often awake happy, with a tune in my head, but we adults are conditioned not to let it out. Kids are the fortunate ones – free of so many smothering social norms that would bring so much joy if we, too, could just let it out.

We all eventually get up and my wife asks me what shirt I want to wear? We banter about my insistence of a white, spread collar button down. She notes that it’s too wrinkled. I explain that it’s fine for my plans. I’m just going to park myself on the beach. Other events may transpire before or after, but I’m not concerned. A wrinkled, white button down will do. I slip it on, buttoned, over my head. As it slides down my torso, it feels crisp, cool, flowing, perfect.

I roll into the bathroom and turn on the sink’s faucet. I wet my hair with my hands, noting the grey. I run a brush through it several times and I’m good to go for the day.

A white shirt and combed hair were my only concerns, and they’re behind me. I roll over and look out our window to the beach, windless and still. And, I, too, am at total peace starting this day.

“Who’s ready for the beach?” I ask my wife and daughter.

The room is silent. We all know it’s a rhetorical question.


Forgiving – Ourselves


By Mark E. Smith

Among the hardest endeavors of the heart we ever make is to forgive – ourselves.

Although we live with the best of intentions, with tremendous purpose, we’re bound to make mistakes. When we’re on top of our game, the mistakes are small – maybe no one notices but us. However, when we’re not so mindful of how our actions effect ourselves and others, the mistakes can be life-altering, not just for us, but for those we love. In both cases, making mistakes can weigh on us like an anchor, keeping us submerged in shame, guilt, and self-doubt. In a way, we lose trust in ourselves, just as we imagine others lose trust in us.

However, the fact is, while those who care about us and love us are typically very forgiving, the person who most often takes the longest to forgive our mistakes is oneself. Shame and guilt are powerful emotions, not easily shaken. Yet, if we are to move beyond our mistakes, we must truly forgive ourselves. It’s not just the ultimate in humility, but also accountability.

See, when we refrain from self-forgiveness, we’re holding on to our mistake, like carrying a boulder everywhere we go. But, there’s no corrective action involved, just self-punishment. In contrast, in order to forgive ourselves, we have to deeply acknowledge our mistake and grow to trust in ourselves that we won’t make that mistake again. We must allow ourselves to give into ultimate humility. We must allow ourselves to accept ultimate accountability. Those acts of honesty and courage are the cornerstones of self-forgiveness.

Author Stephan Richards writes about self-forgiveness, “When you initially forgive, it is like letting go of a hot iron. There is initial pain and the scars will show, but you can start living again.”

In this way, the ultimate mistake we can make in life is not to offer forgiveness – to ourselves.