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Posted By Opening the Heart

Since I'm a big Red Sox fan, it's not surprising that I was recently watching them play a night game against the Orioles. When they fell behind 5-0, I'd seen enough and went to bed. In the morning, I read about the Sox' thrilling come from behind win in the last 3 innings and I said to myself, once again, "It's never too late".

Actually, it's that phrase and the belief behind it, that determines what movies I watch and how I do my lifelong work as a psychologist in my therapy practice. The films that are most deeply moving for me are the ones about redemption, where the characters have been roughed up by life's hard times and, as a result, they've become hard or mean, but some small event or a meeting or a divine descension of grace, transforms the heart and leads to a life of deeper wisdom or kindness. This transformation is what I witness every time I lead an Opening the Heart weekend workshop. And it's the same transformation I see so often in my therapy practice. It's never too late. No one knows our name until out last breath goes out.

But, honestly, I've come to admit that, maybe, sometimes, it is too late. It's early spring and I'm always excited about putting new plantings in the earth in the serenity garden on the deck outside my office window. I feel like a wiser planter than I was when I first started the garden 3 years ago. By that I mean that I know what plants will bloom all summer, which will survive the heat, which will be back next spring. But if I don't choose well now, then come August and September, It really will be too late to alter the outcome of the garden.

I've mentioned in a previous essay a man in my practice in his mid 60's who was diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer and I wrote how much I admired his efforts to try to "get some things right" before his life was over. I see another woman who is 81 who also has inoperable cancer. She speaks bitterly about her family with whom she has had little contact over many years. She decided to write letters to her children and grandchildren to try to bring closure for herself. She has not seen any of her grandchildren in over 3 years. She asked for my help regarding what to say in the letters.

   If I'm honest, which I was not with her, there was a part of me that shook my inner head and said silently "It really is too late to make a difference in how this woman's life would play out". Who knows, who am I to say, maybe she could write how sorry she was that she had chosen to harden her heart for so long. Maybe she could wish that her children and grandchildren never make the same mistake she made- that it was not too late for them. Maybe she could tell them that she forgave them for any ways, intentionally or not, that they hurt her. And maybe she could ask  them for forgiveness and tell them that she loved them. So, maybe, it was not too late for her to get some things "right" before her life came to an end.

   And what about Big Mistakes that we may have made that cost people their dignity, their homes, even their lives? I don't know the answers to these questions. I really don't know if sometimes, maybe, it is too late. I just think that all we imperfect beings can ever do is to aim high, do our best, take responsibility when we fail and then show up again the next day. Maybe this does come back, once again, to practicing self kindness and doing the hardest forgiving of all- of ourselves.

With Love and Respect, Jon



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