Every year at Yom Kippur (for a while now…maybe ten years?) I write a letter to my children—three children three letters. And it’s usually a variation on the similar theme of please forgive me for anything I have done knowingly or unknowingly to cause harm.
I didn’t want to be one of those harm-causing oblivious moms!
But over the years, my letters became a bit of a meme, the kids responding with some version of, ya ya ya mom…I know, you love us, think we’re great, and you’re sorry. Blah blah blah…
This year, as Yom Kippur was approaching, and I was thinking about what I would write, I began to ask myself, what exactly am I sorry for? For not being perfect? For not providing my children with a sorrow-less life? For moving so many times? For being emotional? Falling asleep without fail halfway through every movie we watch? For being a vegan and giving them DNA that predisposed them to way too many addictions? For not always controlling my anger? Or anxiety?
My letters, I realized, were written from a place of shame, a place of I am bad as opposed to I did a bad thing. And by writing them, I was trying to absolve myself of some internal stain of self I couldn’t even locate. A metaphorical Lady Macbeth, out out damn spot!
That is a very painful way to live. And totally unnecessary.
Over the past few weeks, I have been devouring the poetry of Sandra Cisneros and Ama Codjoe and Alice Notley and Lucille Clifton and Maya Angelou and Gwendolyn Brooks, and their courageous and vulnerable and honest words encouraged me to rethink the story I’d been telling myself.
The poet Alice Notley calls her poetry as a beginning space; I decided I needed a beginning space. A reset.
And I started to sketch out this vision. Internally, initially. And then it made its way to the page…random words that felt right, that felt loving, that felt me. And they all started with W—woman, writer, welcoming, wonder, wander…
And I still wrote my letters this year. But they were different. They were letters of support, encouragement, letters of gratitude, and of course letters asking forgiveness, acknowledging wrongdoing, but also acknowledging importance of vulnerability, the imperfection of this human experience, the ability to be resilient and pick oneself up after a set-back.
We’re here to grow. To learn. Not be perfect. Not be driven by shame. We are here to dance with life, to transform negative internal chatter into loving melodies. We are here to bring light into our constantly evolving beginning space. Here is my W, drawn by my daughter Eva.
What letter defines your beginning space?