If you follow my Facebook page, you know most days I’ve posted about random celebrations designated for that day. Most of them are fun and many revolve around food, but others are more serious. Today, is Global Forgiveness Day and as I worked on the post, my thoughts went deeper than a social media post.
I see a tremendous amount of pain in the world, particularly when I watch the news. Rioting, violent crime, verbal assaults, all these stem from a place of anger and hurt. No amount of government intervention or additional policing will solve this problem. Forgiveness is needed to begin the process of healing in our homes, our local communities, our countries, around the world.
Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, But deliver us from evil.
That part is well known, but Jesus continued: “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”
Holding on to hurt and anger only injures the one carrying this burden. Quite literally, refusing to forgive can damage our physical bodies. A University of Wisconsin study regarding forgiveness found forgiving people suffered less from certain illnesses. On the other hand, less forgiving people suffered a higher number of health problems. Withholding forgiveness causes stress, which can lead to physical symptoms like – anxiety, high blood pressure, and depression.
The amount of relief and freedom that comes when we choose to release that burden and forgive the person who has hurt or offended us is immeasurable. It’s often easy to say we’ve forgiven but much harder to mean that in our hearts and allow the healing to begin. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean reconciliation, either. There are some offenses that damage relationships beyond repair and make it unsafe to return to them. Forgiveness doesn’t mean we allow the person to continue hurting us, either physically, verbally, or emotionally. We may need to depart from those relationships as part of the forgiveness and healing process.
I struggled for many years with unforgiven hurt from my childhood that grew into bitterness and stunted my emotional growth. When I began releasing the pain, that process that took longer than I even realized at the time. Choosing to forgive isn’t always easy and doing so doesn’t guarantee the hurt will disappear overnight. Sometimes we need to make the choice daily to forgive the other person, to pardon them in order for us to begin our healing.
That early hurt shaped how I dealt with subsequent offenses until I realized I hadn’t completely dealt with it and sincerely cleared the debt of an apology I felt owed by that person. When that came to light, my eyes were opened to other hurts I had held onto and used not just as bricks to protect my heart, but offensive weapons to ward off potential offenses. Who here hasn’t used a past hurt in a current argument even if the two instances aren’t linked at all? We do that because we aren’t dealing with the hurt at the time and allowing true forgiveness to complete its healing work in us.
How much happier would life be if we could wake up each morning free of resentment, grudges, emotional debts we expect to be paid. Instead, we would wake up with peace, trust, and an open heart. I wish I could say I’ve reached that point, but there are still days I struggle with anger and resentment about certain things. Being aware of them, though, and making the choice to forgive them once again brings me one step closer to complete healing.
This last premise isn’t something I learned in 2020 but it did serve me well. In 2003 I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, a diagnosis that wasn’t well understood then and even now is still a mystery in many aspects. Everyone experiences it to different degrees and the symptoms include joint and muscle pain, trouble sleeping, brain fog, fatigue, emotional swings more unpredictable than any roller coaster, and a wide variety of other challenges. The way I feel from hour to hour can change, making it difficult to commit to plans with friends or feeling guilty if I do plan and have to cancel at the last minute because the pain is too bad.
Some mornings I wake up with muscles so tight I can’t stand up straight or turn my head. I’ve learned over the years tricks to ease the tension but there are days when nothing works. I just have to bear it and tell myself, “Tomorrow is a new day”.
I’m a student of history. It always frustrated me in school when each year we would only cover the same time periods. We rarely made it to World War I and never beyond. I took it upon myself to read about the events not covered in class.
The magnitude of devastation the world has seen and survived helped to keep the events of 2020 in perspective. The “Black Death” swept through most of the known world in the mid-1300s and lasted seven years killing an estimated 200 million people. There was no known cure or treatment. This plague came on the heels of a famine about thirty years earlier, which is estimated to have killed anywhere from 30%-60% of Europe’s population.
Many of you have probably heard the statistics of the Spanish flu that began in 1918 as WWI was still grinding on. Somewhere between 20-50 million people died from this illness and again there was little doctors were able to do. Just over forty years later, in the late 1960s, my grandmother was stricken during the Hong Kong flu epidemic. Thankfully she survived but her lungs were damaged for the rest of her life. Treatments had progressed, though, and this outbreak’s death toll declined to between 1-2 million lives.
Most recently, in 2009, the Swine Flu swept across the globe creating panic and causing around 200,000 recorded deaths. My dad contracted this illness and was very ill. He survived, but again his lungs were damaged and he’s suffered breathing issues ever since.
Disease is not the only thing that has claimed lives through the centuries. Wars, famines, natural disasters, tyrannical leaders, unchecked gang violence, and everyday car wrecks have laid claim to millions of victims. When the media is bombarding us with one story all day and facts are evolving on a frequent basis it’s easy to get caught up in fear and become paralyzed, desperate for any action that offers protection.
I have family members and acquaintances that contracted COVID. Some were very sick, some died, but most were minimally ill. I have gone through the gut wrenching pain of watching loved ones die of incurable diseases. I don’t discount the suffering of those who have experienced loss. It took a period of anguish for me to come to terms with what my heart has known since childhood. God knows all the days of our lives. He knows when we will be born, all we will do and the day we will die. It’s an inevitable part of life none of us like to think about but cannot escape. Remembering that along with the lessons of the past helped me keep the year in perspective.
If you don’t know Jesus in a personal way, it’s difficult to see light or experience hope in this fear filled time. If you need hope, I encourage you to take time to read the New Testament of the Bible, the words of Jesus himself. Start with the book of John. If that is intimidating, watch Season 1 of The Chosen, which follows the calling of the disciples of Jesus. It makes the life of Jesus relatable, understandable, and real. Season 2 will begin streaming on Easter Sunday, April 4, 2021.
Humanity has suffered great turmoil before and we will do so again until the day Jesus returns. What a glorious day that will be!
Before the pandemic, I worked in an environment with plenty of distractions. One wall of my office was shared with a busy conference room and another with the main breakroom for the floor. When the refrigerator door opened it would often hit my wall and threaten to shake loose anything hanging from it. People often hurried past the door or dropped in to see what was going on and my office mate being an extreme extrovert, people-pleaser, engaged them all in lengthy conversation. I became an expert at tuning out what was happening right beside me.
Transitioning to a home office stripped those distractions, but replaced them with new and, for a period, more interesting distractions. What time did the mailman come? How many deliveries did the neighbors receive each day? Would the construction across the street ever be finished? Who are the new neighbors moving in? Is the handsome new guy single? Yes, I became the one drawn to the window at any new sound or rumbling delivery truck. I’ve seen enough mysteries where the nosy neighbor gets killed, though, to know not to buy a pair of binoculars for a better view.
All I learned about tuning things out in the office started to come in handy at home. I didn’t need to see which children where playing outside or what the handsome young man was wearing when he left. I could have the TV on for background noise and when one of the podcasts I follow wandered into the now repetitive and pointless topics, I hit fast forward.
As the weeks passed, I started to see more families riding bikes or taking walks. I wonder how many of them were outside hoping to escape the pervasive doom and gloom. It was good to see families out together, enjoying nature and time together. There is a wonderful drive through a wildlife refuge a few miles from my house along with a maze of tiny dirt paths that meander along spits of land in the Indian River. I took these drives several times and saw more people enjoying them along with me than I have in all the years I’ve lived here.
It’s healthy and often necessary to tune out the noise in life. I don’t mean just the news and social media, but the things that nag at you and keep you from spending time with family. The house will always need to be vacuumed, the dishes or clothes will always need to be washed, there’s always another conference call or report to write. It’s important to draw boundaries and stick with them.
Keep work at work and home at home. Of course emergencies can arise with either, and those can be handled as needed, but other than that, focus on where you are and who you are with at that moment. Turn off the TV and computers. Put your phone on silent or Do Not Disturb and take a walk. Tell your kids stories they will roll their eyes at, but years down the road they will remember and realize how right you were.
I’ve been pretty self-sufficient for as long as I can remember. I have put together all my furniture, even the Ikea stuff with the terrible directions. Watching HGTV demolition days always inspired in me a feeling of how satisfying it would be to take a sledge hammer to my kitchen cabinets.
Solitude isn’t the same as isolation, at least in my heart and mind. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines solitude as “the quality or state of being alone or removed from society” and isolation as “the action of isolating or the condition of being isolated.” I find something relaxing and restorative about solitude, while I never associate isolation with any positive. Prisons have isolation cells, hospitals have isolation wards, horror movies are often set in isolated cabins, you get the picture.
2020 was a year like most of us have never experienced. Social turmoil, a pandemic, economic downturn, social isolation, and violent terror attacks. Conversely, there was also a resurgence of families spending time together, children playing outside, an awakening of faith, a renewed appreciation for many things we’d long taken for granted. Over the next several weeks I will share some of the things I learned and experienced.
The first thing I learned was to appreciate what I have. I was fortunate not to be furloughed from my job when many others were. I had mixed feelings, a little bit of envy. I can think of numerous projects I would have completed with all that time off, including editing my current work in progress. However, there were glitches with the unemployment benefits and some colleagues were still waiting for their first payment over a month later. Watching my meager savings account dwindle in an effort to keep the basic bills paid would have place tremendous stress on me. I thanked God for knowing what was best and keeping me where I needed to be during that period.
Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly found myself thinking about the practice of writing letters and cards. Written correspondence has been a part of human communication for centuries; a way to share the news of the day and provide encouragement. After my grandmother passed away, my mom and I spent long hours going through her papers and found letters from her sisters. My grandmother was one of twelve siblings, most of who remained in North Carolina after she moved to Florida.
Often the letter was just a quick note to let my grandmother know they had made it back home after a visit to Florida and some kind words about their stay. Some were longer updates on what was happening with the family in North Carolina and inquires after my grandmother and the family here in Florida.
I have my own box of important letters that I’ll either need to deal with before I leave this world or they’ll provide entertainment for whoever is tasked with my estate. A few years ago I threw away hundreds of letters my high school best friend and I exchanged. We got to a point where we were writing so much we took to just transferring a notebook between us, using code names to talk about the boys we thought were cute. I still have a couple of those notebooks just for kicks and wish I could remember those code names.
I’ve started taking more time to purchase cards to let friends or family know I’m thinking about them. Phone calls are nice and have their appropriate time, but there is something about sending and receiving a card that, to me, resonates sincere consideration and care. A card of encouragement sent during a difficult time can be held onto and pulled out when the crush of despair washes over you, a reminder that there is someone out there thinking about you and loving you.
It’s a shame the US postage stamp keeps rising in cost. I might consider sending letters about the mundanities of life to some of my friends and family to keep in touch in a more personal fashion, without worrying about the prying eyes of hackers or the chance a social media platform is selling my “private” messages to the highest bidder.
Maybe as I get older I am becoming more sentimental, but I did come across an article in Medium a couple weeks ago advocating bringing back handwriting. The article referenced studies that show students who take notes in longhand tend to retain more information that those that typed notes. I can attest that I did better in school when I was handwriting notes, even writing practice essays before tests. I believe there is a connection between the brain, the heart, and the written word. I still journal in longhand and the act of doing so helps to calm me when I’m anxious or bring peace when I feel sorrow.
Working on this blog led me to pull my box of letters from the closet.
I opened it and found at some point I had taken time to bundle some of the letters and cards together. Those bundles were all from individuals with separate items thrown in at later dates. The oldest letter I identified came from my elementary school best friend, most likely over our summer break. I was surprised at how many letters I had exchanged with one of my high school friends who moved out of state during our sophomore year and even more shocked at the number of letters from one of my college friends. We continued paper correspondence even though email had come along (albeit recently). I loved seeing these names and glimpsing at some of the letters. I could sit for hours reading them and remembering the good times we shared.
Do you think hand written notes will make a comeback?
My friend, Mike, is an excellent photographer who recently asked me what I thought about notecards. I, of course, told him I love them (I actually have a stockpile from days of compulsive shopping). When he showed me the prototype of some cards he was thinking about selling, I thrilled with the possibilities. By the time we finished talking, I’d given him ideas for several collections of notecards using his photos.
In recognition of Mike’s talent, and in an effort to bring back personal written correspondence, I’m giving away a set of his notecards. If you’d like to see more of his work or purchase some cards, you can find his shop on Etsy at www.mtigreetingcards.com
Our final morning in Ireland started with some last minute adjustments to our bags and a light breakfast. Our taxi arrived a bit early and I was feeling good about having plenty of time to get checked in and settled before the flight. The Dublin airport has two terminals and I had studied the website the previous night to make sure I knew which terminal we needed to go to. My memory isn’t the best, though, and when the taxi driver asked which terminal I couldn’t be sure I remembered correctly. There were signs for other airlines but not Iceland Air so I took a guess and we got out at Terminal 2. (Don’t hold me to this, it could change and may have since we were there. I checked the website at the time of this writing and found Iceland Air currently departs from terminal 2)
That was wrong. We asked for directions and found the skyway connecting the two terminals and hurried to find the check-in counter, where of course there was a line. We really had plenty of time, but waiting in lines before a flight makes me anxious. When I travel in the U.S. I always use the airline’s app, do the online check-in with the digital boarding pass and only have to worry about the security line.
Before too long we were at the counter checking in. As you may recall, we were supposed to fly home the day prior, but the airline had allowed us to extend an extra day to make up for arriving so late on the inbound flight. The change had seemed to go seamlessly until we checked in. Yes, they had our seat reservation but the checked bags and meals we had prepaid for hadn’t transferred to the new departure.
I wish I had made note of the name of the ticket agent as she was truly wonderful. She made some phone calls and received approval to check our bags without any additional fees. The food, though, she couldn’t help us with. We weren’t getting the meals until the second leg of the flight from Iceland to Orlando, so I figured I would try to work something out during the layover. Boarding passes in hand and checked luggage handled, we went in search of the VAT refund desk.
If you haven’t traveled to a country with a Value Added Tax (VAT) allow me to explain. This tax is only applicable to residents and those traveling outside the VAT zone are eligible to file for a refund on goods purchased that are being exported to their home. Food or services consumed during the trip are not eligible for any refund. To make it a bit more complicated, there are different ways you can refund the VAT. Some shops complete paperwork right at the time of sale exempting you from being charged the VAT to begin with; some provide you with a lengthy receipt that has to be turned in before leaving the country, and then there is the Horizon card. This card is swiped at participating stores and then you swipe it at the airport before departing for your refund to be processed. Some stores have clear signs about which process they follow, most do not.
Then there is the hunt to find the VAT Refund desk in the airport. The first set of directions we received seemed pretty good, turn at the sweets shop. Well, the Dublin Airport has multiple sweets shops. Were we supposed to turn at the chocolate cafe or one of the smaller shops that appeared every few feet?
We stopped and asked again then headed back the way we’d come. This time we saw a small sign that seemed to indicate what we were looking for. We turned down a hallway nearly bereft of people and found two desks with one person at each and some kiosks in between. We handed them our papers and they helped us with the documents that needed to be mailed then directed us to the kiosks to swipe our cards for the remaining transactions. When it was all said and done, I think I got back $7 or $8 US Dollars, certainly not more than $15. A number of my souvenir’s purchased in smaller shops apparently didn’t have the appropriate receipts. So, if you are considering applying for a VAT refund, consider if it is worth the headache of trying to figure out how many processes you want to follow and how much time you want to invest in finding the refund desk.
We arrived at the gate with plenty of time to spare and had an uneventful flight from Dublin to Reykjavik. Once we landed, we found an Iceland Air customer service desk and asked about our meals. Sadly, these agents weren’t as kind as the women in Ireland. Here we were told we were out of luck, that the food had to be ordered 24-hours in advance and no they couldn’t refund us what we had paid. Off we went in search of something to eat since it was an 8+hour flight. The cost was exorbitant and the choices were limited in the secure area. I wasn’t about to go through customs to get to the services outside security after the fiasco I’d had on the way into the country so I bit the bullet and bought an assortment of snacks.
Where the Dublin Airport was packed with various shops and places to eat, Reykjavik-Keflavik Airport was sparse and laid out in an almost clinical style, at least in the secure area. I don’t recall too much about the area outside security from our inbound flight. I was too tired and traumatized by the trip getting there I didn’t register too many of the sights.
There was a nearly a 4-hour layover and I don’t think I relaxed until the plane was in the air, worried about possible delays. All went well, though, and we landed in Orlando around 10:00pm. By the time we returned to my house and shared some highlights with my parents who had been house/cat sitting, it was after 1am local time (7:00am Dublin time) and we’d been up since 6:00am Dublin time. Tired but filled with many happy memories I fell into bed.
A few general thoughts and comments about the trip.
Since returning home, my mom has gotten a genealogy bug and has located a number of Irish and Scottish ancestors on both my maternal and paternal sides. I knew there had to be some Irish and Scottish blood in my veins as the land seemed to call out to me and I felt so completely at home everywhere we went. Now, of course, I need to make a trip to Scotland to explore my heritage there.
I love hats, but don’t get to wear them too often in Florida. I hate it when my head gets hot and sweaty. I wore one everyday in Ireland. I had 3 to choose from but I ended up only wearing two of them. One, a black wool knit cap my parents gave me for Christmas just a few months before the trip was perfect. It was warm, snug on my head against the strong winds, and remarkably rain resistant. Many thanks to the folks at Three Eagle Outfitters that recommended this hat to my mom.
One concern before we left Florida had to do with chronic neck, shoulder, and back pain. I have found that DoTerra’s Deep Blue cream works wonders on these pains so I stocked up on travel packets in case I had a flare during the trip. I took 20 packets with me and only needed to use two or three. That was a blessing.
On our inbound flight I had used a shopping bag as my personal item, which had been less than ideal. For the return I used a High Sierra packable backpack I’d brought along for day trips and this was much more efficient. I used this bag several days during the trip and it proved water repellent. It was a nice lightweight and when not in use packed into a compact rectangle. On the return trip, this held my iPad, camera case, itinerary notebook, a couple of the books I had purchased, wallet, cell phone and a few other sundries. The side pockets were great for holding my water bottle and some snacks. During day trips I was able to secure the zippers by using a carabiner to link all three together, making it at least a bit more difficult for a thief to quickly reach into the bag.
Once we were home, I contacted Iceland Air about the challenges we had encountered and I was pleased with the resolution they provided over email. The online customer support was much nicer than the agents we spoke with in the airport itself. We were able to get our return meals refunded and under European Union regulations were compensated for the inbound delay, with all the funds in our accounts within approximately 48 hours of wrapping up our correspondence.
I am sad to be ending this series and haven’t decided what my next series is going to be on quite yet so I will be taking a couple of weeks off. I will post some of my favorite pictures from the trip that didn’t make it into previous posts in the interim, though. Between Tricia and I we have close to 5,000 photos/videos! We’ve been home nearly 7 months and I just received copies of her photos this past weekend. I’m looking forward to looking through them to get her perspective on the trip.
Thanks for taking this journey with me. I look forward to sharing something new and interesting in October.
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