Kind promise: I will forgive with wild abandon.
“If I’m going to keep this promise… And make it through January,” I thought, “I need to forgive my body.[1]” We (my healthcare providers, caregivers and I) are scheduling a colostomy for January. Underneath my pragmatic, can-do exterior, I am frightened and grieving.

To forgive is “to grant pardon for or remission of (an offense, debt, etc.); absolve.” Who shall I forgive?

  • My body didn’t consciously attack the myelin sheaths covering my nerves.
  • My personal theology doesn’t include a God whose will it is that I live with this illness.
  • My personal ontology doesn’t include a series of lifetimes where the person I am is paying for the sins of the jerk I was.

The phrase “victimless crime” springs to mind. This is a perpetratorless crime. No one is at fault. No “grant pardon” forgiveness here.

Love your bodyTo forgive is also “to cease to feel resentment against.”  My body no longer functions the way it used to. I have an idea of how a healthy, normal body is supposed to work and mine doesn’t work that way.  I am sad about the loss of normalcy. I am ashamed because it involves bowel control.[2] I am angry because I feel ashamed.  I am ashamed that I am angry and sad that I am ashamed…The emotions become a tangle.

Cease to feel? Not in this body. This body includes this brain which produces chemicals that produce these feelings—with body comes emotions. No “cease to feel” forgiveness here.

What is forgiveness in this situation?

Forgiveness is not running away from these tangled feelings and not getting stuck in them either. Notice them. Feel them. Release them with a breath. Forgiveness is giving myself a fresh start, turning my face to the sun and coming back to love. Forgiveness is compassionate witnessing.

I remember playing a “lion hunt” game with my daughter when she was a baby. She would be lying on her back, possibly just after a diaper change. I would begin a singsong chant as I wiggled her body to the rhythm.

going on a lion hunt
coming to the forest
can’t go over it
can’t go under it
gotta go through it
stomping through the forest, clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp (I wiggled her legs up and down like she was stomping through the forest)
coming to the tall grass
can’t go over it
can’t go under it
gotta go through it
pushing through the tall grass, swish, swish, swish, swish (I wiggled her arms as though she was pushing through the tall grass)

[and so on, leaping brooks, swimming rivers…until]

Uh,oh, there’s the lion! (We would reverse order and do the motions doubletime )
swish, swish, swish, swish
clomp, clomp, clomp, clomp
Phew! Home safe at last!

At this point, we were breathless and laughing with each other.

So here I am, in this aging, disintegrating body which includes this wild mind producing tangles of emotions.

Coming to the grief.
can’t go over it
can’t go around it
gotta go through it, breathe, breathe
[and so on, breathing through shame and anger…until]
oh, look, there’s forgiveness! (No doubletime here, just more breathing and tenderness)
Phew! Home safe at last!

At this point, I am filled with gratitude and self-compassion.


[1] I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1981 and have been slowly progressing through this incurable disease – cane, leg spasticity, scooter, wheelchair, right arm spasticity, suprapubic catheter.

[2] We humans find our waste embarrassing. This may have been evolutionarily sound thinking that kept us from infection. Certainly, we need to handle our waste products carefully, but finding them disgraceful is a social construct.