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  • Writer's pictureJayna Newbold

Step By Step

Dear Hearts,

I hope all of you are experiencing as glorious a Spring as we are out here on the left coast of the U.S. Warm sunshine, daffodils, and green hills covered in rich foliage, from a distance resembling giant broccoli, against a vast Easter egg blue sky make the season easy on the eyes.

Spring brings new life, for sure. Baby animals, waking of the insect population, even our own thoughts and ambitions seem to stir as we humans begin to move our bodies more often when the days are somewhat longer and warmer, and objects of beauty in nature show their array of color.

As things are beginning to open after over a year of a pandemic-induced hibernation of sorts, it has become noticeable to this Happy Heart Writer that people are interested in starting over.

Gardening has always been a heavy interest in the area where I live. Almost everyone does it on some level. However, now, it seems that this pastime has become more than a hobby or simple project. Not only are friends and neighbors building raised beds in their front yards, or beautifying their window sills with a few flowers; they plant, grow full Victory Gardens from which they share the bounty with others. Historically, generosity is a strong trait in the community and surrounding area here. But it seems to have exponentially increased this Spring.

One other activity which appears to escalate is the act of making amends. Whether it is grief, a desire to resolve / grow relationships with loved ones, or any type of moving forward motion, we all have had a year of near solitude to reflect. I suspect we have realized we need one another more than we knew.

However, Dear Hearts, it doesn't always happen overnight.

Take my friend, Tom (not his real name, of course). I've known Tom for a long time. He is a good sort, but went through a rough patch after the death of a loved one a few years ago. Consequently, Tom developed a drinking problem and as it tends to happen, his actions negatively affected some people. He eventually joined Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), got his life together, and is currently on his final countdown of AA's infamous Twelve Steps.

But it hasn't been easy for Tom.

For instance, the other day, we were on a hiking trail, enjoying the beautiful weather, birds, and taking pleasure in the view and variety of wildflowers as we leisurely made our way up a steep hill.

Without warning, Tom stopped in his tracks; with his head bent downward, he muttered, "I don't want to do this."

Several yards ahead, a woman approached. Accompanied by a beautiful dog - a Husky - she ambled along at an easy pace.

I knew what Tom was about to do, and that he knew her, or at least recognized her. His AA sponsor had advised him to make amends on the spot when he encountered a person from his past. Do it right then and there. Ask for forgiveness. It's not so much for them as it is for him . . .part of his journey.

I understood. Although I have no experience with substances, I do recall one incident from a time of grief (even though I didn't recognize it as such in the moment) when my [now] late husband was ill. I had been caring for him 24 / 7, driving him long distances every day to treatments, caring for the household as well as his needs and, consequently, was exhausted.

I remember sitting in my car in a grocery store parking lot when an elderly couple accidentally bumped my side mirror with a shopping cart. I have no idea what came over me but I made the biggest fuss over the incident. My car was not affected in any way, and I can still see the shocked looks on their faces as I scolded them. I knew I was out of line even when I spoke, but for some reason couldn't stop. It was like an out of body experience. The second I drove away, I regretted my actions. What was wrong with me? Who was that? Certainly not this Happy Heart!

I promise you, Dear Hearts, I have looked for that couple every time I frequent that particular store. Although it was years ago, I look for them so I can deeply apologize.

So, I completely understood Tom's reaction when he spied the woman on the trail ahead. I hung back and gave him space as he hiked forward, stopped and talked to her. I could tell from a good fifteen yards away that their conversation was a pleasant one. Within minutes, they parted, smiling, her beautiful dog happily heeling by her side.

When I caught up to him, my friend was a little lighter. He told me it doesn't necessarily get easier, but he's always glad afterward. As usual, she did not recall a time where he offended her in any way. But he continues to make restitution one person at a time.

Baby steps.

Dear Hearts: whether we are grieving, growing out of our past, or we've had a rough year due to a pandemic, Healing takes time. Be patient with yourself and others as we all make efforts to know better and do better. Whether we plant a garden and share its bounty, make things right from our past with random people in the moment, or we continue to look for a specific couple in a parking lot so we can tell them with all sincerity that we are sorry for our actions, restitution doesn't always happen overnight.

We take it one day at a time.

Step by step.

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