Sunday, January 03, 2010

A Conversation about Healing

What makes people change their tune and decide not to fight anymore? How do people shed their old belief systems and move to new ones? Does acceptance really bring about healing and change?

I'm reminded of the 2005 Tsunami - amid the devastation in Sri Lanka and elsewhere, longtime rebel revolutionaries, the Tamil Tigers suspended their activities during the rebuilding period.  They didn't seem to undergo too much of a change because they returned to their anti-government activities and related violence some months later.

What about the Middle East? What would it take for peace to truly 'break out' locally? We know that much has to happen, from improving the well-being of Arab citizens of Israel to Palestinian school children being taught the real history of the region and not manufactured stories guaranteed to make them into the suicide bombers and militants of tomorrow. Both sides have to learn to trust again and to believe that peace would be better than the other alternative.

Last week I popped in for a cup of tea and a bit of chat with friend and feminist mover and shaker, Tova Hartman. I was greeted at the door by Racheli, Tova's middle daughter, who welcomed me inside even though Tova hadn't gotten home yet. Standard procedure for this household which always has friends and neighbors popping in during the day. Tova bustled in with groceries in hand and her elder daughter, Nomi, pregnant and feeling lousy with a flu of some sort - not Swine according to the doctor. Within minutes, the kettle was up and snacks had been dispatched to all in need. Tova joined me and we chatted about stuff - life, kids, aging parents (hers and my mother).

Tova commented - I'm not sure how we got to this part of the conversation - about what she felt was the missing link in achieving peace and healing in the region. She said, 'in order for peace to happen, defeat must be accepted.' It seems so simple, right? But let's consider what that might mean to our neighbors in Gaza. Palestinian peoples must deal with the loss of their land, their homes, their dream of nationhood in 1948, the sour taste in their mouths that the Jews won, the feelings of disillusionment with having become refugees for more than a generation.  Okay, big demand but then again, they've had 60 years to deal with the defeat - maybe it's time.

Of course, as I type those words I say to myself, 'duh,' this is not rocket science, but as Tova spoke further about healing being the result of accepting defeat the other day, I thought, 'she's right.' Loss is painful of course, loss hurts, loss sticks in your throat, especially when you've spent decades perfecting the art of loss - teaching it to your kids, living as a refugee - and the greater art of hatred as a result.

In life, one always deals with loss. Loss of job, loved one, dreams, hopes - these are the difficult emotions that can cross our 'desks' on a regular basis. I've dealt with the loss of intellect ever since Akiva was born. Not that he doesn't have intellect but I've had to accept that his is different and that he may never read or write or really converse with me in a meaningful fashion. Years of thinking about this has helped me cope with the daily insults of rearing someone with developmental delay in a world that isn't so willing to forgive him with what I've come to terms.

What about the acceptance that comes with defeat? Tova's line of reasoning continued with the thought that once you've accepted defeat, you can deal with it when it 'rises up in your throat' again and again. Again, a sensible response. Acceptance leads to acceptance or acceptance leads to understanding or acceptance leads to peace.

I know I don't always feel at peace with the things that I do accept in my life. I might feel a bit more at ease with them but I don't necessarily feel contentment. I'm a person who likes to do - acceptance is okay with me but change is even better. But you can't always change everything that you need to accept and sometimes you just can't do, you just have to let it be. 

May we all find some sort of peace and healing in 2010. 

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