The Healing Time


Finally on my way to yes
I bump into
all the places
where I said no
to my life
all the untended wounds
the red and purple scars
those hieroglyphs of pain
carved into my skin, my bones,
those coded messages
that send me down
the wrong street
again and again
where I find them
the old wounds
the old misdirections
and I lift them
one by one
close to my heart
and I say holy
holy holy

by Persha Gertler, Poet Laureate of Seattle


“On my way to yes…” What a journey. One of the things I love about this poem is the suggestion that “healing” doesn’t always need to involve complicated practices and lifelong effort…  So what might make healing possible?

We find two essential elements at the very beginning of the poem. “Finally…” is one. Making peace with our untended wounds, constrictions (“saying no”), and misdirections may take time. We may not realize it’s possible. The messages from the pain remain unintelligible, like hieroglyphs. We may be stuck in self-blame (the familiar Inner Critic at work), or simply overwhelmed by confusion. There’s no schedule, and who can say when we will finally be ready to acknowledge, feel, and embrace all of the wanderings and “no’s” that have shaped the life journey.

The second key: the mysterious opening to “yes.” Yes to our mistakes, to losing our way over and over, to the many times we neglected our own wounds and headed down unwise paths. How does this happen? What might help us to turn towards this “yes”?


Opening the Heart


Perhaps we find our way to giving up a legacy of self-judgment, inherited and learned from our families, our religious upbringing, a cultural or intergenerational legacy.  After a long and exhausting journey, we may find ourselves gradually opening to both inner and outer support, ready to surrender the self-judgment and pain.  Some of us may be fortunate enough to have help from therapists or healers of various kinds, or from healthy spiritual sources. Ultimately, finally, we may simply find ourselves ” lifting” the old and heavy wounds “close to our hearts” and blessing them. This “holy holy holy” is the heart’s expression of love.

We may not be able to explain how this poet found her way to her own heart, but amazingly, she did – and probably to her surprise, she finally found it open. Open enough to make space for all her pain, wanderings, mistaken searches, wounds and scars. What a beautiful softening of her “no’s” to life’s offerings. Somehow it’s the appearance of the  “yes” that makes this heart-opening possible – perhaps the two emerge together.  And I suggest that the poem offers a gift: this “yes” now becomes more available to us as our own journey continues to unfold. Not that it will always be easy to feel the “yes,” but  once we have felt it – we know it is possible.

The poet’s heart felt deeply wounded and yet – the deep heart may also create a space for healing. And somehow, the opening and the welcome make it possible to experience all of what preceded as holy. This is not a prayer for forgiveness, although it could have gone in that direction. Somehow this is a blessing that emerges naturally from the heart, and renames all that preceded…

The words “holy holy holy” may remind some readers of religious services, but in this poem we have no idea whether they have that kind of source for the poet. Were there old memories that emerged untouched from all the suffering? Did the words just emerge from the heart, spontaneously, as a loving embrace of all the unwise searches and deep wounds? For us, this remains a mystery. Perhaps it was a mystery for her as well.


Exploring possible Openings


We each have our stories about paths unwisely taken, opportunities turned down, wounds that we failed to acknowledge, did not tend to. Not everyone experiences this degree of intensity. Trauma may be involved; personality patterns may influence our choices and reactions. But setting aside individual differences, can you relate at all to the writer’s journey and experience?

I invite you to reflect:

What might bring you to the point of finally surrendering to the past experience of pain and the misdirections, to all of it? What might open your heart to the “yes” that creates space for  the blessing, the “holy holy holy”?  We can’t force this before its time, but when we encounter a story like this, it may inspire a kind of softening and self-forgiveness, an opening to possibility, an inner search for the deep heart that is always here.