After a somewhat challenging Thanksgiving, my son and I went out for Vietnamese, one of our favorites. Comfort food, for sure. There, a fortune cookie imparted wisdom that I desperately needed after the holiday mayhem. Who knew that a fortune cookie could frame things so beautifully?

 “Everything is perfect in the universe…including your desire to improve it.”

Wow. What a perfect thing to tell me on this particular day.

I’d been having a difficult conversation with my brother and sister-in-law the night before about being kind and respectful to those who have had trauma or been oppressed by being open and listening to them express their pain. The conversation began about race and prejudice, and their point was that we all must learn to “suck it up” and make the choice not to be victims. I agree that we all have the opportunity to come through our difficult experiences in life and stand in our power, as my life has shown. We all can choose to shift our perspective and see ourselves as masters of our own destiny. However, this shift in perspective only comes with immense desire and effort to heal from the said trauma or oppression. A person who has been abused, whether by people, a culture, or a system, is in a place of pain…and nothing can move them from a place of being the victim until they are free to talk about their experience with safe and trusted others. My experience as a survivor of abuse has shown me that, until I had loving space to express my pain, it stayed inside me and made me closed down to others’ pain.

My own miraculous healing has led to my desire for others to heal! I want others to feel the safety and permission to be sad, grief stricken, angry, enraged, or however they feel…because when their feelings are acknowledged, it creates an alchemy inside them that frees them to be another way…happy. My life is so very blessed! And it wouldn’t have happened without the love, respect and acceptance that I’ve been shown by people that I trust. Freedom from my internal prison – the belief that I was given that I was a bad person, or feeling devalued because of my experience, or feeling unworthy due to my abusive programming – is a gift I want everyone to have the opportunity to experience.

I learned as an educator to “meet my learners where they are”…that until you acknowledge where people are, you can not help them see or learn a different reality. When we provide safe space for others to be where they are, we are building a bridge over which they can cross to another way of being. If we don’t provide that safety for them to express their experiences and pain, we are saying to them “Your experience doesn’t matter. Your feelings don’t matter.” We are saying to them that we don’t care. I, for one, feel that empathy is something that this world needs more of. Listening with an open mind and heart creates miracles; this is how I want to improve a perfect universe.

I want to believe in a perfect universe, but this perfect universe has a lot of pain in it…and my desire to make it better is a healthy and beneficial impulse that comes from a loving heart. May all that are in pain find a safe place to express it, so that they can experience the love that lies on the other side of their pain. Then they can express that love and, like me, hold space for others to come to this wonderful new reality.