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I am beginning to comprehend
the mystery
of the gift of suffering.
It is true as some
have said
that it is a crucible
in which the gold of one’s spirit
is rendered,
and shines
Alice Walker, The Long Walk Home,
from Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart

I had the pleasure and honor of being able to see Alice Walker when she came to speak at the Brooklyn Museum earlier this month to introduce her new book of poems, Taking the Arrow Out of the Heart. Ms. Walker is one of my favorite authors; her expressive, lyrical words always transport me to places of awe and wonder. When I opened my signed copy of her new book this morning, the first stanza of her first poem, cited above, rang true for me.

From my own experience, I’ve learned that when I can reflect on and learn from any painful experiences I have faced, the process of alchemy turns them into the gold of strength, resilience, wisdom and compassion. Then I can emerge as a survivor, rather than a victim.

This is why it’s unsettling for me when after reading my memoir, Mystery of Memory: Telling My Truth, Standing My Ground, which talks about my struggle surviving childhood incest, some people say things to me like, “I’m so sorry you had to go through that.” I know they mean well, and I take their words in that vein. However, when I think of painful life experiences I have had, rather than lamenting that they occurred, I prefer to appreciate the alchemy that brought me to the other side.

Are there parts of you that are wounded and hurting? What would happen if you took the time and space to simply allow them to speak to you of their hurt and recognized their capacity to overcome the pain and bring you forward to where you are now?