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By Lorna Derksen

I HAVE BEEN forgiven.

We were at our community retreat at Falcon Trails Resort, celebrating ten years of being in Watershed. After ten years with the same group of people, one might expect to feel at home with these familiar folk. But paranoia can be a feisty bedfellow when given license by insecurity and fear.

I had been worried about the weekend because I don’t tend to do well emotionally in community for more than an evening. I am far too preoccupied with what others think of me to let down my guard and just relax. I had hoped to subsume my fears in activity and so I engaged myself in the fun of preparing food and helping to create the video. But my plans failed and feelings of alienation came much sooner than I expected.

Lying in bed on the first windy night, I was tormented by an anger-fortressed wall that clearly separated me from the rest of Watershed. My self-justified anger burnt as I threw in fuel: my hours of preparing for the evening meal had gone ignored while others around me were praised for their participation. I felt slighted. What did I have to do to gain acceptance here? It seemed like any attempt to contribute wasn’t good enough. My mind skimmed past memories to find other incidents of being passed by and soon I was confirmed in my victimhood, fortressed in walls of alienation. But what was I to do? I couldn’t stay the weekend in this state. If I left, how could I ever face everyone again?

I was awake at 2:00 a.m. when the electricity went out and the lodge fell into complete darkness. As I roamed through the building, unable to see a thing without the light, my anger was augmented by my pounding, frightened heart. I wondered whether this was the saving end to the weekend! Maybe we would need to return to our individual homes and I to the safety of my own space. Having returned to my room, I lay in dread as the power came back on and the morning, when I would see everyone, loomed. How could I face them? Then a solution came from a small voice within, “You could ask for forgiveness for being so selfish.” Clunk, a chunk of wall fell to the ground. That was a truth that I hadn’t been willing to consider hours ago. Yes, I could do that. Crash, another chunk collapsed. I would probably be asked to leave because of my immaturity, but even penance would be better than isolation. The wall was toppling.

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