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Most of the cactus pears have dropped to the ground or been eaten by this time of year, but in a few sheltered places they remain. You may know that several parts of this cactus are edible. The deep burgundy pears must be rubbed against something to clean off the spines. Then they can be sliced and eaten raw in salads. The cactus pads also have spines to be removed, after which they are sliced and boiled for a few minutes till tender. They are served in Mexican dishes, sometimes with eggs, as nopalitos.

This prickly combination of tasty food surrounded by sharp spines calls to mind something my older sister once said. I was having a difficult time and wracked with indecision and self blame. “If only I had done everything perfectly, then I would not be in this situation,” I told her.

She said a few simple words that shined a bright light on my situation, “There is no path with all of the good stuff and none of the yucky stuff.”

Those few words still shine a light on my path. There is no way to redo the past so that you avoid the difficult circumstances you are in without gumming up something you find really valuable and sweet about your life. There is no perfect you who never makes a mistake.

This process of fumbling along doing the best you can, which is sometimes not all that good, is just how it is. My sister’s words helped me forgive myself for my errors in judgment, for the ways in which I had harmed others, for the countless imperfections bulging out at every turn.

I am sharing her wisdom in case you too are weighted down with self blame. Forgiveness is a process, including self forgiveness. Today is a day to come to peace with the things you didn’t do and the things you did do that you wish you could fix. Write them down in private. Read them aloud. Say out loud, “I forgive myself for putting my little sister in a refrigerator box and tipping it over until she cried” or whatever things make your list. Forgive yourself out loud for every item on your list.

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