The Balinese New Year is called Nyepi, or the Day of Silence. It is preceded by a day of putting difficulties behind us, i.e. chasing away evil spirts (Pengerupukan), and followed by a day of looking towards the future, i.e. reigniting the fire (Ngembak Geni). I find this to be very fitting.

In order to link the three, I understood I would need to forgive — not just others, but myself as well. And not just for this past year, but for the last few, which have been particularly hard.

It’s a good thing, then, that my relationship to forgiveness is changing from what it used to be. I used to feel that forgiveness had to be a bridge, a mutual understanding and acknowledgement that whatever there was to forgive was not likely to be repeated. Otherwise, the pain serves a purpose to remind us where not to tread again. I’ve lost friends along the way because I’ve insisted on this path, instead of letting bygones be bygones.

When I’ve had to forgive myself, it’s proven even more difficult. I equated it with giving myself a pass for whatever wrong I’d done. To this day, I hold the memory of irreversible oversights I made even over 25 years ago, no matter how inadvertent, like albatrosses on my neck. I have little doubt that this attitude has driven me to want to become the best version of myself I can be. But there’s also been no forgiveness or peace to be had; only a commitment to always do better.

Worldschooling has given me a lot more time to sit with my feelings and my thoughts, even difficult ones. Especially difficult ones. And to practice mindfulness. What’s emerged little by little is deeper compassion, which is changing my relationship with forgiveness.

On this Nyepi, forgiveness does not feel incumbent on waiting for or pursuing a mutual understanding. It doesn’t mean carrying the weight of regrets I have either. Instead, it feels expansive — like sinking into compassion for why others may have acted the way they did, and self-compassion for the ways that I know I can, I have, and I will do better. I can separate the lessons I’m meant to learn from either the demands others have of me or the albatrosses I feel obliged to carry on my own.

It even feels joyful, like a unilateral act of love towards myself and others that opens itself up to new possibilities. That seems fitting for Ngembak Geni. And as with so much these days, I am grateful.