Like reading Thackeray edited by Elmore Leonard

In Canada

I have been attending an excellent conference, first in Calgary, in Canada, now in Banff, a few miles even further west, and a few thousand feet higher, and then I will go onto Vancouver, right on the west coast.

One of the events in which I took part was a reading, which gave me much cause for thought. It included a first person account of extreme grief, of the nature which consumes all thought for other people, in fact while I have pity for all loss, this seemed to me to be tipping over into neurosis. I did not hear the rest of the story, so I have no idea how it finished.

My train of thought was to wonder where natural grief becomes self absorption, destructive to others because you have shut them out of your word, effectively saying to them that only the lost person is of any value to you, you are so lost in your own grief that they no longer matter to you. You do not love them, they have no meaning to you. You may or may not have eased your pain, but at what cost to others?

Is this a noble thing? Is it something to sympathise with? Or is it a degree of self absorption that is either neurotic and needs professional help, or just a way of demanding the world revolve around you?

Whatever your grief, others grieve too. Does self absorption help anything?

Perhaps the same can be said of guilt? We have all done things at times of which we are bitterly ashamed. How long, and in what ways do we repent? Proper regret is necessary, acknowledgment of guilt and sorrow are healing. When does that become destructive? When should one move on and let go of the offence and one's self blame and start doing something constructive, live well, above all, unselfishly? Who does it help to hear you chide yourself over and over, call yourself worthless?

Would it not be better to forget yourself and think of others? Lose your own pain in work, generosity to those who also hurt, heal yourself in seeking to heal others who also are grieving or feeling burdened? Is that not the repentance that matters?

It is natural to look after yourself, eat wisely, exercise etc., but also be kind to yourself with time and attention occasionally, certainly to laugh, to see beauty, to have friends, now and again to indulge in something wonderful but unnecessary - great music, delicious food, whatever does it for you. Look at the world in its glory and be thankful for it. If you have to weep, and we all do at times, then do it alone.

If you want your own sins forgiven, then forgive others REGARDLESS of what their sin might have been. And remember that if you can do that then your own can be forgiven also. Trust that God, or Life or whatever you believe in, has to be at least as wise and as generous as you are, and you have forgiven. Don't throw that gift back in life's face.

Self nurturing, yes; self respecting, yes; self absorbed, self obsessed, no.

Do I know where the difference lies? I'm working on it. Perhaps a little harder and with more thought now.

Have a good month. For me, next stop Vancouver, then Los Angeles.

Be happy, and be kind to people, especially yourself.