Tag Archiv: forgiveness
I haven’t had much use for watches in recent years. Having nothing on my wrist has been preferable to having something. I balk at the stranglehold that seconds and minutes seem to have on us. Arbitrary designations to which we’ve given the power to judge the value of people.
A little more than a year ago, my paternal grandmother died. Set aside for me was a Bulova watch, a gift given to her by my grandfather. The watch was pretty but simple, not too big, and it didn’t have a clasp to scratch at my wrist. I liked it. It sat in my top drawer declaring the wrong time for a year, while I vacillated between mild interest and pining.
I know what I want for Christmas, I said to my husband finally. Take that watch to town and see if they still make batteries to fit it. Christmas morning, I unwrapped the watch. No battery required, you wind it, the jeweler had explained. My heart leapt the way it does when something that is old moves into my life. The love affair was official now. I began to wear a watch.
My grandmother was a woman who tried very hard. People who loved her have mixed feelings about her and usually a lot of them. Some of what people admired about her was about how hard she tried. To love God, to be a good person. I don’t know if she succeeded in these worthy goals. It isn’t mine to judge. The impact of the hurt and anger that she carried has echoed loudly through the generations. I look at my wrist and consider the painful parts of legacy. Why I wonder, am I wearing her watch?
Am I ignoring the emotional swaths cut into those she loved? Does it matter, I ask myself, how much you love Jesus, if your self-imposed burden to get everyone else to love him too, and the fear that you might fail makes you cruel and unkind?
Grandma’s flaws I do not deny. Despite my generous rending of their mention, few who knew her would approve my noting them at all. But I loved her. I still do.
I am not unlike my grandmother. Sometimes I look in the mirror and think I am turning into her (sadly minus the ample bosom). The watch on my wrist is a gift of lessons. My flesh and blood, so in need of the mercy she was unable to offer, wore this watch. I will wear it, and people that I love will fail. They will fail themselves, and they will fail me too. My first reactions one through twenty will be a defense of offense. Choose mercy, my watch says. Stop keeping tallies. Be the woman who forgets what she can and forgives the rest.
I’ve tried to write what comes for the Forgiveness Project. I considered something on liars. I wondered about failed friends. I am both these things, but neither piece seemed like it needed that much attention. The most compelling reason for writing them was so that I didn’t have to write today’s post.
With admonishments to myself to suck it up and be a real man, I proceed.
What I would really like for Christmas is to be perfect. In thought, word, and deed. (Not to mention appearances, impressions, and memory.) I am far from these things. For this reason, I am running madly through the house tearing apart the cushions, looking under couches, beds, and in the closets, trying to find any last pieces of bravery I can muster to forgive myself. I do not want the harsh emptiness that comes with refusing to accept forgiveness. This isn’t about not saying sorry. All of me is sorry. This is about accepting freely offered forgiveness. I don’t want to smile, then quietly spit the gift back out, insisting it is ill advised and undeserved. The burden of my failings is heavy. It’s time to let go.
For not being the person I dream of becoming, I forgive myself. For not loving as gently as I picture myself doing someday, I forgive myself. For being a nasty, finger pointing, flaw finding person, I forgive myself.
Sometimes I take other people so personally that it short circuits my insides and I can hardly function. It doesn’t matter if the slight came from someone insignificant, if it hits just right, it can shake me for days. I dream big, talk big, then let the little stick girl living inside the inflatable body of me, go hide in the corner because she’s just so tiny and she’ll be lucky if she can figure out how to brush her teeth properly, much less be a truly decent mother, or make it as a writer.
I don’t like to write about my husband. In my head, I picture us as two oxen hooked to a plow, pulling side by side. Not the usual description of love. I know. The other ox doesn’t feel like something outside of me. He’s at work, he’s at home. It doesn’t matter, he’s pulling with me, loving me and cheering me on. The days I do that for him too, feel good. The days I change from dearest friend to behaviour modification specialist with charts for subpar oxen performance . . . well I hate that self. When I’m not being her, I want to take those damn charts and shove them down her throat. Anything to convince her to be human again.
I am not who I wish I was, but I am forgiven and I am trying.
I accept the beautiful gift of forgiveness offered to me. And I forgive myself.
A thousand pounds gone.
Music. Dancing. It’s almost Christmas.
I am sorry to be bringing up a very, very bad day again. Blame the forgiveness project. After the whole miscarriage, pass out repeatedly, call 911 incident in the spring, I ended up at the hospital of my not-choice. The paramedics were wonderful. They acted at all times as if something was wrong with me and I needed help. Given my state, I found their attitude encouraging.
Once at the ER, I was left in the hallway for more than an hour. This did not feel nice, but at least I got to keep the paramedics. After that, they rolled me into an empty room and shut the door. Here, I inherited nurse primary and nurse other. For another couple of hours they did as little as possible to assist me. By request of my husband, I received oxygen and an IV drip. Otherwise, I was told to walk to the bathroom and sighed at when it was explained that I couldn’t go two steps without passing out. Help bells were rung and ignored when my husband was worried about how long I had passed out for, or about me having a seizure. Nurse primary was rather uncomfortable with the sight of blood. (It made it hard for us to develop a positive relationship as my entire condition was all about continual bleeding.)
Dr. in charge, came by a couple of times, as in twice, possibly three times, for about 45 seconds each time. He was sure the worst was past and I’d be going home soon. It was difficult to see what he was basing his diagnosis on, as no one, nurse or doctor, ever did an assessment of me. In fact, oddly, until I was transferred to the angelic OB/GYN’s no one actually touched me, except to draw blood. They glanced briefly at my face, but mostly they looked at their charts or the machines that told them about me.
That was in March. This is December. I know. I should have forgiven them by now. I have tried not to think about them. They kind of popped out after I thought about vegetable man. Did I mention also that my disgust for them feels justified?
I too have treated people as interruptions rather than human beings. I have failed to see fear and vulnerability, and so failed to provide empathy or care. I have failed to see the people I am assigned to care for, bleeding to different kinds of death right in front of me.
To the nurses and doctor assigned to me that day, I forgive you. I have been you too. May we all have fresh eyes to recognize the very real needs around us. May we have to grace to respond with compassion, and the humility to say, I’m sorry. May you and your families be much blessed this Christmas and always.
If were I to stay at home (my preferred location 98.5% of the time) I would not have to pass the vegetable man’s house. Boy one’s bus stop is a few miles away. I get in the car to pick him up because otherwise he would be late for dinner. This forces me to drive by the vegetable man’s house and therefore to think of him. Driving by a few weeks ago, a terrible thought came. Perhaps I should forgive the vegetable man.
I do not want to forgive the vegetable man. The thought of him rankles me. Seeing his gardens are bad enough, the few times I saw him out working, disgust darts were sucked out of my eyes and shot out through the windshield towards him. The vegetable man didn’t have the decency to hurt me, he hurt my son. In case it is not obvious, I am justified.
I spent a lot of the summer hoping for a new kind of blight to strike certain fields of vegetables. For the fall I hoped that pumpkin sales were plummeting. Technically, my family has been informed that we will be in a state of vegetable starvation for a very extended period of time before I would ever deign to buy that man’s produce.
The last day I picked up boy one from his first summer job, he wouldn’t get into the car until he’d picked beans for just a little bit longer so the bucket would be extra full. He carefully bagged up the vegetables I had bought in silence. When we were out of the driveway, he told me in tears that he no longer had a job. Vegetable man had fired him an hour ago with odd comments that didn’t add up, not much warning, and not much dignity.
On forgiving the man, I feel like I am stuck in the Cat and the Hat book. “But could you, would you . . . for the baby in the manger?”
“I could not would not . . . ”
And then it’s all downhill.
Like vegetable man, I have been unmerciful and unkind. I too have failed to see the tenderness of those I dismiss with little or no grace. Sigh.
Dear Vegetable Man,
I forgive you.
May the year ahead see your gardens overflowing.
Truly, may the taste of your beans be the talk of the town.
*****Unfortunately, the vegetable man was not the most irritating person to cross my path this year. Hence I am launching a forgiveness project, directed at my objects of indignation as they come to me. If you want to join me, do. If you don’t feel the urge, that’s ok too. I am getting ready for Christmas. Starting with the vegetable man. Because you have to start somewhere. And because there’s no way to get half the places I need to go without passing his house.
I hate the dentist. It isn’t personal. I hate all dentists, but since I’ve had the same one for almost twenty years, I suppose it’s possible that she could get confused. I remember when I was eight and my mother took me to the doctor to have plantar warts removed from my feet. The doctor used liquid nitrogen to burn them off. It hissed and smoked and hurt. My mother thought I should be grateful but grateful I was not. I would stare at the top of his head, bent over torturing my feet, and I would hate him with everything in me. Even at eight, I understood that I was being irrational, but the knowledge did nothing to change how I felt. Away from him, I could say he might be a good man. In his presence, I despised him and clung desperately to mental images of myself hitting him with a baseball bat or kicking him over and sizzling part of him with his own torture device.
I have progressed very little in my relationship with my dentist. The last time I visited her, I told her that it was quite difficult to like her, given the amount of misery she caused me. I expected that she would take this tongue in cheek. It is not the kind of thing that adults say to each other in earnest. The fact that it was technically true was to me a very private matter.
This week I had to go back to the dentist for a marathon two hour appointment to get a crown put on. Somehow it came up that she had taken my pretend/real admission rather personally. I can’t remember how it was that she communicated this unfortunate piece of information. What I remember is that I then had to force myself to be warm and appreciative for two hours, while drooling and being simultaneously poked, pushed, prodded, and gagged. Attempts to make up for hurting her feelings instead of quietly hating her, came at such effort as to make the whole thing an odd kind of religious experience of an intensity I do not often experience. Smiling and friendliness (in the brief moments of respite when my mouth was free of her meddling) cost me something. I left feeling tired but different. I was grateful for the grace that came, but I didn’t want any more of it very soon.
Still, I wonder about ramifications. Having softened to the human behind the evil metal dentistry tools, I am stuck wondering about the what if. What if there is something be said for being human to people who hurt me . . . or at least trying?