Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Forgiveness


Forgiveness is a funny word. One that starts sounding strange and made-up when you say it often enough... rolling around in the mouth like a coin with a tinny, sharp taste.

I looked it up - on a lark - which led me to look up forgive instead. (Dictionaries should not be allowed to define a word using a variation of said word in the definition!) Of the several definitions, this is the one I liked best:

4. to cease to feel resentment against

Ah. I know resentment. I spend a lot of time in that feeling state... and it's something I've struggled to become increasingly aware of so I may decrease the number of times I end up in that cul-du-sac of an emotion.

And so, when I think of it this way - the relinquishing of resentment - it seems like a form of letting go. Releasing an attachment to the past in order to make clear-headed and open-hearted decisions about the present. After all, if someone has hurt you in the past and still continues to do so... you may be able to forgive them, but you probably want to let go in other ways as well.

I think it takes me a long time to forgive. Perhaps a little too long. I think it goes back to the difficulty of really letting go and allowing myself to be empty... which requires freedom from the past and the future.

The more I attempt to stay in the now, the greater my awareness of the incredible amount of time I spend somewhere else throughout my day. Imagining conversations with people who are not present. Re-living events or circumstances so I may re-experience certain emotions or write new endings in order to manufacture an emotional response absent in the initial encounter. Thinking about dinner, or what to do once Ari is in bed, or the weekend, or my career five years from now, or a trillion what-ifs that careen off in infinite directions - spiraling outward like a big, crazy, spider web. And there I am, caught right in the middle of it all, stuck without even realizing it.

I sometimes wonder if being more present in my life would allow a greater capacity to forgive. Would it really make all the small stuff smaller? Would more things roll off and recede faster and more easily? Would I be more patient? Less angry? More calm? Less anxious?

The true test of forgiveness for me, however, is not in forgiving others. I get to it eventually - sometimes after a few minutes, sometimes a few days, sometimes several years. But I do get there. I find a place of compassion and emptiness (a good kind of emptiness) wherein there is no past, and no future... just now. And that's a great place to be.

Where I get stuck, again and again, is in forgiving myself. This has become especially true now that I am a parent. My child has an incredible capacity for forgiveness. I see her wake up each day with a clean slate, holding onto to none of the mistakes of the previous day. Happy, open, trusting, and brave - she leaps into each new morning with exuberance. And each night, she kisses with commitment and care and deep sincerity... already letting go and looking into my eyes in the now.

I aspire to be as forgiving as she. I yearn to emulate her easy intimacy, trusting heart, and endless ability to let go and move on. It's truly amazing.

The last few days, I have been a mommy I do not want to be. Quick to lose patience, nit-picking and negative, always ready with a direction, correction, or strong suggestion... all of which nearly always sound like some form of reproach or distinct form of dislike.

And in the aftermath of this behavior, I feel guilty; I feel sad; I feel ashamed; I feel tired. I feel deeply disappointed with myself and so confused as to why I can reach a state of peace so easily in some areas of my life and yet - particularly in this one - continuously come to a grinding halt with my daughter: clenched up, unhappy, frustrated, and less than kind.

I know I am stuck... and I know I must forgive myself and let go in order to move. But the cyclical nature of self-recrimination and inner disappointment sometimes creates a little vortex within which I seem to start drowning all over again.

But I am committed to changing it... to seeing it through to a new place that feels so different, this place will seem distant.

One of my favorite quotes, which found me a few months ago, is based on a Japanese Proverb:

Fall seven times. Stand up eight.

And so... I will sit. I will be mindful of my actions in the moment. I will reset... allow myself a clean slate. And I will fully commit to each new moment, because each one offers a new chance to become exactly who I wish to be (for myself, for my husband, for my daughter, for my family, for my friends...).

May you reach a place of emptiness with a hurt you have been holding. May you let go of your past mistakes and walk a new path within the present.

1 comment:

  1. Kathryn Colegrove RalstonDecember 17, 2009 at 9:19 PM

    I am pulled in to your blog and am grateful for it. Along with its fantastic gifts, Mommy-hood put many new challenges in my path. For today I am working on keeping my head where my ass is. When I forget, I start saying "head ass head ass," and while that usually elicits sideways glances from those around me, it helps.

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