Sunday, 30 December 2012

The things that mattered

My friend Michelle (Everett Wilbert) on Facebook publishes many posts that inspire me and get me thinking.  Today she posted a quotation and comment that addressed exactly something that’s been in my mind.

The quotation (thought to be from Jonathan Lockwood Huie) said:

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace.

Michelle herself said this:
As the New Year beckons, let's start thinking seriously of cleaning up anything in our lives that has left hurt, pain, sorrow and lack of peace for self and others in its wake. The next few days can then be a launching pad for a truly New Year that doesn't start with the regret of important things, loving things, left unsaid. Time erodes our best intentions, it passes too swiftly and what we leave undone remains an open wound or, at best, a scar.  Everyone has someone they want to be made right with – most us have more than one :) Let's make those calls, send those notes or emails or FB messages and go into New Year's Eve with a clean slate and a good humor! 

Wise words.

Earlier today, in church, some old stuff had come to mind.  My history with that chapel goes back a long way and covers many sequences of memories.

I won’t go into it all here, but there has been a lot of painful and difficult ground covered: problems to solve, setbacks to overcome, and much to be forgiven – not only the big things to forgive, but the minor associated lingering bits of shrapnel that hang around in the soft tissues of the soul and move about unbidden at times, sources of sadness and regret.

And in thinking about forgiveness, my experience of it, and the difference it’s made in my life, I came across an odd thing.  The boundary between forgiveness and indifference is slight.

Some of the forgivings I’ve had to do have covered comprehensive areas.  As time has moved on, I’ve gone on turning away and turning away from things that hurt and damaged and disappointed – turning away from blame and bitterness, turning away from any thought of vengeance or resentment, turning away from remembering, reliving or dwelling on things that belong to the past.  Understanding that people didn’t mean what they did to hurt so much, weren’t really thinking about me at all, or simply couldn’t help or didn’t realise what they did, I just kept on turning away, turning away, choosing not to go there.

The thing that’s odd is that because – through an odd series of events and freaky coincidental things that happened – this turning away has covered big chunks of family contexts, church contexts and professional contexts, I have ended up with areas the size of Alaska that I keep resolutely turning away from in my life – both in my past and persisting into current reality. 

All the while I couldn’t forgive completely, that was in a sense not so much of a problem – it just meant I lived in an emotional minefield, never knowing from day to day when the feets of my soul (as opposed to the soles of my feet) would detonate some new livid thing that I’d have to pick up from and hold still, still, while it all calmed down and I could get it together again.

But now, though I still remember, I’ve got kinda used to turning away.  And the unnerving result is that it’s left big whited-out patches in my psyche – large blank areas.  In turning away I have become indifferent, so that I no longer care.

I’m sorry if this sounds utterly bewildering – I could explain it very easily by giving you examples of what I mean, but not without making reference to people and circumstances; and to do that would hardly be consistent with forgiving, since they are all alive and well!!

So the forgiving seems to have gone reasonably well, but it’s turned me into a bit of a zombie: my primary goal in life these days is to be left in peace.  I go to church and I listen to the hymns and prayers and sermons, and I make mental corrections to the grammar, the theological points and the accuracy of the singing but, though I believe the basic content, none of it moves me any more.  The scar tissue is too thick. 

Where once there was sorrow, there are now only spaces of neutral colourless odourless nothing.  I can’t be bothered.  I no longer wish to engage.  I slip out the back door.

This year I offered myself to preach the gospel again.  They may or may not take up my offer.  I am occasionally urged to check, to enquire; but I won’t.  Because whether I do it or not no longer moves me.  I am willing.  I can.  I feel called.  But whether I do or not – so what?  It’s in the hands of God.  Whether I live or die – so what?  That too is in the hands of God.

Forgiving is not impossible, but for me personally, in erasing all blame for what has been done, I have found most of myself erased as well.  Events, relationships – they are bonded to one’s very self, and in expunging them one expunges one’s own reality.

None of this troubles me.  Who, after all, really needs a personal history, or a self?  They are just part of the baggage we leave behind.  I practise turning away, and breathing and smiling.  I practise looking at the blue, at steam, at leaves and water, at flame and skin and fabric.  I practise just being, and this serves me very well.  But I have to say, it’s not how I imagined life would be.

Forgiveness is more easily encompassed when one must forgive things that don’t awfully matter.  When forgiving must be done concerning the things that matter – root things, things of the core – well then the cancelling out that must be done is a death, even while one still lives.

I must emphasise, this is not a sad experience; provided I am left in peace, all is well with my soul; but it has too many large blank areas in it to be of much service in the world – and though I could have imagined this might be true of me at ninety if I lost my memory or something, I hadn’t imagined it would occur in my mid-fifties through indifference cause by repeatedly turning away from my own history and the failure or destruction of things that really mattered to me.


The end of the  365 366 chuckout
 (As in, this)

So that’s it chaps.  I have a bit of adjustment to do because towards the end of the year I got some pretty china and some new clothes, and so I still have to ditch some more bits and pieces to get to where I said I’d be – ie two things chucked out for every one thing brought in.  But even with those new things I got, I think overall it still worked out okay.

365 366 Day 366 – Monday Dec 31st  

A Christmassy bag I meant to give the Wretched Wretch for his prezzies at home (cos we don’t do prezzies in our house) this year – annoyingly I forgot, so it’ll have to wait until next year I expect – but I’ll keep it in the to-go box until then.

365 366 Day 365 – Sunday Dec 30th

A very small wooden spoon.

365 366 Day 364 – Saturday Dec 29th

Timer sockets for electrical appliances for when the house is empty if we go away.  Putting two households into one meant that a) we had two lots of these and  b) the chances of all of us being away at once are almost zilch.

365 366 Day 363 – Friday Dec 28th

More hilariously unfortunate sports commentaries.

365 366 Day 362 – Thursday Dec 27th

Bathsalts.  Pretty ones.  Gift.

365 366 Day 361 – Wednesday Dec 26th

This was a . . . er . . . thing in its own nylon carry-bag.  Maybe a mac?

365 366 Day 360 – Tuesday Dec 25th

This is one of those cloths for polishing specs.  I don’t know how I did this, but I seem to have accumulated quite a number of these.  They are wasted on me because I always polish my specs on the hem of my T-shirts.

365 366 Day 359 – Monday Dec 24th

Oh – these photos I kept.  They were just to remind me what was in the parcel.  I had an album of photos put together by Bernard (my previous husband) of the wonderful sculptures he made.  Because it was all in his handwriting and everything, I kept it this long time since he died.  But I’d felt all along this really belonged to his son.  So I sent it this year.

365 366 Day 358 – Sunday Dec 23rd  

A leather belt.  What more can I say?


Alice Y. said...

Thanks for posting this Pen-Ember. I am hearing you. I am going through some of this myself. My benediction: may God's healing grace yet be sufficient.

mb said...

Only with the His help, can I truly let go. I read your words, and I am amazed at how close your sentiments equal mine. Unfortunately, the events, the words, the actions that have been directed towards me and mine, keep me in a state of turmoil, so not caring, seems to be beyond my scope.

I am working on forgiving and then forgetting for good.

Thank you so much Pen for sharing this today and my friend...may this new year be blessed. I thank you so much for your friendship Pen, for your words and your honesty.

I am filled once again... m

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Alice, hi Maria - it's good to have your two comments here together like this, because by now I know you well enough to feel sure that, yes, you know just what I'm talking about!
May the year ahead be blessed, may it bring you joy.

Gerry Snape said...

I have a lot of forgiving to do also with the local church....I'm doing it every day at the moment...but a bit of a set back yesterday as the gorgeous oldest grandgirl...the one with SMA... was taken in to hospital with severe breathing I may be back to square one for a while!!!
Will keep it up as best I can as I need as much peace at the moment as I can get.

love G.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0( May she be well, may each and all of you be kept steady, kept in peace xxx

DaisyAnon said...

May you find peace in 2013 Pen.

I too found Christmas a time of rather painful introspection.

I shall be glad to get back to normal and put all the thoughts back in their box until next year.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) God bless to you the year ahead - may it be full of delightful surprises xxx

Small said...

Wishing you a blessed and peaceful new year.

Unknown said...

I read this yesterday. Went away. Thought about it. I know that I haven't reached a level of detachment. Rather I have divided forgiveness into a split hair. There is forgiveness ~ & then there is the matter of trust. Some people it does not pay to trust again. I am uncertain whether detachment is the way to go. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The fact he came here in the first place speaks of involvment. On the other hand I mostly keep a book between me & the rest of the world.

Blessings on you, Pen, my friend. I am not hopeful for the new year, but whatever happens may you continue to be held firmly in the palm of His hand.

Pen Wilcock said...

Hi Turtlebat, hi Ganeida -

May 2013 surprise you over and over again with joy and blessing xx

Buzzfloyd said...

I find forgiveness a very troublesome concept, because I'm not sure what it is or how it happens. What you've described here sounds like disassocation or detachment, and I'm not at all sure that it is the same as forgiveness, because if it leaves a large blank area, then it cannot be said to have brought healing. Ignoring something is not the same as processing it and letting it leave you. If it leaves you, you'd get the blank area back as arable land again.

Pen Wilcock said...

I find this helpful, Buzz

Stella said...

For many years I held on to a great deal of hurt that I had received from the hands of someone who I had previously thought of as a good friend.
Then suddenly early last year, as a by product of a few sessions of hypnotherapy, I was able to take steps to heal the rift. I can't tell you what a burden was lifted from my shoulders.
For 12 years I had not realised how much I had been harming myself by not forgiving the other person.
I suppose that I had to realise that neither of us are perfect, we each had our reasons for acting as we did at the time and it takes much less energy to be on amicable terms again than it did to look the other way and seethe each time we walked past each other in the street.

Pen Wilcock said...

That's really good to hear Stella. Well done you! :0) xx

Rebecca said...

I'm going to come back and read this again tomorrow. Slower.

Meanwhile, I THINK we may have had some parallel experiences. Mine, a long time ago. But only in recent months did I realize that while I KNOW I was called to "shake the dust off my feet" I had failed to "let my peace return to me". It was such an aha moment when I recognized that and reclaimed my "peace"!

Happy New Year to you!

Pen Wilcock said...

Ah! That's such an insight! I'm sorry to say that when I'd read that passage in the gospels, I'd always thought of it as no more than "Fine, do without the blessing of peace, then"; I'd never realised the implication (for oneself) of letting one's peace return. How very interesting. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

My take on forgiveness is the cancellation of a debt. If I turn the wrong done over to God to deal with, the person(s) that caused it no longer owes me restitution, they owe it to God.(After all it was the evil one working through them that caused the problem in the first place, so I attempting to teach myself to not take their behaviors personally). This way of forgiving has the delicious after effect of removing me from the loop, and letting me walk free from the burden of carrying that hurt around with me. Hurt people tend to either remain constantly vigilant to shield themselves from further hurt, or just build thick self-protective walls and take up permanent residence behind them. The danger with the latter is that of continually diminishing if not disappearing all together. But, the walls are stopping more than just hurt. Healing can't get in either. And then the individual gifts the Creator meant to go out from us to the world are walled up with us. I think the answer is to (slowly, prayerfully)take the walls down. To forgive by turning it over to Him. to seek His healing for the hurt beneath it, and then to build instead permeable walls of His love, keeping the cross between us and that which has the potential to harm us. DMW

Pen Wilcock said...

Hiya - nice to hear from you :0)

Yes, I also see forgiveness as the cancellation of a debt.

If I put your comment together with Buzzfloyd's comment, that comes to pretty much my take on things too - BUT - and this really is a big 'but' - the sense of freedom and release you both speak of seems to me to rely on the forgiveness relating to incidents in the past rather than ongoing situations.

The white blanked out spaces on the inner landscape come from being repeatedly hurt by situations or people you cannot leave.

It's hard for me to elaborate on that without going into specifics, and I can't really do that publicly.

But what I can say is that I am finding it very helpful to learn how to cease to feed situations emotionally by continually attributing meaning to them. Detaching/dissociating from them, resting in simple observing, helps things along well.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, you are right, it being an ongoing situation does make a difference in how we react and what we do with it.

Pen Wilcock said...

:0) I love the idea of "building permeable walls of His love". That catches my imagination!