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!
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
(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.
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.
A very small wooden spoon.
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.
More hilariously unfortunate sports commentaries.
Bathsalts. Pretty ones. Gift.
This was a . . . er . . . thing in its own nylon carry-bag. Maybe a mac?
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.
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.
A leather belt. What more can I say?