Forgiveness – Post for Bloggers for Peace

As a proud member of the Bloggers for Peace Anti-Massacree Movement,  I have committed to posting a blog for peace on a monthly basis. Kozo has provided the theme for each month, and this month it’s Forgiveness.

On boy! That’s a challenge to be sure! My dears, EBL is not of a forgiving nature. I emulate the oak and not the reed. When someone hurts me, then I am hurt and they must pay. It takes a long time for that raw, burning sensation to ease sufficiently for me to shrug it away, accept the scars and conclude that life is life, and we all make mistakes, unintentionally or not, and occasionally with far from hilarious consequences.

I can think of two or three examples where I have not yet quite forgiven. On the other hand, where I have been a bit more grown up about things, I know that feeling of relief in letting go. The lightness, the energy released, the gladness, the smug feeling of superiority…wait, that’s not right, is it?

Because, my dears, there is a teensy little bit of me, a small devil inside, that says when I do forgive and let go, it’s for my benefit and no one else’s. I may feel better but if I don’t or can’t pass that on to the forgive, then they may remain outside a state of grace.

I am thinking of when I am the one in need of forgiveness. There are many occasions where that applies, let me tell you. What does being forgiven feel like? Is it equally light and joyous? Well, I’m not really sure, because most of the times I can think of, those times when I have been badly behaved, no one has ever come back to tell me that I am forgiven. I am left hoist on my own shame, dangling in the wind, chained by remorse and fettered by guilt. No one has freed me. I don’t know if they have forgotten and moved on, or if my evil deed still somehow eats at their soul.

The one person I know who forgives me is Sigoth. I am confident in him. We forgive each other as part of the contract between us. We are safe. It’s just as well, because I am horrible sometimes, but he knows it’s no more than a storm thrashing the waves to a tsunami, and that underneath the strong currents of our relationship will continue to carry us through.

Lucky us. An ongoing relationship allows us to be forgiven and forgiving. Many of my interactions are less permanent in nature. They have less foundation and less of a maintenance programme. They are more like a tent than a temple, and so they can be damaged and worn by carelessness, and founder on the rocks of aggression.

Because at the end of the day, it’s aggression that needs forgiveness. A snide remark, bullying, genocide, theft, dishonesty, cheating, hurtful gossip, physical or mental abuse: they are all rooted in some kind of power play stemming from aggression, from the need to be bigger and stronger, to be the car in front, leader of the pack, in control of another’s life in some small, or large, way. To win at all costs.

Why would anyone feel that need. Why do I feel that need? Every time I am mean, that is what I am doing. It may not be possible for the other person to forgive me, either because they are not in that place psychologically, or because they never see me again (a shop assistant, say).

For me to be released from the self-loathing that realisation later brings, I need to forgive myself too. If I do not despise myself I am less likely (I hope!) to do more mean things later. It’s not about letting myself off the hook, it’s about recognising and loving and holding in the light that weakness and human frailty which belongs to us all. It’s about admitting I am like everyone else, prone to mistakes, that we are all made of the same stardust, and we all can try to make it shine.

I find that when I can do that, it is also easier to see that frailty in others, and so to go on and forgive them too.

I am trying to remember that feeling very clearly so that next time, and already I am sorry that there will be a Next Time, I can move past it more quickly and possibly even head it off at the pass.

Other Bloggers for Peace have already written on Forgiveness, including:

Namaste.

Ever a crossword

At the beginning of the month we celebrated our Silver Wedding – 25 years of married life. Of course, as a modern young couple in the 1980s we spent a couple of years together before the wedding. when I came to organise a celebration I was finding most friends from the original wedding were divorced or had not married/settled down with a partner until much later in the day. To make matters worse, going to the card shops to look for Silver Wedding printed invitations was demoralising. Apparently there isn’t much call for them any more.

Still, I felt that it was an achievement sufficient to merit a journal entry, and yet for the past 2 weeks have been unable to come up with the words or phrases to describe the milestone as I wanted. This made me suspect that I was trying to prepare an "ought-to" entry, and my suspicions were confirmed when I watched a performance by Tim Minchin which described pretty much how I felt.

See the song here

Now, I absolutely do not want to imply that Himself is not the One I Love and so on. The principle point for me in the song is that a relationship is not some magical fairytale or karmic imperative, but requires patience, persistence and working together to grow something enduring and worthwhile. But it is true we married at an early age and looking at my own offspring now, as they approach (or in one case, pass) the age when we married, I can see why various members of the family thought we were absolutely bonkers. No jobs, no money, no experience of life. Idiots!

Then we started a family.

So now we were all of the above with a baby to support as well. Parenthood is a shock, especially when you are barely out of the parental home yourself – and 3 years at university is hardly good preparation for developing parental coping strategies. But we did get through it all. It may have been down to good luck, hard work or a fundamental lack of imagination. I certainly would not pretend that it was always easy, or that either of us didn’t come close to calling it a day. We often felt isolated, living far away from family. We struggled to pay bills each month; I remember having to make hard choices in the shop about what we could afford to eat. Later we found ourselves getting into debt after each child was born and my maternity leave meant we had no income for a few months.

You will probably be relieved to hear that I am not about to go into the "we were poor but happy" routine. We weren’t. We were poor and frequently miserable, or at least stressed. I would not recommend this path to anyone as a better way, but if you are on it, know that you can get through. On the whole I regret none of it, and am glad I took the option I did, so that I could have the children when I was young enough to manage physically. This does not mean it is the better way, only that I think it was the right way for me, and as it turned out, for Himself as well. No one can tell you which way is best. Sometimes you don’t even know until you try it – although I would suggest that if having babies is involved you do try to do as much research as possible. Babies are not an accessory, end of story.

At our milestone, I felt a weight lifted. We had been talking about it for months, and it felt worse than the wedding (that was a very easy affair in comparison – hen night spent making sandwiches before a quick pint in the pub, most of the fancy stuff such as flowers and cake provided by friends as their gift, re-used mother’s dress etc). But now I feel we can get on with our life. The best bit is that we can now manage a Sunday paper each week, so we get to do the crossword.

For me this is important. We are now able to spend more time together as two adults, and maybe other couples do this bit earlier on. But as we have grown together over the years, now we do not find each other a terrible shock or challenge to our worldview. We got this far together and now we can enjoy the result.