K. Mennem 7:17 p.m., June 17
My grandmother once told me that forgiveness was the greatest of gifts because it was the most difficult for us to part with. We hold it precious and grant it sparingly, she said, when all around us every day it is required as none of us are perfect and as all of us blunder.
As grueling as it is for us to acknowledge wrong doing and to muster the courage to seek forgiveness for those ill begotten deeds done unto others, it seems it is harder still for most of us to grant absolution to our offenders. I suppose it is understandable given how we so rarely forgive ourselves of our own mistakes, instead choosing to carry them about like a rotting albatross.
Forgiveness has been on my mind of late, timely given that Yom Kippur looms but a few weeks ahead. I’m not Jewish but I’ve always liked the theme of the annual process of atonement that’s the premise behind the holy day. I’ve learned much about humility these last few years and it seems the two go hand in hand.
In her book, And I Shall Have Some Peace There: Trading in the Fast Lane for My Own Dirt Road, Martha Stewart’s former Editorial Director Margaret Roach wrote, “I'd need to tell my story again and again only so that I could finally hear it…and..bear witness to myself…Moments of increasingly horrific, shaming self awareness…told me how far from alright I had become, how close to all wrong.”
It is regrettable that more often than not it takes being shoved over the edge before we recognize that we’ve veered off track. I’ve met a few cliff dwellers in my day, those in continual abreaction, refusing to fall but hesitant to pull themselves back up over the precipice. They figure they’re in the safe zone. Trudging the road of life is bound to result in more failures landing them right back in a freefall. May as well stay put and enjoy the view.
The boxers among us, however, disagree. They are convinced that we must live in spite of ourselves, lest we turn to stone. Get up and keep up a good fight. Life’s nothing but the street-smart school of hard knocks and that the facing up to ourselves is inevitable, avoidance moot. May as well muscle through the thick of it before the dreaded Judgment Day while we still have the chance to make amends, learn from our errors and go on to live productive happy lives.
If only we weren’t so quick to condemn ourselves, throwing the baby out with the bath water time and time again. Because as I see it, it really isn’t whether we win or lose, so to speak, it’s how we play the game. There are those who refuse to engage, those who are never seen from again, having been dragged down by guilt and shame and self pity and every other self annihilating emotion we humans can conjure. The self loathing behind the guilt we feel at having wronged someone is a tough one to plunge through. But, plunge we do—most of us, some even learning to twist out of the freefall and perfect their swan dive in the process.
Using canyon currents to rise above the depths of misery and self induced despair, these coasters aren’t riddled or wracked by their humanness; they’ve somehow mastered it to the point that they seemly glide above the column of tight fisted trudgers and cliff clinging dwellers, soaring where no road goes, far above the forest.
Recently, I decided that I wanted a set—of wings. I wanted, too, to be free, not just from but also to. I wanted to be free from restraints, including those I imposed upon myself. I wanted to bypass the weight of penance and move right on through to absolution. I did so want to lose my albatross, to chuck it to the winds and be all that I could be, all that I was born to be.
I woke up one day, spread open the curtains to the dawn and declared myself worthy and capable. Worthy of forgiveness and capable of forgiving myself as well as others regardless of the sin. Worthy of love and capable of unbounded happiness despite my flaws and frailty. Worthy of flying weightlessly and capable of letting go and cutting loose so that I may do so.
Blinded by the new day’s light, I stretched my aura out to the horizon wanting to see beyond what I had seen before, experience more than what was defined or mapped out. I decided I wanted to be OK with myself, as well as with others--no matter what. In fact, I decided I wanted to be more than OK; I wanted to do more than cling or fight or fall. I decided that I, too, wanted to soar with the magnanimous beyond expectations and restrictions, beyond the constraints of perceptions and assumptions.
A tall order for the likes of me, but I may as well have a few aspirations to tide me over the next fifty years. Putting my 'house' in order and setting wrongs to right felt like a good place to begin. I knew I wouldn't be able to make amends with others until I did so with myself. Now, wherever I wander, I see faces in stone reminding me of my choice to aspire to ethereality. Reminding me that I am, after all, deserving of a life well lived and a soaring soul.