“To forgive does not necessarily mean to forget. Sometimes to forget is not wise, but to forgive is wise. And it is at times not easy. It can, in fact, be quite challenging. It will come as no surprise that one of the most difficult people to forgive can be yourself. Yet with patience and gentle determination, it can be done.” – Allan Lokos, Lighten Your Load
Once upon a time, many moons ago, I married a kind and gentle man. Within the next three years we had created two beautiful daughters together. Our marriage however, was challenged from the beginning – emotionally, intellectually, financially, spiritually and energetically. Seven years later, I knew it was time for me to leave, but it took another three years of pain and anger before our separation and reconciliation finally concluded in divorce. We went our separate ways with our hurts intact, buried somewhere deep within.
Many years later, at our granddaughter’s Bat Mitzvah, he told me how he had never forgiven me for something I had done. I asserted similar feelings towards some of his actions. We talked cordially and sincerely, but we didn’t forgive each other. We failed to rid ourselves of the bitterness we carried within.
Now, in the midst of this holiday season, I am aware, once again, of those around me who do not experience joy and happiness, but emptiness, anxiety and even anger. Relationships seem to be at the core of both these spheres… so much left unsaid, so much misunderstanding, so many unfulfilled needs. In some cases pretense seems to be the way to endure holiday rituals. In others, absence does the trick -but the anger (hurt turned outward) and the bitterness remain.
For me, forgiveness means consciously seeking to let go of the anger, the hurt, the recurring thoughts of self-pity and all of the vengeful thoughts I may harbor. It means accepting my shortcomings and my mistakes and not adhering to any self-image that no longer fits. It doesn’t mean forgetting, but it does require an internal shift. And with that shift, comes a sense of lightness that I can actually feel.
I am remembering December 31, 1981 – the night my father died. I was in the process of dressing for a New Year’s Eve celebration when the phone rang. An unknown voice informed me that my father had suffered a heart attack and was in the emergency room at a local hospital. I lived in a high-rise in Chicago and as I waited alone for the elevator, I was saying, “Daddy, I forgive you.”
I had a sensation which felt like rocks were being lifted off my chest. I felt that same lightness and it didn’t matter that he never heard me say the words. The important thing was that I no longer carried that load.
Earlier this year, I began some research on my family history and as a part of this, I found a photo album with pictures of my wedding to the father of my two daughters. As I turned the pages, I realized I couldn’t remember many of the names of the relatives and friends I was seeing. So, I picked up the phone and called my ex-husband and asked if he would be willing to get together and help me remember these people. He said he would and we made arrangements to meet for brunch in Chicago on the recent weekend before Christmas.
We had so much fun reminiscing. We laughed as we shared memories and expressed our sadness for those who had died over the years. He told me things about my father that I had not known. (They were very close as he became the son my father had always wanted.) We shared our love for our daughters and granddaughters. We acknowledged the mistakes we had made and accepted the fact that we did the best we were able to do at that young time in our lives. We forgave each other and ourselves. I felt exhilarated… and very, very light.
My personal experience leads me to believe that the act of “forgiveness,” whether it’s face-to-face or within one’s heart, has value far beyond what one can imagine. It changes us on an energetic level as we move towards greater awareness and acceptance of the vicissitudes of life.
Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.
Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen – and kissed me there.
– Walter de la Mare