13 August 2014

That Was Zen, This Is Now

“Fuck it! It was only a hobby!”
    –Carolyn See, Golden Days

I experience my life in multiple modes. One of my modes is action. I need to go to dance classes and ride my bike and keep doing little chores and projects and tackling work obligations to keep my life moving and my interactions with people fresh. When I was a newish mom and was feeling like I wasn't getting quite enough movement in my life or my kiddo's, I thought, “What would Sporty Mom do?” and it helped me think about myself differently, and have more ideas. I go to my dance class several times in any given week. When I'm edgy, my family will ask me, “Do you have a dance class?” in the kindest way. If I put myself in the “sporty” category in my mind, I'm more likely to be creative about finding ways to move. 

Another mode is rest and recovery. Whether spent on sleeping, eating, reading, or sex, this is time that brings me back to equilibrium after interactions or activities become frenetic or fraught, and time that reminds me that while I have the ability to be extraverted, I'm truly an introvert at heart.

Another is the emotionally ruminative mode. In the background, behind the emails and chores and calls and projects and research and internet rabbit holes, I am working through a tricky problem or idea in my head over time, chewing it and stretching it into different orientations and sizes and shapes to see where it leads me.

Today, in my ruminations, I circled back to the topic of forgiveness, which I remembered was the topic of the first piece I had my last writing group read.

At the time, I wanted to set the stage with that group, to tell them I had been through something exceptional and had issues with the whole forgiveness position. I understood how the Dalai Lama teaches you to let go of those grudges and resentments for they only serve to bind you more tightly to that person, but I thought, surely there's more I can do than just to turn the other cheek or walk away!

Again recently I started thinking about forgiveness, in part because I am spending more time with my sister and we're talking about our memories and feelings about what we survived, and it's the first time we've spent big swaths of time while both sharing the same perspective. For a long time, we'd say, “It's like we had different childhoods,” which was true for many reasons, yet saying it tended to reinforce our differences rather than emphasizing what we had in common. Now, we look at our father's issues, and our mother's issues, and we say, “It's a freakin' miracle both of us are alive and well!”

So both of us as we age are finding peace in being ourselves and following our dreams and paths and coming to terms with what we lived through and who we are today, but at the same time there's still a voice in that rumination asking, “Is there something more I can do with this?”

The answer is pretty much always yes; for me it's a matter of picking something, and keeping it positive. I am not writing my book to get revenge on my parents for being who they were, even though to them it may feel like it when they read it. I can't help that, I see now, but I can help myself by speaking my truth and telling the story as I saw it. And I hope by doing so, I'll be making the world a little safer for others who need to tell their stories.

So back to forgiveness. I asked the other night as we were doing dishes, “What's the flip-side of forgiveness?” and had to go chew on that for a couple of days. This morning I thought about the work it takes to judge others, how exhausting it is to continuously decide who's doing it right and who is doing it wrong.

Aha! That's what it is about forgiveness that is so insidious to me, I realized. It takes a lot of energy just to say whether you think someone deserves forgiveness. It requires you to judge another person.

I know my nearest and dearest will recognize I am pointing at something I do all the time, but what I noticed looking at it from this perspective is how exhausting that process of judging is, how far it pulls me from my center and my passions.

In her eyes and on her face and lips I can see my sister has found some peace, too. I think she and I are feeling peaceful because we are not engaged and actively judging and resenting but getting on with what we need to do. And it turns out that getting on with what we need to do is not always about forgiving those who have trespassed against us or neglected us in times of need but about giving ourselves what we need, which enables us to see what we have to give ourselves and the families and friends to whom we devote ourselves today. Maybe that is forgiveness, but I see it more as a kind of grace, which I probably wouldn't recognize without some help from the brilliant Anne Lamott.

Grace lets me move beyond the notions of attachment versus letting go. This is fine with me because I feel strongly that there are times and places when it is appropriate to be attached – to feel and react when we have been wronged or neglected. If we didn't have those feelings, how would we know to act on what we know in our souls is right and true?

For me, the less time I spend judging people, the more peace I experience. Where's your peace?