Things ill done and done to others’ harm
Which once you took for exercise of virtue.
Then fools’ approval stings, and honour stains.
From wrong to wrong the exasperated spirit
Proceeds, unless restored by that refining fire
Where you must move in measure, like a dancer.
Eliot’s words have echoed in me since my teens, and meant different “things” to me at different times. I want to live well and to see the world and others clearly; and I have done what seemed good to me, and then I have seen it as wrong or inadequate. What may I do with my guilt and shame besides lacerating myself?
Where an incident or relationship comes to my mind, I will consider it. Why was I like that? What really happened? How else might I have been? How might I be now?
And if it is lacerating me, the moment I can hardly bear to contemplate, then it is a wound which will take more than a moment’s healing.
I have sought absolution from others, priests and therapists and others whom I have demanded take a parental role for me; and always, when I am absolved, I have absolved myself. Oh, See, see clearly! I have demanded that of myself, and I get better at it. Blind spots from my own projections, and my desire that the world be other than it is, get less.
And- the absolution is easier if I celebrate the progress I have made. Yes, I would like life to be easier, actually, and- I get better at it.