Love, anger, forgiveness and pain dance together.
Our first experience of forgiveness is one child told to say they are sorry, another child told to forgive, by a carer or school-teacher who needs to maintain control and hopes random humiliation will help. It is not a good model. Occasionally I have thought, what I did was wrong, and written an apology. A proper apology should be without excuse or reservation. I particularly hate the non-apology, “I’m sorry you feel that way”.
Other people’s anger works differently, but for me the feeling that I ought to forgive is paralysing. It stops me acknowledging my feelings or moving on. My mother damaged me, and the moment I accepted her complex humanity, saw her difficulties as well as my pain, was thirteen years after she died.
With my mother, the idea of “forgiving” as in being wronged, but being gracious, is irrelevant. She did her best for me, as herself, a human being in her circumstances with her gifts and experiences. I pause to think about that. The worst mother I can imagine, the mother who does not consider her child’s needs at all, only her own- well, it is true even of her. My mother could not see she was harming me.
But I had to reach this realisation myself. I was 44, feeling all the misery I felt aged seven or eight, telling a story of my mother and ending wailing “She didn’t understand!” I had the idea that this was ridiculous, that I should just move on, which meant that I had not processed my own feelings. I had to keep telling the story to others. They reflected my perplexity and stuckness back to me, or they held me in love and compassion, and I moved through my feelings with such help as they were able to give. I chose whom I told that story with as much care as I could.
Writing this, it is self-forgiveness too. This is who I am. That was the best I could do.
The child’s anger, frustration and fear at my mother was not held or accepted, so I had to contain it myself. I was too young to contain my feelings like that, so I turned them inwards on myself and suppressed them out of consciousness. Whenever I did not conform to impossible standards, I raged at myself. I was doing it a little, just now, judging the 44 year old me, wailing, and the 55 year old me, still processing this here. “I should not be like this. This should not trouble me.”
There is no perfect relationship, broken by a wrong, healed by forgiveness, as in the nursery school example. There are messy human relationships where we get along as best we can despite old hurts imperfectly healed. My rage turned inwards coexisted with my love of my mother.
Rage turned inwards paralysed me. My mother feared our family being seen as abnormal. We had to hide it. I thought I could rage at myself, trudge on carrying that burden, or rage at my dead parents, which I thought futile, or rage at the world which would reflect back my rage and hurt me. My rage had nowhere to go.
I know this is the spiritual lesson. My temptation with any spiritual lesson is to imagine that just because I see what I must do, I can do it, that I am changed and freed. Often, I put the lesson into words and understand it better, which feels like a great leap forward, but then afterwards see signs I knew it, really, in my life before, and am the same person.
I must hold my own rage and sadness, and digest it. From that comes compassion for others. From that comes the ability to accept the feelings I have now, relating to what is going on for me now, and respond to the world with my feelings as my guide, rather than a burden to fight. This is a skill. It is difficult, because my feelings are so deep and mercurial that I am often in heaven and hell at once. I develop the skill.
I could call that skill “forgiveness”, as well as acceptance. Rather than raging at the world because it is not as I think it ought to be, I see it with love, and act to make it better. Not nearly as much as I want, with far less energy and effectiveness than I want- so the process of forgiveness and acceptance, of myself and the world, continues.
One hears of prodigies of forgiveness, such as Marian Partington. She has spent her life coming to terms with a great wrong. She will not have a human relationship with the woman she forgives, who might not accept her forgiveness. Rather, she has healed a wound some might never heal. Humans have great capacity for healing.
“Some people are trans. Get over it,” Stonewall says. Some people can’t. And for me, “getting over” my pain and hurt is terribly important. After writing this on forgiveness, I sat feeling pain, of having that burden to bear, ten years ago. I was unable to get over the pain of my child self, symbolised by that one story. And I thought, this is like living through a stressful situation, and you cannot admit to how stressful it was; but when it is over then you can feel the stress fully. In September 2009, I just felt relief; and now, I was feeling pain.
It is a sign of healing, and I am in pain now.
I was volatile for the zoom discussion group, and when one said in Meeting we notice the stray thoughts, and turn our attention back to the Light I moaned in anguish. I don’t. I plunge into whatever my mind is doing, and sometimes it’s great. I bring shadow fully into consciousness, and integrate it. And I judge myself for it.
I want to analyse it, so I can announce to my own satisfaction that I have dealt with it.
I want to feel it fully, so it will pass and I will have dealt with it.
I want to feel it fully, as it is my feeling, with no plan or purpose behind permitting my feeling.
I want not to be moaning in anguish during a zoom discussion group.
I shared on facebook, and someone asked, “Can you sit with it without necessarily having to heal it?” Yes. And, I realised, getting over “it”- “It,” in general, “It”, meaning everything, is very important to me. It is all part of the suppression of feeling.
That comes from my childhood too. Eventually I can’t get over it, all I can do is sit with it. My desperation to get over it makes that harder, and take longer.