I am listening to Anne Lamott's "Traveling Mercies" on cassette during my commutes this week. In an essay about her mother, and talking about how difficult it is to accept her mother as they both grow older, she quoted someone she knows, and I can only paraphrase it here: Forgiveness is giving up the hope that you might have had a different life.
Forgiveness is giving up the hope that you might have had a different life.
Lamott's essay really hit a tender spot with me. I'm in the process of struggling to find forgiveness in myself for my mother, and of course that is, itself, tangled up with guilt, which makes it harder and more complicated.
But it's not really complicated. I'm just scared. I'm afraid that if I forgive my mom (I won't go into details here), it would break the dam inside and all the pain and rage I've held behind it all these years will come flooding out, and I don't know if I could survive that.
Because I was forgiven once myself, I know the other side, too. I'm not talking about a religious conversion, I'm talking about someone whom I'd done something to that could have derailed his whole life. When I couldn't stand the guilt any more, and I fessed up, the first thing he was concerned about was whether *I* was all right. I guess that was because I was sobbing uncontrollably by then. The second thing he said was that he forgave me. Once I recovered from that shock, we went on from there. It turned out to be one of the one or two most life-changing episodes of my life.
If I'm going to be honest with myself, the other thing that I'm afraid of is that once I start this forgiveness biz, and manage to forgive my mother, I'll find out that *she* has a lot more to forgive from *me*. That it'll all turn out to be *me* who's been at fault all my life. I have several thousand hours of sitting through twleve-step programs, so I know that's not precisely correct. It's the "old tapes" playing again. But the fear is still here.
I think it's helped to write it down here.