“First of all:
I am tired. I am true of heart!
You are tired. You are true of heart!” —
Dave Eggers, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius
Sometimes, forgiveness — means being silent.
You are still thinking of that person who has mishandled you, who has mistreated, misunderstood it all — someone who has committed a sad misstep. But, of course, you think of him! How could he?!
But time happens. It keeps on happening. That just can’t be helped.
And as the time happens, his misstep seems sadder and sadder. But it’s rarely tragic, really — if you look at it hard enough. It may be chaotic, self-serving, unfair. Foolish and hideous. Confusing. Unkind.
But in the end, it’s just sadder. Especially if you commit yourself — to forgiveness.
For a while, his face floats above your head like a helium filled balloon, tied to the shoulder strap of your luggage. And you lug it around: Because these — are your “things”, you see. And you feel like you’ve gotta keep holding onto them. You’ve gotta keep holding on! Because what would you be — if it weren’t for your “things”?
So, the balloon keeps following you, floating above — a strangely pretty thing: The head of a decapitated ghost. If you look at it closely enough — it’s quite beautiful, actually, in that post-fuck-up sort of a way. You can still see the beloved’s face. You remember the cause of your love. But there is also a tiredness there that can be confused for peace. And there are consequences that may result in grace, eventually — when the time allows.
You just gotta commit yourself to time.
You just gotta commit yourself — to forgiveness.
But you aren’t ready yet. Or so you say. So you keep lugging the luggage around, earning calluses on your shoulders:
“These are my ‘things’, you see!”
“Oh, yes! How could he?!” others respond.
At first, you are selective with the audience to your story. Perhaps, you’ll tell it to your shrink, or to your folks. When you do, there will be grief written on their faces.
Okay, maybe the shrink will remain stoic: She’s got too many of you’s — and many more are worse off than you. But your folks: They might humor you. They’ll feel badly. They’ll behold. They’ll even claim to pray, on your behalf. (You’re too busy to pray for yourself, with all that condemnation being flaunted at the balloon-face. But don’t worry: Your gods will forgive you for forsaking them (and for forsaking your better self), until you’re ready to commit yourself — to forgiveness.)
“How could he?!” your folks will say.
And it’ll feel good, for a while: all this attention to your story. To your “things”. So, you’ll start telling the story to your friends.
They are good people — your friends, aren’t they? They will leap to conclusions and advice. They’ll take your side, if their definition of friendship matches yours. But some will judge. Others will hold back. And some will even want to share their story, because to them, that’s how empathy works: It gives space — to their sadder, sadder stories that aren’t really tragic. Except, when you (or they) are in the midst of the story, tragedy is a lot more precise. It matches the weight of the “things”.
You may get annoyed at your friends. You may disagree. You may even demand more kindness. Or more time.
Because time — keeps on happening. That just can’t be helped.
And you wish, it would move at a slower pace, sometimes.
And, okay, you just may get a little bit more of it, if you keep retelling your story to enough new people.
“How could he?!” they’ll say.
And you’ll get off, for a bit. (Feel better yet?)
One day, though, you’ll catch yourself in the midst of sadness. You’ll be showing your “things”, the way you always do, waiting for the “How could he?!” to follow. Your habitual anticipation of likely reactions will suddenly feel tired. You — will be tired.
A thought will flash:
“I don’t know if I wanna keep lugging this ‘thing’ around, anymore…”
His face — still floating, hanging above your head like something that used to belong to your favorite ghost — will seem slightly deflated. Sadder — NOT tragic.
Still, you will keep lugging. For a bit more, you will. You still need more time.
You’ve started this thing, and the ripple waves of gossip and misinterpreted empathies will keep coming in, for a bit longer. But they won’t bring you any more catharsis. And as you keep retelling the story (which will now sound a lot more fragmented), you’ll notice your people lingering:
“Isn’t it time yet?” they’ll ask you with the corners of their saddened eyes.
They are tired. You — are tired.
So, you’ll feel stagnant; stuck with that silly, slowly deflating balloon shadowing you and your “things”: RIDICULOUS.
And time — will keep on happening. That just can’t be helped.
And the relief will linger on the other side.
But then, again: What would you be — if it weren’t for your “things”?
Whether because you’re finally tired of retelling your story or because every one of your people has heard it — you stop. You stop retelling, and you stop asking for more time.
You let go.
You unleash the face of your favorite ghost: You let go.
YOU LET GO.
And you get a hold — of silence.