The prompt for Today’s Daily Post is Forgive and Forget. Check out other posts, here. It struck me as so ironic when I saw it, because I instantly realized that I’ve just spent six days thinking about this.
This prompt comes at an interesting time. I have just arrived home, after five and 1/2 days in the hospital and nearly twelve days sick, so far. The first week, I didn’t take the situation nearly seriously enough, and no doubt that contributed in part to the much more significant health crisis that then evolved. I can only see that in hindsight, but it’s the truth. I’m used to pushing through; I tend to assume things will go ok, or that I can fix things. When I first thought something was wrong, I started some antibiotics and went to New York City, pushing myself to see everything possible, even as I could feel my body not fighting the infection, effectively. I came home and dove into volunteer responsibilities, holiday preparation, salmon restoration and conservation, and all the stuff that just piles up this time of year. It was a good week; I got a lot done, and I while I didn’t feel quite right, I was in my usual “get it done” groove.
However, what started as a serious sinus infection, led to an extremely serious asthma attack, that has now lasted 9 days: leading to two trips to the ER, and then admission to the hospital for full-time oxygen, and led to a partially collapsed lung. The infection is still not resolved (it is too risky to operate); my oxygen rates today are on a level that is generally the cut off for admission to the hospital, not release… but all agreed, that I do better when I have others around, and I can be managed at home for now, with home oxygen and lots of medication. Big difference: I take it seriously now. I’m not pushing any other agendas but healing. This was a huge lesson in vulnerability and letting go. I had hours, and hours, and hours… and then some more hours, alone in a room, to think, to feel, to process things that have been swirling around me for a long time.
I’ve mentioned in other posts, it’s been a challenging three Decembers in a row. Enormous personal crisis 2010, Mother’s death 2011, and all of it catching up with me in 2012. This year has been the year of moving on and digging out. I was looking forward to December this year, aware that the really hard stuff has mostly passed. However, it has also been a time of huge upheaval with some important friendships, family relationship, marriage, and my own sense of self, and how I want to be– who I am, within all of those arenas. It became clear to me, early in 2013 that once all of the obvious bumps, bruises, and crises had begun to clear, there was a lot of lingering emotion and hurt to work through. It was clear to me that I needed to process a lot of things and figure out how to let go and move on. Ultimately, for me, that has involved forgiveness: forgiveness toward myself for the things I’ve handled poorly, and for hurts that I have felt from others.
I’ve spent months (years at this stage) trying to work through some of these relationships and how I’ve been impacted by them. I’ve struggled with how to be the wife and mother I want to be; the sister I want to be; the daughter; relative; the community person that others see; and, the friend within friendships, that often were as significant to me as family ties. As many of those relationships were challenged, during times of crisis and in my own journey, it has been very painful at times. Very important ties and bonds were cut, and I struggled over how to hold on or fix things, only finding myself hurt, confused and mired in a sense of betrayal, loss and a desperate need to hold on and fix things. When I could finally see that that wasn’t always possible, I was left feeling hopeless and lost for a while.
And then I had to step up and work on new directions. Letting go–> Acceptance–> Forgive. It’s been a process, a long one. As I’ve worked on these things, what I learned is that I could get there, I could forgive and even let go; but, forgetting is an entirely other thing. There has been far too much loss in my life, and ongoing loss (the specter of Huntington’s Disease always hanging over my life, and those I love), that I continue to feel these losses in such a visceral way, it’s stored in my body, in my entire wiring. I come to terms with a loss; I get that we’re not in the same place anymore and the ties are cut, a forgiveness and soften of sorts, but forgetting the loss is so damned hard!
Facing a crisis this week, that fact really rose to the surface. As I lay there, feeling so vulnerable, I realized what I have forgiven and what I’ve forgotten, and they are not the same. So many incredible people reached out to me: offering meals, love, encouraging words, support to me and my family at home, and offers to visit and jump in. And the offers did not carry the same weight, or the same value anymore. I asked help of those I know I can totally trust. I accepted visits from only a few people who I felt entirely nurtured and held by. Ironically, one of those people is an 18-year old boy, who I have forged such a meaningful relationship with, that the tiny fiber-optic Christmas tree he brought me, kept me anchored in a cocoon of love and acceptance, that was so simple and real, that it was a reminder each night, that I would be ok. The moving lights reminded me of the Aurora Borealis in the dark room, and the gurgling of the oxygen behind me, was a stream– bringing the only peace and total calm, each night. What a blessing it was, and such a simple, loving gesture on his part. (Of note, doses of morphine may have contributed to the magic, but not the emotion.)
I had a “Do Not Announce” order in place, which prevented anyone from calling or looking up my room, because the doctors demanded that I not speak much, and that I get total rest. I’m a social girl; that is really challenging for me. Normally, I’d be inviting others in, and asking for company. However, this was not a time to socialize, and least of all re-connect or figure out how I feel about someone. Being vulnerable physically, allowed me to really to look at whether I wanted to invite any emotional vulnerability into that room, our situation, my health crisis; and, I realized that I didn’t want that. I was very aware that some of the people and situations I have forgiven, I have not completely healed from, I have not forgotten, and for a change: I did not feel compelled to push through that and try to make others feel better. I am grateful for each kind word, and each gesture of love, each expression of concern. But I was well aware that some of the intimacy coming my way felt unsafe, and challenging to my overall healing. Relationships that have stumbled, limped or fallen apart were not where I wanted to be. I was scared. I had veins blowing and doctors telling me very serious things, and I did not have the energy to help others feel better, or included them in my world. (Veins blowing; How do I feel? Sucky!; lungs blowing; food that blows; and too much equipment! It was not a party)
Strangely, Facebook became a life line. When word got out to a few people who I was sick: when I cancelled a few things, or I was seen at the hospital, the calls and emails began. The crisis was very scary at first, but making calls was so far down on the list. Yet meals were appreciated, support was needed. I worried about who was with my boys, and what they were eating. I knew my youngest son was scared, seeing me so sick. I worried about my German exchange student– his first year away from his family and home, and there I was disappearing. I knew my oldest son was coming home, and as the days went on, I would not be there to greet him or do the things I want and like to do to welcome him. I knew that my daughter, far away in Israel, felt so helpless. The tree wasn’t bought; the lights weren’t up; some gifts weren’t ready; my head was spinning with expectations I had of myself, that I saw disappearing with each hour I lay there.
<– Letting go of what I thought I had to do, allowed others to do it for me.
I was in denial for a while. I needed loving support to help me accept all the things that were rushing at me. It took me time to start accepting that I had to let go of a lot of those expectations and just focus on getting well. We realized that by posting selective updates (sharing what we were comfortable sharing) on Facebook, we could share what we wanted to, and others could express their concern and offers of support, without us feeling overwhelmed. I could turn off the screen, or plug-in, and feel less alone… or quiet and reflective when I needed to. I could cry for a while, and then laugh at the funny, sweet things sent my way. I struggled in some moments with it feeling voyeuristic and strange to announce our lives that way, but the pressure of not having to answer the phone, or texts, or all the other ways people tried to connect, was such a huge relief, and in the end a very good thing.
I got it. Every single person who reached out, wanted the best for me. I knew their intentions were loving. I felt waves of support and care, and I in all that time that I was lying there, I felt this issue of forgiveness moving over and settling on me. Yet, in the big picture of big, real stuff, it was so much clearer to me: that if we haven’t been taking care of each other in the usual days, if I haven’t been there for you, and you haven’t been there for me, if I don’t know how you are until it’s a Facebook announcement, no amount of past or lingering ties, makes me want to invite that loss back into a room where my single goal was to heal.
There were numerous people who called me or my family to ask how things were going, and how we experienced those various efforts was very different, depending on where we were in those relationships just prior to the crisis. It was strange to hear from some, who I haven’t seen or spoken to in months, while some of our closest friends knew just what to do, without a word. Both my husband and I struggled with how to feel about that. Whether to be gracious, and thankful for the gestures, and accept them as caring calls, or feel a mild sense of violation in the very strangeness of hearing voices that have become distant. The sting of a voice once so intimate and dear, that now feels a bit stiff and awkward…. “how have you been?” The sting of who didn’t call– who we expected to hear from– who we wanted to hear from, but didn’t. The merest effort to think through those things, was a challenge for us at such a difficult time. I sat with those thoughts, with the clarity that pure oxygen provides, and isolation, and came to terms with some things.
These last few days is when I really got that I have forgiven and moved on. I have made enormous leaps in forgiving myself for not always being the mother, sister, friend, person that I want to be. I have forgiven others for not being what I needed, what I wanted, or expected… but I have not forgotten, and that makes all of the difference. Those memories live in my heart, and they don’t go away easily. When the chips are really down, there’s no extra energy for sorting those things out, for questioning motivations, expectations, or agendas. I needed to be where and with who I feel safe, plain and clear. Amazing how it took such a trauma to see it clearly. Forgive and Forget? They are not the same thing, and I get that now.
How do you deal with forgiveness? Is it easy for you? Do you move on, and forget? Or, carry it with you? Is there a difference? Share your thoughts in the comment section.
Please note: any ads seen on this page are not approved by Dawn Quyle Landau or Tales From the Motherland. I just refuse to pay extra, to have them removed.