Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Where I save myself an hour and a C-note otherwise spent at my therapist's office

I will be the better, the bigger person.

I will overcome.

I will forgive.

I will channel the general happiness and goodness that I feel most days into feeling better about these people.

These people.

His family. Our family.

I will forgive.

I will find a way to sit with them, to be with them, to converse with them, without harboring ill will, without remembering all the insane ludicrous shit they've done to us, without remembering how they treated us like utter assholes.

I will forget it all, wipe the slate clean, and forgive.

I will forgive them, all of them, every last motherfucking one of them, for things they don't even know they did. For things they have no idea were wrong. For things they thought were the right things. For things they're probably silently or maybe vocally proud of doing.

For keeping information from us, for not talking to us, for ignoring it. For ignoring her. For ignoring our daughter, you know the one.

I will forgive.

I will find peace with this. I will let this wash over.

Until the next time.

I will forgive.

But oh, ohmygod, how it hurts. It makes my stomach clench, my blood pressure rise, and my eyes bleed. My fingernails dig ruts into my palms, my jaw aches, my face breaks out. I hate the feeling of hate, and I'm toeing that line. I want what's right, I want justice, I want everyone to recycle and I want peace in the Middle East. I want a middle daughter born without fatal birth defects. I want everything to be as it was, even those superficial cursory relationships that weren't horribly meaningful, but weren't horrible, either. I want to resist. I want to fight.

I am out of fight.

I will do this for him, for my husband, because he's tired of my aching jaw and steely eyes and silent demeanor in the car. I will do this because I love him. I will do this for my kids, who I guess deserve to know their family, for better and worse. Especially the worse, I'm afraid they'll come to learn in the not-distant future.

I will forgive.


Somewhere in the vicinity of late college-early graduate school, I made the philosophical decision to forgo hate. This wasn't so much a statement for positive thinking as much as it was for time management. I just didn't have the mental or physical space to hate. I was busy -- I had work, and school, and music, and sports, and a boyfriend, and friends -- and there was no time at the end of the day to busy my head with voodoo dolls and revenge. I saw the hate inevitably bestowed by academia tear up relationships and erode intellectual capacity and thought, dude, why? For the record, I still carry this philosophy today. I simply flat-out do not get those wackos who travel (on planes! and by car! for days!) to protest . . . well, I'm still trying to comprehend the rationale no matter how many articles I read: to protest people who are gay? At military funerals? This hate has clearly begun to diminish their linear thinking IMO, but my god, the time. Who are these people to have this space and time to travel and hate as much as they do when I don't have time to shower or do a crossword or run a load of laundry? If I had that time, those open days, I would paint my toenails and whisk my family to the beach and make elaborate cocktails for my neighbors. I'd harvest and pickle my rotting garden and weed and have a yard sale.

I would love. Even if that love were sand in my bathing suit and ears, and pickled beets and clean sheets, I would love with that time.

And here I am, loathing the idea of giving in, of caving, of forgiving. I have never held a grudge, I have never sought revenge (though I might on my husband who left me alone with two children during the first half of the Women's World Cup final while he went and had a beer with his softball team, goddammit). And the thought of forgiving this group of people makes me seethe.

So I wonder why. Why can't I let it go? Why can't I forgive?

I am, I think, at the core, a patient person. A person who takes criticism well. Someone who doesn't take things personally. I know when my daughter throws a tantrum every night the week she has hockey camp it's because she's exhausted, not because she hates me, "worst mommy in the world." So I am patient, and I quietly shepherd her to bed. I am not proud. I am not vain.

Even about my kids. Face it, my kids are loud. The one interrupts, the other yells. (The other, alas, is dead.) I am not one to defend my children in the face of criticism, because usually, I realize, it's true. I'm the one who walks into the parent/teacher conference and braces myself against the tiny desk for the onslaught of "Not listening!" and "Disruptive!" and "No focus!" and am met with a pleasant smile and an intro of, "This will be easy, she's a wonderful human being." And then I interrupt and hold up my hand and inform them that we're BELLA'S parents. You know, 1:15? Bella? And they nod and smile and I realize this crazy age-appropriate inappropriate behavior is saved for us, for testing us, in the comfort of our own home. I am not ashamed to admit this to the teacher, that my child is not an angel when she gets off the bus.

So why do I care what they think of Maddy?

I have boiled down the behavior: the telling us to hurry up and get over it already; the getting mad at us for not bubbling with joy at new babies; for not traveling to see new babies (and missing school in the process, just saying); for wrecking family plans involving fat grandbabies (not like we had plans or anything, just saying); for not going to the first memorial service with us because "it might rain;" for not returning calls, or not picking up the phone, and ignoring us when they didn't like when we pointed out this behavior; for continuing not to speak to us about Maddy, ever; for not sending me gifts at Christmas; for everyone not telling us a brother was expecting a baby -- until the baby was born because they "thought we knew," or "didn't know how" to tell us, even when everyone was here, in my house, drinking my wine and eating my food the week before said birth; for not communicating to us for years to even know that telling us about this birth wouldn't bother us; for assuming they knew how we felt (angry and bitter for years, apparently) without having the nuts to simply ask us how we were feeling. . . .

and it comes down to this: Maddy was an inconvenience to them. She busted plans and made people roll their eyes and have to watch what they say. Boo hoo. Maddy says, my bad.

But really, who cares? Why do I care?

Is my husband right, that they just didn't know what to say, or were too stupid to know what to do or say, or thought they were being nice by not bringing things up? This is hard business, it's hard to know what to say, it's hard to know what to say to the neighbor who just told us she's separated from her husband, or the cousin whose wife just found out she had breast cancer. Maybe we should cut them a break, maybe I should ease up.

Maybe it's because she's dead. Maybe it's because she can't speak for herself, she can't contradict the claim that she's either an angel or a demanding brat. Maybe it's because after the moment is past, I can't hold her and know tomorrow is another day, another exhausting day at camp where she'll laugh and joke and fall and laugh some more and come home in a mess and cry that she can't wait to go back the next day.

Maybe it's because other people knew exactly what to do, what to say. We didn't speak to a lot of people, and a lot of them gave us time and then circled back around and knew exactly how to re-enter the conversation. Many other friends got pregnant and told us and the sun didn't implode and our friendships are still intact. Many other family members talk about Maddy now without stammering or halting. How can some people get it so wrong when others get it so right?

Maybe it's because it's family, and I have this stupid notion that family should know better. That family should be there for you, that family should shoulder you and prop you up, and pack you in a cute tote and carry you until you can walk by yourself. As if family was ever all that to anyone. As if families were anything but places where children were procreated and where you lived until you went to college. So what that my family wasn't perfect, but treats me pretty damn well now. My husband says we need to forgive because they're family. I can't forgive, because they're family?

Maybe I can't because I need something to channel my anger toward and this is it. Because there is no other channel, because otherwise there is just sadness.

Maybe I am wasting valuable nail-polish and vegetable-jarring time sitting here spewing about this. I should just stop with the introspection and spit out the hairball of hate and forgive.

I will forgive.

I can do this.