Warning: naughty language ahead.
This is part three in a new elephant journal series about love.
I’m sitting here realizing something: that I will never, ever be able to let go.
But I need to forgive.
I just sat down to talk with my best friend (my husband) and this is what I told him I thought forgiveness is.
It’s not letting go (because letting go can bite me), but it is this:
I cannot help that I remember more than I want to sometimes.
Forgiveness is acceptance.
It’s not saying that anything is okay, or not okay, for that matter—it’s not passing a judgment. Instead, forgiveness is admitting that it happened, that it occurred and that this might not be okay because…
Forgiveness isn’t denial.
It’s not pretending that “you’re a better person” for it or that “it was meant to be,” because that’s bullshit.
Still, forgiveness is moving forward.
That was the crux of what I said to him (my glorious husband-best-friend): it’s moving on, with what happened as a reality of our past.
And then, he said this: “But it keeps coming back to me.”
Ugh. So true.
It haunts me.
It visits me in my sleep.
My mistakes—the things that, really, have made me who I am and who I’m happy to be.
All those years spent hating my body, and starving myself because I thought in some odd way that it could starve my emotional self too; and that my old wounds would somehow wither and die along with my shrinking skin.
The sharp, dagger-words that I wish I could take back, but that I can’t.
The harsh withdrawal from someone I love, in order to first save myself.
All of that and more—all of the ghosts.
Because the past might be accepted or, further, even moved on from, but what about when it revisits, like a ghost—like a phantom of Christmas past?
I saw a ghost in my house last night. Twice.
I do not believe in ghosts. Rather, I’m not sure what the hell I believe in, but I’ve seen them more than once—so there’s that. And I saw a ghost in my house last night on my child’s video monitor while she slept. Twice.
I’ve seen ghosts before—although I don’t believe in them.
(It’s funny what happens to you, when you don’t believe.)
Once, in a farther corner of the world from where I currently sit typing, I saw a dog reclining in the sunny spot on the carpet in front of a bay window—right where a dog would actually lie. I was cradling my hot mug of tea in my bare hands and walking myself into the other room, to also sit.
I saw that dog like it was right there—a spaniel with spots just so, and of just this color. I had already seen this vision before, too. The dog had run into our parlor room (it was an old-fashioned brick house in the middle-of-nowhere New Mexico—which we adored, by the way).
I recall standing agape and holding the hinged screen door ajar—a dog just ran into my house! And then I turned, and it was gone.
And let me, equally, tell this: we received a gift from our New Mexican home’s former tenant.
It was a beautifully framed, old photograph of the house after it was first built—and there, in the foreground, was a woman holding a dog’s paw as it stood on its hind legs, shaking its hand. The dog was identical to the one I’d seen and felt in that house on more than one occasion.
(For those of you who have ever loved a dog, it will come as no surprise that if a ghost could exist, a dog deserves to be one too.)
I didn’t want to re-hash my spectral tale, but I must. Because the past is not irrelevant—or even invisible—and this is how we forgive:
We never let go.
But we live on—we hold our former experiences and our former selves in the palms of our hands like apparitions that we can’t abandon—and we walk on.
We get out of our own minds, and our own prior experiences, and we live the fuck on.
And I’d love to insert an inspiring forgiveness quote here, but they all suck.
However, I’ll offer this up:
Letting go can bite me—it’s not going to happen—but my present will not now, nor will it ever, be determined by my past.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Photo: Author’s own.