Sunday, May 17, 2009

Dealing with a Colorful Pallate of Mistakes and Learning the Creative Art of Forgiveness

Have you ever thought about forgiveness as a little gift...not so much for the person who has wronged you...but for yourself? Kind of like the online retail therapy for your tattered soul? I often like to think of forgiveness that way. Like the sweet Laylana Doc Marten's (thank you Zappos) that give me an extra 2 vertical inches. I sure like the way they make me feel, and oddly enough, forgiveness can have that same effect.

But sometimes it's a really long path to that point of purchase. Knowing when, and even why, to forgive can be a real hangup and leave you standing at the ol' checkout for some time.

I guess I like to think there is a Richter Chart for classifying mistakes that might warrant forgiveness. The smallish mistakes & quakes, well they are easier to forgive. You know what I mean. Those "dummy moves" and blunders that barely register in your life for more that a couple of days. For example, forgiving your pal for dropping your iPhone into the lake mid-swig of his Sam Summer Ale, well, that's an easy forgive(especially since I don't have an iPhone). I would say this. Just drink a couple of your pal's Sammy's (that he clearly owes you for silencing your communication with the world for an afternoon) and believe his promise to get you straight to the AT&T Store after the sun goes down, and all is forgiven. You'll be back to your ol' Texty McTexterson self before you know it and maybe you'll even brush up on your communication skills(a nice bonus in my book)!

Then there are these other kinds of mistakes that require a quiet, patient kind of forgiveness. I reserve these for my really good friends who make really good mistakes. And often make the same mistake more than once. Mistakes that cause my head to tick-tock in utter disbelief. I'll use the example of my former college roommate, who I'll lovingly call "K-Pin" for this one. (I've always wanted to just write about her 4th quarter college escapades, so here's my chance to selfishly indulge). With her senior year in full swing, and recent split with her boyfriend fueling her every move, K-Pin decided to replace her Journalism II class with Binge Drinking 101. Suddenly our sweet, shy and meek little roommate had become an amazing force to be reckoned with.

Shortly after the said binge drinking began, I happened to leave campus for a weekend. Upon my return, I was greeted by a cyclone of roommates from our small apartment complex immediately upon putting the car in park. Everyone tumbled and twirled out the door, talking and dog-whistle squawking at once "You're not going to belieeeeeeeeeve this...get in here NOW...OH MY GOD..." (Obviously I had missed something very good).

Well it appeared that our timid K-pin had engaged in a dangerous night of drinking and debauchery while I was away. Not only had she doubled up on her beers, she had doubled up on her men. Our very sweet girl had stuck her halo on the shelf and enjoyed a little two-on-one action the night before. She was now sitting with her head in hands, sobbing out the delicious details. She was clearly very distraught about her actions. And here we all sat, her friends working tirelessly to beat down silly schoolgirl laughter and wisecracks. We worked feverishly to conceal our surprise as the details unfolded. Together we developed a plan to move her forward from this incident. To move her past the big embarrassment. By the day's end we had a small smile back on her face with the promise of brighter days ahead. So where does forgiveness fit in here? Well, we must fast forward a few mere weeks to the SECOND incident.

Oooooooh yes. There was another. Fool me once...well, you know the deal.

As we fast-forward to this particular eve, our gaggle of girls (and most of the campus) happened to be downtown for beat-the-clock drinks. The beers started at 25 cents each. Bless the marketing wiz who came up with this idea....this very fast track to sloppy make out sessions to Madonna's "Crazy for You" on the beer-soaked dance floor. Somewhere in the middle of this event, with beers likely up to a mere 75cents, word gets around that K-Pin was being escorted out of the bar by a couple of not-so gentlemanly friends of ours for what appears to be round 2 of the "double-your-fun" event she only semi-enjoyed (and then endlessly cried about) two weeks prior. Knowing the horror she would feel Sunday morning, a few of us departed to go grab her up from the apartment where we knew the transgressions were about to take place. You see, we knew the two and a half gentlemen in question (I say two-and-a-half because the guy hiding under the bed during this melodrama only had groping and visual privileges with K-Pin). And he's not a very tall guy. Hence, I can't count him in 100%.

So we arrive all "supergirlie" to save the day and we are met with a very determined, drunk, and voracious K-pin. She instructs us to leave. Immediately. She called us some damn ugly names as I recall. We stood our ground and vigilantly reminded her how she felt after her last trip to the boy buffet. Not so hot. "You were MISERABLE," I pleaded. "You went out and chopped your hair off and got a terrible perm... you cried like a toddler...please do NOT do this again..."

But there was no reasoning with this Colt 45-fueled mirage of fun. The draft beers and flailing hormones won out and this train was on time and scheduled to wreck by the 4:00 a.m. "walk of shame" home. We stood there, rather helpless, as she essentially gave us the finger and closed the bedroom door to go wrestle off her clothes and in and out of the arms of the boys.

Forgiveness came early for K-pin. In the embarrassing aftermath part deux, fewer words were spoken. But friends were there. And here is the beautiful thing. A good friend will forgive. They'll make a little space in their heart and grab that glass of water and the bottle of Advil. They'll put that Kleenex box within your reach and listen as you apologize for backsliding. Friends will help you muddle through the horrors of the shitty choices they patiently warned and advised you about a few weeks earlier. And that's what we did that day. We tempered our disappointment and anger at her bad choices and shitty behavior long enough to prop up and forgive a very troubled friend. (Truth told, we took this opportunity to have a little bit of fun here. Yes, we were guilty of penning new lyrics about the mentioned incident to go along with "It Takes 2" by Rob Bass and DJ EZ Rock. Because we are not only forgiving friends. We are self-proclaimed funny friends as well). K-pin was deserving of forgiveness. She deserved one more final chance to keep her pants up in the presence of multiple men. We proudly coached her on to growing that unusual "Pat" perm out, to trying a little dose of celibacy, and ultimately on to sticking it out until graduation.

Sadly, there are mistakes that are off the charts. The kind that shake and split you open like the San Andreas Fault is running through your life instead of down the west coast. Theses mistakes, well they senselessly knock everything you had neatly stored off your organized shelves and leave you with one hell of a huge mess. Things broken, scattered and so frustrating to sort through. These miscalculations can send horrible aftershocks that shake well beyond your own heart and rattle up the lives of everyone in your loving radius. Forgiveness requires serious mental wrestling and effort. And maybe time as long in length as the San Andreas Fault.

When going through my personal earthquakes of separation and divorce, I was hyper focused on my children and myself. The amount of understanding and forgiveness which seemed to be required on a regular basis nearly tapped me out. The one thing I could not see in the midst of all this was how far reaching the effects and aftershocks of my own situation would reach. And how family and friends would have to challenge their own notions of forgiveness as they reorganized their lives around our very awkward situation. This situation was as ugly as a Walt Disney step-sister. While submerged in my own pain, I forgot that family and friends were grieving as well. They were reeling in their own pain and anger. They suffered tangible losses as well. They needed their own opportunity to decide how to proceed. And whether it would include forgiveness.

The Liberty Bell..well, damn. How perfect that she has a big ol' crack in her? In the pursuit of liberty from my ex, I had to draw my own crooked lines. Crack myself open a bit. Divorce doesn't just divide up the Bose docking system and wine glasses we've aquired. It divides family and friends. It splits well-loved traditions and events into splintered fragments. Divorce comes with more complex layers than that giant 4-tiered cake that fed the 200 plus guests at my rocking wedding reception. Divorce is one big' ol' messy mistake no matter how carefully you slice it. Many are able to move forward. But many do not get to the point of forgiveness.

When people ask me how I can forgive my ex, I say this. I have actually accepted that fairy tale...the one where the Prince and the frog were really the same guy. I guess I would rather accept the simple truth people are sometimes unpredictable, and just plain unreliable. They are boldly, sadly human. And that even the good and well-intentioned can make mistakes. They do terribly stupid things like drink and get behind the wheel. They say or do the wrong thing at the worst possible time. And yes, they cheat. I am finding it easier to accept people as they are, rather than expecting them to be something they are clearly not. Trust me. This took a bit of practice and a ton of time. It also included lots of meditative breathing and a few glasses of wine.

But really, I just made a decision for myself. I decided to give myself a gift not noted on our registry. It didn't come easy or cheap. But I was able gift myself, and yes the ex, with a bit of genuine forgiveness. And that gives me(and my fabulous Laylana's)an extra happy bounce in each step moving forward.