Tag Archives: forgiveness

Earth as One Big Forgiveness School (and other thoughts from Anne Lamott)

 

In her writing, Anne Lamott has a wry and gentle way of pointing me in a good direction. She doesn’t want to be the object of attention, although she garners radical amounts of positivity when she posts. Rather, she is like a signpost that says “try going over there instead.” In her first TED talk, she identifies 12 things she knows to be true, as informed by her 60-plus years on earth (which she celebrates, she says, because she’s glad to know longer be in the death throes of late-middle-age). Here are the truths that mean the most to me:

  1. Insisting on helping people all the time is the sunny side of control. Stop helping so much. Stop getting your helpfulness and goodness all over everybody.

 

  1. Nothing outside of you will fix you. It’s an inside job. (Her parenthetic exception: unless you’re waiting for an organ.)

 

  1. Food: try to do a little better. “I think you know what I mean.”

 

  1. Almost everything will work again if you unplug it in a few minutes, including yourself.

 

  1. Quoting Ram Dass: When all is said and done, we’re really just all walking each other home.

 

  1. Earth is one big forgiveness school. (My parenthetic truth: I’m pretty sure I’m not a star student.)

 

  1. Grace bats last. I read this in an essay and I don’t know what this means. Even so, I hope it’s true.
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The Spectacular Now

I feel as if I’ve been circling around the book “The Power of Now” for a long time, happening upon its precepts here and there, even instinctively “knowing” some of them from yoga or the Bible. And I’ve listened to people reference “Now” phrases and nodded my head thinking “that’s so true.” But then Oli gave me a book in which they are all gathered up and linked to one another in an organized way. Organized so as to make a blueprint for thinking and living a certain way. The things I’ve heard: “operating from a place of fear” or “motivated by fear” (David); recognizing one’s own “poverty” (Betsy); “look up, look around” (some random guy I interviewed in Norwalk years ago) and “really look at things” (Oliver). “Enjoy yourself” (Gail). “Lilies in the field” (the Bible). And just a couple of weeks ago, Mary talking about feeling grateful she could play tennis, could move and could apply her skill to this game she loves: “remember to love it,” she said to me, “remember to have fun.” So many people trying to tell me things that I take in for a moment then obliterate with my habits and thoughts and busyness.

I finished “The Power of Now” on the plane home from California. Personally, for me, it speaks to my patterns of compulsive thought. My defensiveness. My resentfulness. My submission to “clock time,” although I didn’t know that’s what I was doing. I feel as if I’ve been given permission to stop with all the busyness, to value slowing down, quieting my thoughts, planning, planning, planning. I woke up last night in planning mode, my mind circling through when I’d exercise, or what I’d wear, and what I need to pack for two days in the city. Future tasks to be dealt with in the future, I thought. “Now” is the time to sleep.

And here’s a “Now” moment from the plane. I read “look up, look around” and so I did and there, out the smeary little window, was a shimmering jade-colored lake, encircled by snow-capped mountains. “Utah Lake,” the lady next to me told me. I’ll take it as a reward and an encouragement to keep looking.

 

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injured party

no party at all.

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More on forgiveness

“There was love, an abundance of it; we just had to respect and accept that it was not the love of happily ever after. No, we would not be celebrating our 60th wedding anniversary, or even our sixth, but we would always be celebrating our children and the physical and emotional bond that brought them into being.

As it turns out, the world of moral absolutes is ill-suited to divorce. It isn’t a question of good/bad, success/failure, right/wrong. It is a recognition that what existed is irretrievably broken and that something else must be built in its place.

The decision to end a marriage is not about quitting; it is about letting go of one relationship in exchange for another. The equation isn’t love/not love. Divorce, at its best, is a love reborn — birthed from heartache and rage and despair and ultimately, forgiveness — that creates a different kind of family.”

Such a good essay. I read it, in the cool sunshine of my porch, the church up the street tolling its bells on the hour. Around me, fall is obligingly fall like: clear sky, dry leaves rattling in the breeze, the haze of summer dispelled.

Also, apropos of nothing, her characterizing child-rearing as feelings of love (of course) but also “corrosive boredom.”

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the forgiveness project

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Frederic Luskin, a psychologist and the head of the Stanford Forgiveness Project, offers thoughts about forgiveness when “when you’ve been harmed by someone you’re close to and must work through all the conflicting feelings to get to a place of dignity and peace.”

Reading even these words gives me the thrill of coming upon something that can help me. A project! I love projects because I love plans and focus and work. More to the point, I am so uncomfortable with indecision. Much like Caroline “it’s not that I can’t make up my mind, it’s that I can’t stop making up my mind,” that’s how much she is troubled by indecision.

Dr. Luskin’s advice is standard: honestly apologize (no “I’m sorry but”), ask for forgiveness, practice forgiveness. Here’s what reading it triggered in me: forgiving is not the same thing as reconciling. You can let go of the blackness of blame — forgive in other words — but still decide to step away from the relationship, for awhile or forever. Maybe, even, you can’t know if reconciliation is possible until you forgive?

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