I bear no bitterness. This caught me by surprise as I laid in bed next to my husband, with child and with two cats who were purring in contentment. I found my spirit light and without any of the rancor which shaded my life for so long. It was a shadow I’d grown accustomed to, and presumed it would always be there, just less pronounced on the bright days. No, it was gone.
Did I really, finally find it within myself to forgive?
Loosing this grudge felt strikingly similar to absent-mindedly dropping something on the sidewalk. You move on, if for no other reason than ignorance of the loss. I explored this feeling for a few moments. Was it forgiveness, or was it indifference inspired by irrelevance?
I laid there and asked myself for what I was forgiving the now-former target of my bitterness. A list of trespasses passed through my mind, stinging as I experienced the memory. It stung, but that was it. What was enmity was replaced with sadness and resignation. Bitterness had transfigured into acceptance.
This bitterness had a quality of terror to it. A year after we stopped speaking, I saw someone on the streets, literally, with a strong resemblance to the begrudged. Same facial features, torn jeans, but dreadlocks. My heart-rate jumped, my hands became shaky, and I wanted to run away. I was with family, and it was embarrassing. The person in torn jeans asked me if they could have our leftover pho, which we were carrying back to my apartment. My body reacted similarly when Google + recommended that begrudged and I connect. I gritted my teeth and cursed at the computer. I dreaded the idea of running into this person in person with a fear unpersuaded by its unlikelihood.
I think the target of my bitterness is ignorant of my loathing for them, and probably unaware of how much they hurt me. There was no falling out or dramatic end. I simply stopped talking to this person, quietly blocked them on facebook, and said little about it. Never heard from them again; it has been years since I have seen, spoken, or written to this person. We do not share any mutual friends. We reside on opposite sides of the country. It appears that we live in distinct phases of life. To even write “we” feels as though it were a violation of the truth. There is no “we”. There never will be a “we”, especially as the silence between us promises to remain a permanent state of being. For many reasons that is the best outcome for all involved.
This person was like a co-conspirator to enter the dark side with: they who drew and gave a map of the woods, became a companion for wandering the paths, and subsequently abandoned me when the trouble came. It is that last part which inspired my grudge. I lashed back at this person, offended by the unfairness of being alone to tidy up. They found something new and shiny and moved on with their life. I felt thrown away.
The non-metaphorical description of that time is that I hurt people and did destructive things. Despite this, my loved ones forgave me and surrounded me with love and support. This was my first time really screwing up. I was the good kid, I always did everything “right”. Now I had first hand experience with failure and humility. I knew that my love ones really do love me unconditionally, as the conditions were tested. I saw the world and my relationships through a new lens. I am grateful for those lessons. Over time I absorbed them, and they became part of me.
Eventually I would see that abandonment was the best possible outcome, and feel grateful instead of bitter.
Forgiveness may have been on the horizon for awhile. I remember thinking, early in the process, that some forms of moving on would simply require enough life to pass that the relevance to expire. Time would heal some wounds; scars are part of the body. My life had changed so much in the years since. There was the cross country move, my episode of veganism, abandoning a PhD, and getting pregnant. My mindset changed too. I found greater peace.
The signs of imminent forgiveness came as bits of compassion for this person. One involved a friend telling a story about this person’s relative. The speaker struggled with her. The begrudged struggled with her too. I thought to myself, “That must have been tough for them.” There was a “This American Life” episode which described something that they experienced, and again I felt this fleeting empathy for them. Even in small doses, compassion makes it hard to hate.
Slowly, I unclenched my grip on the grudge. It was gradual that I did not even feel my hands relaxing.
It is over, and restoration has a present quality to it. I have no intention of unblocking. There is no reason to seek them out. I lack the desire to reach out as much as I am currently without hatred towards them. It ended, why would I pick up a pen to write a new chapter? To tell them about an animosity which they did not know existed? I do not want to catch up, and I am not curious about their life or goals. I stopped hating them. In an imperfect world and as an imperfect person, that is good enough. “We” are reconciled that way.
Three days ago, I was in the checkout line at Whole Foods, purchasing some canned tomatoes which were on sale. I unloaded the basket onto the belt, and looked up at the cashier. [Name]? I thought to myself, surprised. What a striking resemblance. The cashier had the same eyes, same facial structure, same posture, same style of ill-fitting clothes, the same dark hair and spacy look. The name tag had someone else’s name on it. It was a different person. I smiled and made small talk. They gave me a double bag discount. With my heart rate low, I packed my backpack with the tomatoes, wished the cashier a good day, and left for the bus.
I walked slowly, as I am with child, but not too slowly, because I was eager to get home to have dinner with my husband.