I did something a bit self-defeating today: in an attempt at integrity, I apologized to a friend of mine for hurting him – in a fit of emotional angst I had sent him a nasty email. He never actually received the email, but because I brought it up by asking forgiveness he proceeded to search his email and found 4 other times I had done the same thing – freaked out and ranted at him, then felt incredibly remorseful and asked for forgiveness. I say hurtful things when I’m upset, I launch very personal attacks in response to perceived hurt. He is taking space from me now, and rightfully so. My lash-out was completely unwarranted and unprovoked. And the crappy part is, it didn’t make me feel any better.
The path of enlightenment is treacherous. They say you spend the 2nd 25 years of your life unwinding everything that was wound up in the first 25. I feel like I’ve just just really started to unravel the tight ball my life has been wound into. I have anxiety, rejection issues, ADHD, PTSD. The people who raised me did quite a number on me the first 18 years of my life, and I continued the process for at least another 15. First figuring out one’s issues and then solving them is a lifelong project. It is a miracle that any of us sustain long-term friendships, much less relationships, with all the emotional residue and mental baggage we cart around. It becomes so hard to keep it from getting all over other people.
In the self-help program I subscribe to, we are taught to identify and release our resentments. I have always prided myself on being a person who forgives easily and resolutely. I am finding recently that is not true at all. I have simply folded my resentments neatly and put them in storage, only to bust out of the drawers I think they are contained in at the slightest perceived provocation. Forgiveness is not an easy thing. It means to stop blaming someone, to stop feeling anger toward someone or about a situation, to stop requiring payment. What I’m finding is that I often haven’t really forgiven others – I’ve simply carried on with them, with resentments still playing in the background of my mind, like the worst kind of theme music. Sooner or later, what you don’t deal with eventually comes to surface again. Mine arises as personal attacks – either on myself (anxiety) or on people I love.
When I talked to my friend, I apologized profusely, told him steps I was taking to resolve my behavior, wanting to impart upon him how I’d never do it again. He told me that I was so busy talking about myself that I wasn’t listening to his feelings. And I wasn’t. Another issue I have, that many humans have, is that we want so badly to quickly resolve a negative situation we created that we run right over the wishes and needs of the person we wronged. It’s kind of like how “good” White people feel so guilty about slavery that they don’t want to hear Black people talk about it. They just want to say how open-minded and not-racist they are, and emphasize how different and better things are now – even going as far as to deny racism currently exists. I really “white guilt”-ed my personal situation.
There is always the fear for me with a loved one that this mistake will be the last. That they will get so sick of my dumb shit, again, that they will opt out of the relationship. After all, how many times does a person have to make the same mistake before they finally get it, and stop? But then, I am the person I need to seek the most forgiveness from. I can’t opt out of my relationship with myself. At some point I have to stop blaming myself, stop feeling anger toward myself or how I’ve behaved again. Stop requiring myself to keep paying for this same mistake over and over again. Perhaps I keep provoking the same bad feelings in my friend because I feel that I haven’t been properly punished for my behavior. Perhaps I need to forgive myself.
The most nerve-wracking element is not knowing where we go from here. I don’t know if this has been the last straw with him, and that is scary. All actions have consequences. If I lose this important friendship, I will have no one to blame but myself. But I have to put my needs and desires 2nd to his right now, and he gets to handle his emotions and response in the way that he finds best. Even if it doesn’t have the outcome that I desire. I believe this is the foundation of true repentance.
There is no vacuum emptier than the space a friend once occupied. I will be patient, and pray that we can resolve this same issue one more time. In the meantime, I will fill the vacuum, as much as I can, with enlightenment. And hope.