I was raised to forgive men.
In a powerful mixture of words and actions doled out over my formative years, I was handed a few key points to help with the mandatory forgiveness process.
Here are three of them, in no particular order.
#1 Men are not responsible for their breaches.
Read that again, or rather, let me write this again: Men Are Not Responsible For Their Breaches. That one piece alone - apparently attributed to some genetic mystery - is enough to pre design the life a little-girl-then-young-woman-then-woman. The resulting tendrils sprouting from that one sentence feel so perilous I can barely look within to see where they have wrapped themselves around the past decades of my life.
#2 We The Women Must Never Ever Question a Man’s Integrity.
Doing so could uncover things that would hurt us, which would be silly since … well, #1. “I never looked in your dad’s pockets” was spoken at me with pride and with the tone one might use to pass on a chunk of beautiful life wisdom to one’s daughter. It turns out that for my mom to check pockets would have been a a puny and unnecessary act since my Dad, a special man in many other ways, was well aware of #1 and therefore way above hiding phone numbers in his pocket.
#3 A Woman Sticks By Her Man, No Matter What.
Doing otherwise would be a sign of weakness and therefore worthy of shame. This one was demonstrated over and over again. And again. And oh boy, have I sticked. I have sticked for years and through “breaches” like sexual assault, infidelity, vulgarity and profound unkindness towards other humans - that one having been possibly as difficult for me as rape.
I looked quite properly forgiving.
And yet. Did I really forgive?
Did I forgive or did I do whatever it took to look as though I did, because it was the right thing to do?
Three quarters of the way through Glennon Doyle’s book “Untamed,” some of her words jump out at me and I reach for my keyboard for some semi desperate self-exploration.
She writes: ”It is not kind to keep those we can’t forgive close to us and punish them forever.”
It hits me hard. I take my eyes off the page. I close the book. I breathe. I remember.
“Keep those we can’t forgive close to us and punish them forever.”
Damn. That’s what I have done.
That’s what I have done because I did not know what else to do, because I had no plan B and because I did not realize that I was indeed punishing others than myself.
I punished by maintaining a friendship out of duty, twenty years after The Breach.
I punished by continuing to share a home while withholding my heart (because you see, no one can see that)
I punished by sharing a bed while withholding my body.
I published by giving only a sliver of me and hoping that it would be enough to keep my pledge to #3.
I re-read the words in the book and I feel a little sick.
It’s hard to read about yourself and have no way to pretend you’re not.
There was this one time when I didn’t forgive and when I did not pretend to forgive.
Because that time, The Breach had not been directed straight at me, but rather at someone I love fiercely. When that happened, I threw #1 and #2 in the air and let the wind blow them far, far away. I then took a dull serrated knife and began the painful process of severing that relationship, one sawing motion at a time. A sharp machete would have been so much easier but I was not trained in this process and this was the only way I knew how to do it. It hurt like hell.
And it’s worth it.
Here’s what I have learned:
True forgiving brings us a sense of peace, of completion.
Made up forgiving, the kind where “we keep those we can’t forgive close to us and punish them forever,” is spiritually lethal.
I vow to never do this again.
So much to write.
I actually want to write about writing - and what I am noticing about that. Not MY writing, by the way. The yearning to write I am hearing about almost daily lately, mostly from women. That's for another day.
Today I want to write about a drink.
I had heard about this drink several times before, and when my friend ordered one on the beach the other day, I decided that I would do the same soon. "Soon" being uncharacteristically restrained for me who usually much prefers "right now."
There is a reason for that. A simple one.
Which is that really, it didn't sound that good to me.
A "Ruso," I was told, is a delicious and refreshing blend of sparkling water, lime - and salt.
So like I said, I would "soon" try it.
Sitting on the beach an hour away from home yesterday, the young waitress asks me several times what I want to drink. Having had a fresh coconut lovingly cut for me right before leaving, I had been sipping on enough coconut water to quench my thirst for a while.
But she looks concerned. It appears that she would really like me to drink something as I eat my coconut shrimp.
Not all my people-pleasing tendencies being healed, I finally ask her what she thinks I should drink.
"Un Ruso," she tells me, sounding remarkably sure.
There it is. The famous Ruso. Less than a week since I committed to trying it.
Muy bien, I say.
Let's do this.
She seems pleased and returns a few minutes later with a tall glass of sparkling beautifulness, which she places in front of me.
Then, she stands right behind me and waits.
I look at her and she moves her chin towards the glass. "Provalo," she says. Try it.
I was hoping for a little more time.
Certainly a little more privacy.
I lift the glass, wrap my lips around the straw and summon up the chilled concoction towards my mouth.
The second it hits my tongue, I want to spit it out.
The salt. The darn salt.
Majorly ruining the flavor of my beloved lime and the happiness factor of the sparkly water.
She is watching and there is no way I can pretend. I am too busy swallowing what tastes to me like a mouthful of freaky ocean water.
She looks very, very surprised.
As though she has never met anyone who didn't love sparkly seawater.
And yet, I get zero judgment vibes from her. Nothing, nada.
Which truly, is remarkably consistent with my experience here.
She laughs and walks away.
I savor my shrimp and the view, and the sound, and well... everything but my drink.
When it becomes time to leave and the bill comes, the waitress lets me know that she did not charge me for the drink. "You didn't like it," she said cheerfully. "So you don't pay for it."
As I waived to her driving away from the restaurant, my heart felt happy and peaceful.
Happy to have tried something new and mostly happy to have experienced a sweet, easy, and authentic connection.
The green GREEN jungle on the way home filled my heart to the top and turning right into the village was, as it always is, a quiet joy.
I walked to the store to get some produce.
The lady who works or owns the store told me that in addition to organic spinach, they also had cactus leaves today. Nopales.
I told her that I did not know how to cook it.
So right there on the spot she taught me.
She gave me a couple of different ways to use them and picked a nice little stack of leaves for me, with the pokey part taken out.￼
As she was ringing up my vegetables, I told her that I was going home and making some soup. She offered to chop up a bunch of vegetables for me and put them in a bag and have them all ready for me to make soup with.
And she did.
Right there on the counter, she picked up a cutting board, a whole bunch of vegetables from her store and chopped everything beautifully and with love.
As if she had nothing else to do at that moment.
As I walked out I was reminded once again of why I live here.￼￼￼