Last night Atticus took a bite of chicken and said, “Mmmmm!” I cackled because he sounded just like Mike. I see much more of Mike reflected in Atticus, which is, of course, a relief. Mike sometimes drives me crazy, and I am sure that having two of him will be a little much sometimes, but having to deal with myself seems like it would be even worse. I am not ready for that magnifying glass, thankyouverymuch.
That’s not to say that Atticus hasn’t caused me to consider my own practices, because I am his mother and of course I obsess about the things that he sees in me. Over the past year, I have thought a lot about the ways that I am and the ways that I wish I was different. It was not until recently that I started to think of that process as forgiveness.
What a loaded word that is, forgiveness. For a long time I thought that forgiveness was about making problems go away. I was never a full-on people-pleaser, but I thought that my priority should be to say what needed to be said to smooth things out. I made nice the best that I could (which was honestly not very well). This fed my worst tendencies to hold on to things and dwell on the negative while keeping my negativity under the surface until it exploded.
I have taken small steps to stop feeding that negativity. Last year for Lent I gave up hate reading. It’s fun to hate things, which is why I can’t get enough of politics and bad television and that whole genre of blogs where problems are neatly solved by posting a pretty picture. But it’s bad for me, so I cleared out my Google Reader and stopped clicking on links that I knew would rile me up. I let news stories and internet maelstroms pass me by without feeling the need to understand them. I started learning the difference between following the news and letting it wedge itself into my heart. It was good for me, and I broke some habits that needed breaking. (I felt the remnants of that decision when I chose not to hate watch this year’s Oscars and it sounds like I made a pretty good decision).
When I stopped feeding the rage, I didn’t spend as much time complaining to Mike about the wrongness of everyone else. Instead, I thought a lot about why I spent so much of my time so angry. Before I go on, I will say that I think there are things we should be angry about: injustice and poverty and racism and sexism and homophobia and poor theology spring to mind. I don’t believe that anger is a symptom of soul anemia, not by a long stretch. I think, like most things in the world, it has its place. It has fueled great change in our society.
For me, anger often comes from that place between the way things are and the way that I wish they would be. And when it’s tuned in to issues of injustice, that’s a good place to be. But when it turns into resentment, when all I can see is the gaping hole between what I want to be and what is, it’s a problem. I think that’s how I define forgiveness now: making peace with the way things are. That doesn’t mean that things can’t or shouldn’t change, and it doesn’t mean I want complacency. Just that these days I am striving to be a little bit less angry with myself.