Forgiveness Doesn’t Mean Being Okay With Something

kissandmakeup

I was 26 when my boyfriend almost killed me.

Two months after meeting him, he wrapped my Jeep Wrangler around a telephone pole with me, unseatbelted and drunk, in the passenger seat. After losing my sight and my hearing, feeling my hair fall out and half my face droop with palsy, undergoing multiple surgeries and spending months in the hospital…I married him. That’s young love for ya.

Traumatic brain injury helped.

How does a couple overcome something like that–my ruined body, his dark passenger of  guilt, and the specter of morbidity hanging over us both?

We buried it, of course.

Afterall, we deserved to be happy just like any other two idiots, madly in love. How could one whoopsie daisy destroy us?

But, it lurked underneath every minute of every day, an oozing cancer. Unfortunately, the past couldn’t remain tucked away, because I had permanent injuries that just wouldn’t shut up no matter how hard I tried to ignore them. And once young love wore off and my rose colored glasses cleared, it wasn’t long before nagging thoughts of, “But, you’re just fine. How nice,” and, “What really did happen that night,” and the most ridiculous, “Hey. You never even replaced my jeep,” began to surface.

It got worse from there. The whoopsie daisy polished every smudge in our marriage to obscene high definition.

Years later at one of many marriage counseling sessions, after describing the car accident to Dr. B, he said to me, “It sounds like you’ve got a lot of forgiving to do.”

That sounded accusatory.

What? That’s bullshit, what did I do? I’m the one who was maimed here. Affronted, I choked out something like, “How can I do that? How can I ever be okay with what happened?”

“Forgiving doesn’t mean being okay with something,” he told me. “If everything were okay, there would be no need to forgive.”

“Well…what is forgiveness, then?”

His answer was groundbreaking for me, and I’m sure I’m romanticizing it now, since I’ve thought about it so much–turned it over in my my mind, unpacked it and refolded it a million times since. I’ll try to paraphrase the message faithfully: “Forgiveness is letting go of the pain a person or event causes you. You’re the one holding onto it. You’re the one who has to let go of it.”

Dr. B was blunt like that, and I usually hated him for it. Yet, this time he rang the right bell. So, this was all about my brilliant mind. The mind that had clearly fucked up my own life, in my own power. Well then, at least I had some control.

To let go of the pain I would have to face it first, though.

“That sounds pretty difficult,” I admitted.

“Well. What’s the alternative?”

Indeed.

That sent me on a mission for answers. I had to forgive and I was in this alone. How could I be not okay with something Mr. X did, but still not let it hurt me?

I studied Catholicism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Tantra. Religion isn’t my strong suit, since I was raised an Atheist and I have a natural aversion to authority of any kind. I tried my darndest, though. I went to psychics and mystics, learned to meditate and connect to Source, faithfully took up Kundalini Yoga (nearly lost my mind doing that at first). I had my Akashic records read, listened to my soul council, tuned my chakras, cured my allergies, wrote two books, and even started making art again.

Over the years, I began to realize that I was not hurt at all by that fateful event. Not in the long run, in terms of the cosmos. In fact, I would’ve never experienced the richness of my life as I then knew it, had I not been so broken when I was 26. Forget that soulless beauty I used to be. If I hadn’t had my skull smashed, I might not ever have found the beauty within. I didn’t even blame Mr. X any longer. He was the agent of a great change in me, and possibly a divine agent of Karma. There are no accidents.

So, slowly and incrementally…I began to forgive.

The flip side to that was an unfortunate and unexpected byproduct, however. In all this soul searching, I had changed and Mr. X had not followed suit. And from my new hard won standpoint of a meditative, forgiving mind, I began to question if remaining in the marriage wasn’t more like martyrdom.

What a Catch-22! I seek forgiveness to save my marriage and forgiveness is the very thing that must end it! Was this a cosmic joke?

Suddenly, the tables were turned and I was no longer the wounded, but the one wielding the ax. Afterall, I had learned to accept Mr. X for who he was, flaws and all, and I loved him as a person and a friend, even if I didn’t see a lifelong partnership as viable any longer. The resentment was gone, but guilt had taken its place. I was a nervous wreck with all the sifting and sorting. How could I do this horrible thing that I had to do? How did I become the evil one with a dark passenger?

I went back to Dr. B for more marriage counseling, hoping to find help in ending it peacefully.

With snot running down my lips and a wad of soaked tissues in my clenched fist, I babbled something like, “What if marriage isn’t the right thing for me in this case? I think I’ve learned to forgive, but that doesn’t make Mr. X my partner until death does us part, does it? I think I made a mistake. I’d rather die than go on like this.”

Stone faced, he replied, “My main goal is to keep the marriage intact.”

“No matter what?”

“That’s my goal.”

And that’s when I realized the true meaning of forgiveness. I had to forgive myself and I was in this alone. I was going to break people and ruin lives. How could I be not okay with what I meant to do, but still not let it hurt me?

Well. What’s the alternative?

Indeed.

This was Mean Greeting Card #2. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.

 

All Worldly Attachments Eventually Bring Pain

Opposites Attract. Oil, watercolor, acrylic, pastels, and charcoal on paper, 15″X19″, 2018.

My first finished painting in over a year has turned out wildly different than I expected, and I couldn’t be happier with the result.

The series of six paintings–which includes elephants, sea otters, and butterflies, among other fauna–began as an art licensing idea for Valentine’s Day cards, and they were supposed to be sweet! As I stumbled away from ever worsening divorce complications and limped through the swift demise of a confusing rebound, however, my cute little animals became tragic instead.

Too much work had gone into them to quit. Pen and ink, watercolor, pastel, gouache, oil, acrylic–I had really poured my heart into it, probably as a way to stay sane through trauma. I was lost with them, though, because they certainly weren’t commercially appealing any longer. But I had no idea how such lingering sentimentality would fit into my fine art practice.

Then I realized that these paintings had stayed true to their original purpose after all, wherever they fit, and all my frustration vanished. They capture the raw emotion I felt for months and months, and they are quite comforting to me. Much like a greeting card and much better than well meaning divorce chit chat. I imagine it’s a similar feeling when a loved one dies and you’re forced to sit through clumsy condolences. Most of what people say makes you feel worse.

In particular, the monkey and the chicken are so obviously not a great couple! I’ve discovered people to be invested in the survival of others’ relationships beyond reason.

“No! You guys are perfect together!”

“But you looked so happy on Facebook, what happened??”

And the worst:

“What about your KID?! How could you DO this to him?” (Well, by golly you’re right. I have never considered my kid in all of this. Silly me.)

Of course, I’ve done the same thing to divorcing couples, and I think it’s a reflection of my own anxiety in the knowledge that all worldly attachments eventually bring pain. And, if your relationship doesn’t last, that means mine might not either. That’s darn right personally offensive.

But, I mean, come on. What were a monkey and a chicken ever going to offer each other from the beginning? I think if we admitted that many romantic partnerships are like this, maybe we wouldn’t need so much self-medication.

This was Mean Greeting Card #1. To see the others in this series, go HERE.

Thanks for liking, commenting, and following!  Visit my contact page HERE for social network links, or sign up for my mailing list HERE to be the first to see new work.

The Jack & Jill Cycle

Next, in this “3X5 Art Challenge” on Facebook, I post my favorites. See the first post in this blog series here. These were my first experiments with watercolor, and although I’ll never be a purist (I throw in whatever I need to, after the watery beginnings), working with this medium has changed the way I make art forever.

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After a long period of intense study and contemplation (grad school), my brain was buzzing with the work that never could quite surface with all the scrutiny and pressure of content critiques. After graduating, I brought all the art supplies I had gathered in my Parsons studio home. My school studio had a huge picture window, right next to Union Square in the heart of Manhattan. My tiny studio apartment was in Greenpoint, Brooklyn and had a view of the apartment across the street. I sat in my little living room/dining room with two tv trays pulled up next to the couch and grabbed whatever I needed from the moving boxes, barely even thinking about it, while watching The Skeleton Key on repeat. I don’t know why The Skeleton Key. Comfort movies surface in weird ways, and after grad school, I needed comfort.

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I brought my tools together and worked quickly and intuitively, with much angst and gusto! This series of four, inspired by the famous nursery rhyme, was the result, in graphite, charcoal, ink, marker, pastel, oil pastel, watercolor, gouache, and acrylic paint, and whatever else came to hand, on leftover paper. With a head full of art theory, I said I was exploring our legends, fables, and mysteries as a society, and examining the way we understand cultural archetypes and our personal roles, in reference.

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But really, they were just super fun to make!

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Buy a print here: http://bit.ly/1zKnnCq