With apologies to Don Henley who wrote that lovely song that’s been an earworm for me today…. My daughter’s boyfriend’s mother posted on Facebook today, wondering about trust after being burnt severely (figuratively speaking) which sparked (pun intended) some great conversation about said trust, whether or not people can truly change, apologizing, moving forward, and forgiveness. It got me thinking.
Of course, we are in the middle of the Lenten season, wherein we meditate, make small sacrifices (Not small animals though, wink wink) and reaffirm our connection to our higher power as Christians. Those of you who know me know I am definitely not an overtly religious person. I don’t proselytize, I’m fairly tolerant, moderate, and liberal in my religious viewpoints. And I certainly don’t force my views on anyone else, or expect others to conform to my way of thinking. I have discovered progressive Christianity and it makes sense to me. But I digress. That being said, I do strongly believe that LOVE and FORGIVENESS are the keystones of the Christian faith.
Here’s my response to her initial post: “Did the person apologize? We have the option to forgive, and we never have to forget either. Leopards don’t always change their spots, but sometimes they can. There’s a nasty person inside each of us. In some, it consumes them. But there’s also good in each of us. Forgiving someone doesn’t mean they get a free pass, and you can choose not to have them in your life. Forgiving allows you to move forward unencumbered. And if they’re still a slimy lying sack of putrescence, it’s not your problem anymore. Good luck!” The person has not apologized, for the record. And, has apparently not changed their spots, even though they are being vocal about being a changed person. Its a sad fact of life that sometimes the most loving thing you can do for yourself and another person is remove them from your life. I speak from experience.
Anyway, let me tell you a true story….. I’ve alluded to it before in my “Tales from the Northland” series on this blog. So let’s talk about my mother-in-law for a few minutes. The Vikings biological mother. Who has, shall we say…”issues”…. She’s a manic depressive who refuses to take medication. And she doesn’t like me. At all. I come from a family that loves and talks to one another no matter what. My dear husband’s female parent doesn’t have relationships with too many members of her family. And its always their fault. Her problem with me stems from the fact that I believe her issues with her family are hers alone and if I want a relationship with them, then I will have one. Period. My husband recognized that he (and consequently, we) would never have a stable loving relationship with his mother, LONG before I did. Had I listened to him – I would have saved myself much stress. No “kamikaze” nasty voicemails on the answering machine when I came home from work, no disappointed children because they didn’t understand why their grandmother didn’t call them or arrange to visit, no venomous, filthy letters blaming me for all her problems with her son and her grandchildren. I think I even caused the crucifixion of Christ himself if you asked her about it….. I do wish her well though.
It took me quite awhile to get to that point. Especially since it was affecting my children. You can say what you like about me, but don’t screw around with my kids. Momma E will get seriously pissed off…. and I did. She had reached out shortly after 9/11 after a few years of no contact. I imagine quite a lot of people attempted to repair, or did repair, relationships after that time. We were crystal clear that if she was in our lives, she was in, and that she would maintain contact with the girls regardless. That didn’t happen. So we severed ties. My children do not understand conditional love, and that, unfortunately, was all the woman could offer.
Mental illness is a terrible thing. I understand that she was driven by her paranoia and her disease. So I forgive her, but I would forgive even if she wasn’t ill. Its easier than being upset. As I’ve gotten older I’ve realized that not everyone is going to think I’m amazing - even if I am (Ha ha just kidding). And I recognize that being the biological parent does not automatically grant access rights to adult children, or their children. The most loving thing we can do for her, and for ourselves, is stay away – far away. Needless to say, the last 12 years have been stress free in terms of monster-in-law issues. I kinda like that.
Leopards usually don’t change their spots, and the art of apology is almost non-existent these days. There’s usually a “but” tagged on right after the “I’m sorry” which negates the apology completely in my opinion. But regardless, forgiving is the right thing to do. As I said in my response to the Facebook post, it frees you. I don’t have to worry about what my mother in law is doing or where she is. Its immaterial. I hope she’s happy. I just don’t want her near me or my family. I can rest easy in the assurance that I am not contributing to negativity, entropy, or bad karma.
If I stress about this and other issues like it, I lose sleep, I get cranky, and needlessly anxious. Which is of course, not a good thing. So it is about forgiveness. Forgetfulness, no. I need to make sure that my family and I are in the best mental place possible. I love my monster in law in the sense that I wish no ill to befall her and that she have a happy, productive life. I/we just want no part of it. Being loving, as I said before, sometimes means that the toxic people in your life have to get out of your life. Being part Irish, I’m also superstitious. I truly think that if you wish someone ill, it comes back on you. I make sure not to rock any empty rocking chairs with my foot and if my front or back door blows open – I don’t ever say “Come in.”
In this season of reflection and reaffirmation, I think it important to acknowledge that sometimes things are broken beyond repair. And that in order to move on in a healthy manner, one needs to be forgiving, but not forgetful. Thats all I got for now, friends. Enjoy your evening!