Mary LA wrote beautifully about forgiveness today. Well, she writes beautifully every day. I was going to write about healing relationships today, I always hesitate to call it forgiveness, but today I will.
Alanon literature so wonderfully says: "Unless we have first judged and condemned them for what they did, there would be no reason for us to forgive them. Rather we would have to forgive ourselves for judging." One Day at a Time in Al-Anon, p.120
However, sometimes it is just abundantly clear that we have been wronged. And then what are we going to do about it?
On June 7, 1981, I was raped. I was walking down a road at night and a stranger came by in a van and literally scooped me off the road and drove me away and raped me. There is a lot more to this story, obviously. But I wouldn't care to go into it on a Thursday morning just before I go to work. If you are dying of curiosity, I wrote about it here.
I was still drinking then. That incident left a lot of damage. Some of it I am still dealing with and have been in therapy in the last year to address. In the first year after the rape, I had to find a way to get over the rage I felt. I entered therapy and feel very fortunate that I had a very spiritual therapist. She and I were both convinced that I had to forgive the rapist. I read books about rapists to try to understand why they do what they do. It was very enlightening.
On Christmas Eve that year, I ran into him at the liquor store (where else?) and was able to wish him a "Merry Christmas." He just looked puzzled. I didn't care what he thought, I was quite pleased with myself and felt that that was the best Christmas present I got that year.
In 1987, I was sober 3 years, now living in Denver, and driving through this small town in New Mexico with my 3 children on my way to my niece's wedding. We stopped at a gas station. The kids were running around asking for soda and candy and gum, etc. I was a harried mom in the middle of an 8 hour trip with 3 kids, you get the picture. I was telling them they could have no "sugar pop, just juice" and I looked up, and into the face of the clerk behind the counter - it was the rapist! It took my breath away for a second, but I quickly got my wits back and just said "You're P-- V-----." Once again, he looked puzzled. He said, yes, that was his name, and wanted to know who I was. It was the most amazing thing to stand there and tell him my name because he never knew it. He said "I don't remember you." And I said, "That doesn't surprise me." And I paid for my kids' juice and candy and walked out the door.
A free woman.
In the past several years, I have had to write inventory about a former sponsor who had done some shady things with my ex-husband (before he was my ex-husband). It took years to realize that I resented her because I had so much going on at the time of the divorce I don't think I had time to resent her. But over the years, the resentment crept in. So, I wrote about it. I talked about it with my sponsor. I prayed a lot.
In August, I ran into her at the State Convention. It was just like running into the rapist. She looked right through me. It was clear to me that she didn't even remember me! Imagine that! But once again, I felt free. Because, if given the opportunity, I would have happily sat down and talked with her. Really.
So, in this month, I ran into a woman at the retreat that I didn't resent, but who used to be my friend. I made an intellectual decision to end the friendship 5 years ago. I felt that she had betrayed me in a terrible way and that I would never trust her again. But after much prayer, I have reached out to her and hope to reestablish our friendship. She has responded favorably and we have exchanged e-mails, with promises of coffee next week. I am sure it will never be what it once was. But I will be happy to have her as my friend. She was my friend for 20 years, since I got sober. I miss her terribly.
Life is too short to draw sharp lines. Maybe that is why they call them "lines in the sand," have you ever seen a line in the sand last for more than a few minutes? They change, they move, they are soft. Just like I need to be.
Thank you God, I get to be.