I’m thinking about Anne Porter’s poem “A Short Testament.” And about what I’d call the old Emersonian nonsense (not being encumbered with my old nonsense).
I’m thinking about it because my whole life I’ve felt beleaguered by the things I said when I shouldn’t have and the things I should have said but didn’t. The things I did and did not do. My whole life I’ve wanted to be good (whatever that means) and do well (whatever that means). Along the way I’ve also noticed the things others have said and done (and not said and not done), but the mental tally I’ve kept is mine and mine alone.
My friend LuAnne writes, “Reflecting back on the year and acknowledging those we have harmed, wounded or wronged is commendable. Unfortunately, on our journey, no matter how much we try not to, we will end up hurting others, either through intention or not because of our imperfect humanness.”
She continues: “Alongside recognizing the harm we may have caused to others, in addition to making reparations, if possible, we need to seek to forgive ourselves, as well as others who may have wronged us. We could ask as the new year comes upon us to practice Alexander Pope’s ‘to err is human, to forgive is divine.’ If we could all just forgive each other, without hope or agenda, for our human transgressions, wouldn’t the world be a much better place?”
For me, the forgiving others part has gotten easier with age. Though I have my moments, for the most part I don’t bear too many grudges or feel too vengeful.
On the contrary, time and again I’ve invited people into my life who’ve sucked me dry and then time and again asked myself why I feel so exhausted. I have a tendency to misidentify (or rather self-identify) the source of the exhaustion. I assume I need to try harder, do better, be better. With improved trying, doing, and being, the exhaustion will wash away. I’m almost sure of it.
I hold high expectations of myself and of others. What I want is mutual respect and accountability. What I want is to see and be seen, to understand and be understood. As is often the case, though, wants and needs can conflict. What I need, I think, is to love myself well enough to forgive myself for things said and not said, things done and not done. What I need is to accept that I’m doing my best, though my best is flawed, just as all things human are flawed.
And the people who are also doing their best but are nonetheless sucking me dry? I forgive you. And I forgive myself for working so damn hard to enable your behavior. And all the times I sucked you dry? Well I forgive myself for those times too.
Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
Finish each day and be done with the old Emersonian nonsense. Now how lovely is that?