On Forgiveness – Or, I’m Going to Graceland

And she said losing love 

Is like a window in your heart 

Everybody sees you’re blown apart

Everybody sees the wind blow

Generally speaking, I find that when people begin any sort of written discourse with a quote, they are about to say something pious or obnoxious or preachy and I think – “I am not going to read this because clearly you are not intelligent enough to use your own independent thoughts and obviously I am smarter than you so I will just go watch TV instead”. But here’s the thing – I am no Paul Simon. If anything, I am Art Garfunkel. Shitty hair, a last name no one can spell or pronounce, and always disgruntled and whiny and breaking up legendary folk bands with my bad attitude.

It’s inevitable as we move through life – something happens that alters you, and you try to move on, and you struggle and resurface and maintain and plateau and fall down over and over again, and you defend yourself to anyone and everyone who will listen and make so many excuses for everything that has happened and then suddenly (with what seems like no foreshadowing because foreshadowing only really happens in crappy movies and Young Adult novels) you have a new life. It is a shaky life, and it exists in a weird space that is still tethered to your old one. It has new faces that seem to blend together with old ones, and you are confused a lot of the time, consumed with regret and remorse but that regret and remorse mingle with excitement that you are moving on but then you feel guilty because moving on means you don’t care and you’re cold and mean, right? RIGHT? No one answers this question for you, and so instead of accepting that you deserve to be happy and that moving on is a journey with all kinds of rough paths and annoying roadblocks, you start to get angry and irrational. You play the blame game with yourself now instead of with other people, and you play it so well that you are basically the Lebron James of your own NBA, except less good-looking, wealthy, and with 100% fewer fans. And now, instead of  learning to love your new existence with these new people and new places and new experiences just waiting to be had, you stare at your mistakes down the road behind you and start chasing them down again.

Moving On has become Moving Nowhere. And now you need to figure out the way to redemption. With no map. Or Siri.

Here’s the thing with personal redemption – it’s basically impossible to attain unless you are a) Buddha b) Paul Simon or c) able to forgive yourself. I am none of these things. In fact, I cannot think of anyone other than maybe Beyoncé who I am less like than Buddha. The act of forgiveness requires some intensely commendable character traits, no matter who it is that you’re looking to forgive. Maturity, for one. And willfulness and patience and faith in something, whether it’s in a god or many gods or no gods or just in humanity in general. When it’s yourself that you need to redeem you have to somehow learn to look at yourself and say – ok, we’re good now, I forgive you for your mistakes, and I still like you and maybe one day I’ll really love you again, and let’s stay friends because really, we are all we’ve got in this fuckery that we call life. You have to find a way to go to Graceland.

Maybe it’s not the literal Graceland where Elvis lived and died and made music that continues to irritate people of my age because their mothers insisted on listening to it so loudly in the car that the other kids at school made fun of you for an entire year. Maybe it’s more of a metaphorical place, where we can finally say those words to ourselves without feeling like they’re lies. And where we can be ok with being blown apart, and knowing that everyone does see your wounds and your scars and that they are judging you a little but also acknowledging that they have their own scars and wounds. They have been blown apart, too. This is where you can hold your head up and learn how to be strong and forgiving, no matter how hard those things seem to be to actually hold onto. In this place, where it’s calm and where your head isn’t so noisy and full of disappointed voices, you can start to heal. And start to find some forgiveness from that person you need it from most, who, like it or not, you are going to be stuck with every day for the rest of your life. Scars and all.

It’s tough enough to be a grown-up. I don’t care what anyone says, I would happily go back to being a pre-adult, when my laundry was done and the dog that lived in my house was walked for me, and every penny I made was spent on terrible 90’s clothing and Mikes Hard Lemonade and crappy weed that was definitely not weed it was mostly oregano which is why now as an adult I always feel a little risqué when I cook with it like I’m about to get moderately stoned on my spaghetti sauce.

We make our lives even tougher by the impossible standards that we insist on holding ourselves to. Don’t make mistakes, and if you do, fix them. Don’t hurt other people, and if you do, punish yourself for it endlessly and feel bad forever or at least until you hurt someone else. Then feel bad about that but DON’T FORGET ABOUT THAT TIME BEFORE THAT STILL MATTERS.

My Graceland? I don’t know if I’ve found it. There are a lot of things that I haven’t forgiven myself for. I still hear some voices in my head sometimes, reminding me that I’ve done wrong, and that I’m probably still doing wrong, and that I’m very very likely to do do wrong again. But I can silence them now. And I can see Graceland, hazy in the distance. It’s there, and it gets closer through the simplicity of my life. Most of the roadblocks have been taken down, and the path is smoother and I have Paul (we are on a first name basis in my head, Paul Simon and I) telling me – I’ve a reason to believe, we all will be received in Graceland. Finally, I am listening.

Simon, Paul. Graceland. Paul Simon. Warner Bros. Records, 1986.

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