I Haven’t Forgiven You, I’ve Just Moved On.

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Buddha said, “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

Anger only holds you captive when you stay in the story with it. Anger only has you by the throat for as long as you keep replaying the record of WHY! I call my recollections of all my past antipathies the memory loop. When I’m caught in the memory loop I am six years old again being told it’s safe to tell my dad what we got him for Christmas unaware that my mother is listening and I’m about to get one hell of a beating. The memory loop reminds me of how my father just sat there as my mother hauled me into the air by one arm and began her savagery. 

The memory loop creates hell on earth. It’s insane and it wants you for company. It will take you into every memory of your life where you are either victim or villain and it will make you relive each scene, moment by moment, until your body is tense, your stomach hurts, and you’ve stopped breathing comfortably because your chest is too tight. The memory loop is working overtime to remind you that life isn’t safe, that you can’t trust, that nothing is fare, and that you are always in danger. Stepping out of the memory loop is hard, it takes constant awareness and time.

I have written before about living in the traveling now. There’s a blog by that name on this site if you’re interested. What living in the now does is it takes you out of the memory loop and brings you into this moment and it’s only in this moment that you are alive and capable of really living. The past is dead, the future does not exist, but right now you are alive, passionate, grateful, breathing, feeling, and real.

There are a hundred people I have tried to forgive. I have sat through classes and seminars on the power of forgiveness and they all say that forgiveness isn’t for the person who hurt you it’s for you and you alone. I agree with that and I find that forgiveness comes and goes with mood, threat load, and exhaustion. I have also read Pete Walker’s book, CPTSD, From Surviving to Thriving, where he talks about crying it out of your body with the deep shaking sobs that release trapped emotion. This is also important. 

What I like best is just being present. When I can stay in the traveling now in love with my life and with myself then the cruelty of my past remains forgiven, healed and locked in the past while I remain where I am right now. I will not be defined by my trauma. I define my life, I live my life, my life does not live me. 

I have done the work. I have cried, prayed, forgiven, surrendered, and let go. I have walked a thousand meditative miles and sat in silence listening to myself breath while my mind healed and I became less attached to the constant screaming of the memory loop. I have freed myself and the last phase of remaining free is remaining present here and now. Give yourself the gift of the now. However healing comes to you, embrace it and enter the now. You can only forgive so many times before it’s time to move on and get down to the joyful business of living.

We were molded in fire but now it’s time to take form.

The Nazis Next Door: Part 13 of Rain on Cloudless Day

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Granma lives on 5th south in an old home that was once converted into a duplex. It has two kitchens and two living rooms, two bathrooms and two bedrooms. Daddy had to knock down a wall just so Granma didn’t have to go outside to enter the other half of her house. Granma’s house is magical. Like Alice’s Wonderland, it is all topsy-turvy and back to front. It has two different front doors with different shaped door knobs. All the sun floods into the south side of the house, the side with the yellow kitchen where we bake bread and make pudding.

From every window on the sunny side of the house I can watch the Nazis. From the living room I see the ancient grandmother push her push-mower in the front yard. Through their kitchen window I can see her daughter who is Granma’s age. In the backyard I hear the young daughter playing with her son, a boy my age.

Granma is in the garden pulling up weeds and gathering vegetables. When the basket is filled with food we walk over to the Nazi’s house. I feel a chill go up my spine every time the old grandmother looks at me. I’m so filled with the stories of war that I’m always a little afraid she might want to shove me in an oven. The click, click, click of her old black push-mower comes to a stop when she sees us. Her toothless smile and the black scarf she wears tied tightly under her chin, draw the wrinkles and folds of her face into a dried apple symmetry. She wears an old black dress that reaches to her ankles. On her feet she wears black leather boots. Her fingers grip the push-mower and are gnarled and twisted from almost a century of hard work.

She only speaks German. Granma says she’s too old to learn English and doesn’t need to. I hear the creak of the front door as the old grandmother’s daughter comes to greet us. She takes the basket from Granma and welcomes us into her garden. She picks apricots and peaches, apples and tomatoes, placing them into a second basket that she gives to us. Looking around, I see the boy wants to play. We think up a game while Granma and her friend talk. The click, click, click, of the old push mower picks up again and the hours slip by in the easy flow of a long hot summer day.
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When the sun casts long shadows I am thirsty with running and pretending. Going into the house I walk behind my friend who fills two glasses of water. We wander into the small front sitting room to rest. On a table beside the old Grandmother’s chair sit two pictures, one of a very young man in a World War I German uniform and the other of an equally young man in a Nazi uniform. Both pictures are black and white but as crisp as the day they were taken. These pictures remind me of the black and white picture we have of Granma. In it she is twenty-two and wearing her ATS military uniform.

“Who are they?”

“This is my grandfather,” he points to the Nazi’s picture, “and this is my great grandfather.” He gestures to the World War I soldier.

“Where are they now?” I look for other pictures of the two men but don’t find them.

“They were killed. Great Grandfather died when my grandmother was a baby and Grandfather died when my mother was a baby.”

I nod my head, thoughtful. Looking up at my friend I realize that he has his grandfather’s large dark eyes.
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It’s late when we walk home. I’m thinking of all the men my Granma nursed throughout the war, of all the suffering and death. Looking up I ask,

“How come our enemies are now our friends, Granma?”

“Those ladies were never our enemies. They were farmers like we were.”

“But their men fought in the wars. I saw the pictures.”

“Yes they fought.” She’s silent for a moment. “It was a terrible time but it’s in the past now. Let the past be the past, let the dead bury the dead.” Smiling she adds, “and let’s you and I make a pie.”

I smile, my thoughts turning from loss to the light crusty joy of hot peach pie. I realize in that second that Granma isn’t angry or sad anymore because Granma is too alive, too busy living, too alight with life to waste time being angry. Angry isn’t fun so it isn’t worth her time.

We make a pie and we talk about everything we loved about the day. My heart glows happy even as my eyes grow heavy because I see life, I see living, and I understand what it takes to truly thrive. When Granma tells us to have, “no regrets,” she is really telling us not to let our past ruin our present. Let the dead bury the dead, share food and friendship with old enemies, and turn all life’s peaches into magnificent pies.