I have begun to imagine these stories about everyone I meet and it has changed my view of the world.
They don’t tell you this in Disney movies. They don’t show the Prince navigating his midlife crisis with a sports car and a sudden affinity for the gym. They don’t show the Princess crying herself to sleep wondering if she’s lost the best years of her life to someone who barely seems to acknowledge her.
We don’t discuss the in between from lust and butterflies to real love. That sticky, awful mess of a place where you genuinely wonder if you were high when you picked your partner. It’s almost like you have to be picked apart, stripped right down before you can start to really love someone. It’s where you stare it right in the eyes, the idea that you can hate someone as much as you love them. And when you get there… right there, that’s when it’s real. You embrace the ridiculous vulnerability and recklessness of navigating the human inclination to be selfish and fickle. We’re such assholes to each other. The longest relationships I have witnessed will tell you that first and then admit their deep and abiding love.
I can only tell you, that I’ve never loved anyone who didn’t make me feel like I was losing my mind.
Maybe no one has ever said it to me the right way.
I always thought it was the kind of thing that philosophers and people who committed their lives to God really understood.
I thought it was really just a question in one of those games that asks mind bending questions – you know, could you ever forgive someone who murdered someone you love? And we wrestle with it back and forth while we drink shots and say things like, “it depends who they killed”.
So trite. So silly.
I watched a video today of a man named Robert Rule who read his victim impact statement in court to the man who had pleaded guilty to murdering his daughter, Linda Rule. A man who in fact, had pleaded guilty to murdering 48 women. He was widely known as the Green River Killer. This may sound familiar to you since he was considered to be the biggest serial killer in US history, even though the court date took place back in 2003. Maybe I am just that behind the times that I am just seeing it now or that all these years later, it has found its way to me, but there it was just innocently asking to be watched. I clicked on it out of the strange curiosity that serial killers elicit. I had no idea what the link would leave me with. I expected to feel unsettled but I did not expect to be completely undone.
Robert Rule read his victim impact statement after a steady stream of angry and often violently spitting family members wished him a painful death and place in hell. It was short. His voice was steady if not a little hesitant, but there was no doubt he knew what he was going to say and he knew perhaps, it would change everything. He said:
“Mr. Ridgeway, there are people in this room who hate you. I’m not one of them. You have made if difficult to live up to what I believe and that is what God says to do and that’s to forgive. You are forgiven Sir,”
Read that again. You are forgiven Sir. The simplest words. The most incredible possibility realized. It made everything in my life seem so small. So petty. I have written about forgiveness before. My “demi-forgiveness” as I call it. The half ass way to say that I’m probably capable of being a decent person but it’s not my fault if I don’t succeed because somebody hurt me. The realization that someone could forgive the person who murdered his daughter and I was still holding a grudge against my ex husband whose sins were negligible…seemed unbelievable. I say it all the time – perspective is everything but I had never, ever, ever considered this perspective. I have never had to, save for a wayward game of “Would you Rather?”. I am struck by how difficult it is for me to watch that video without feeling overwhelmed by the act of his forgiveness – knowing nothing of him or his daughter or their lives. I felt relief too. I felt the weight slide off even my shoulders, the weight of the anger and pain and regret that he would carry otherwise. I felt an undefinable sense of grace unfolding, that thing that we all wish for and leave to beauty contestants to speak out loud – peace. Real, actual, unfettered peace. How do you, without years of practice and chanting and hiding far, far away from the world – how do offer forgiveness without retribution? Because we do that all the time, hold forgiveness at a cost, reap rewards for our platitudes. It is very rare to see forgiveness in its stripped down, bare existence where is does nothing for you but actually free you. But there it is…in a YouTube video from a court date in 2003. Just staring me in the face asking me who the hell did I think I was, losing sleep over the most benign of offences.
I want to tell you that I had an instant chain reaction of forgiveness. A stirring akin to Scrooge’s unlikely outpouring of Christmas spirit. But I didn’t. What I felt was shame. And Compunction. Possibly the exact opposite of forgiveness. What I felt was an instant replay of all the thing that I needed forgiveness for. The stupid and reactionary and selfish things I had done over the years. I started to second guess what and who I was forgiving. How do you compare your silly trifles with that? Who among us can offer such a gift so as to absolve even our own selves? I count my tributes to the Mother Teresa and Nelson Mandelas of the world. And yet, there is no monument, no following of Robert Rule. How troubling where we set our attentions to, that we have no mass affinity for a man that did what most of us will probably never have to do and could likely never abide by.
I’m humble as hell today. So much so that I decided to dedicate this year to forgiveness. Forgiveness to those who have wronged me. Forgiveness to myself. Forgiveness for all the times I will forget about this video and how it makes me feel right now. I’m leaving it here for all of us to come back to.
As you get older you start to become familiar with, even content with the idea of attrition. The thinning of the herd. The falling away of what doesn’t feed your soul anymore. You no longer feel the need to be liked by everybody. And people you thought would be in your life forever become strangers to you. You start to have more vacancies than applications for the lead roles in your life. You’ve been burned, you’re less apt to trust or frankly just give up some up your precious energy for people you don’t even know. You don’t expect to meet people later in your life that will become such a big part of your life. It’s just not common. And I suppose it would take an uncommon person to be that rare bird. Just over one year ago I met Kim and we’ve been tried and true homies ever since. I admire the way she can organize me and redirect me without making me feel disorganized (but we all know I am). I envy how she can swing a hammer and slip into heels all in the same day. She’s sweet but she’ll tell you like it is, then tell you a dirty joke right after. She makes me feel so worthwhile, as if she has known me her whole life, as if her life depends on our combined sanity – indeed it’s sometimes the only sanity we can count on. She’s had a tough year culminating only in her getting tougher. I’m grateful to the powers that be for sending her my way so late in the game. It has really made the game worth playing. And she’s got a great ass ; )
It’s her birthday today and sometimes the best gift is to tell someone how much they mean to you. Happy Birthday Kim. ♥
This little guy just got out of the hospital. The first thing his weak little body did is pull his favorite toy close and pass out by the fireplace. His certainty for what is important and cherished is the reason I feared his absence on this planet. It’s so easy to love that little being. It’s so easy to accept his unfailing love for me every single time I walk through the door (even if his bark could make your ears bleed). It’s the opposite of complicated. I feed him, I walk him, I scratch behind his ears once in awhile and he adores me. We have a practiced routine every morning where I do yoga and he crawls into every space he can – usually licking my face until I fall out of pose. He sleeps in my room every night (yep, on my bed…I’m that guy). He crawls onto my lap when I’m sad and catches every tear that rolls down my face like some weird game of Plinko. (If you aren’t old enough to recognize that…Google the old Price is Right) He just generally gets me. I understand this is no small feat for someone who is synonymous with complicated and yet yearns for his exact ability to make me feel anything but. Isn’t that what we all want? The opposite of complicated? How ironic that we need to learn the value of that from animals – who we consider less sophisticated than ourselves, who we would class as inferior. I know that I can’t keep this little furball of wisdom and compassion forever, but I am grateful to the powers that be that let me keep him for a little longer, while I learn the value of simplicity and loyalty. Just don’t get me started on the vet bill…though it made me unendingly grateful for universal health care in Canada. Excuse me while I go coddle the hell out of my dog – they made me go to work today without him. : )