Being the very bad horse that I am (see prior blogs), I am constantly relearning the same lessons over and over again. Luckily they seem to get gentler with time so it has become amusing more often than painful to feel familiar taps from the Universe.
Today's lesson was forgiveness—not so much about how to orchestrate being able to forgive someone (I still haven't got a clue about that), but about how much easier it is on me when I am handed the gift of forgiveness.
I was born on the cusp of Libra/Scorpio, but anyone that knows me will tell you I'm far more of a Scorpio. I will hold and nurse a grudge with gentle and loving hands as if it were a tiny child with pneumonia. When in the right (read: PMS) mood I can lay awake in bed and fester over some random and minor incident that happened 20 years ago. I live to be pissed off. And this lifetime around the powers that be have seen fit to hand me the "gift" of spectacular revenge (continuing on the astrology tip-- Mars in Leo). Not personally planned revenge--that always fails and ends up making one look like a bitter asshole. And I'm far too self-absorbed to have the concentration necessary for perfecting evil plots. But I have watched my enemies crash and burn in all sort of glorious manner: death by overdose, morbid obesity, random accidents, misery in the suburbs, etc. Maybe I'm being overly dramatic and it's just the way life goes if you wait long enough, but Drew has noticed it too and often when I'm ranting about my latest foe will tell me to "Turn off the death ray, Mary!" Heh, heh, heh...
Over the years I have managed to perform my own share of rotten and selfish acts and have been forgiven by people much more easily than I may have forgiven them had the circumstances been reversed. I have had a couple of opportunities to go back and make amends with people I once harmed, and am incredibly grateful at how graciously the apologies were received. So you'd think I'd be more humble about my own hurts, real and imaginary, but I still find myself needing to learn the lesson of forgiveness repeatedly.
The first time I really got it was after I split up with my ex-husband and moved directly downstairs from him. He was an incredibly good-looking guy and took advantage of it by parading every available stripper, groupie, and at least one doped up German heiress through our hallway and into the apartment above me while I chain-smoked and considered suicide below. I heard everything, and I do mean everything. Again—see prior blogs, this has all been well-documented and it bores me to write about it anymore.
During this time one of the women he hooked up with turned out to be a friend. Not a close friend but a good friend of one of my good friends, and someone I considered an equal and definitely a step above the bimbastic crowd that traipsed in and out. For me, at that time, you were either on one side or the other. If any one of my friends had even casual contact with the ex, I cut them off immediately and completely. Not the most mature way to handle it, but I was beyond heartbroken and enraged and it was the only way I could deal. So when he made sure I knew about this particular girl, I wanted her blood, and I made sure that everyone in our circle knew it.
He also made sure that I knew about the one time she spent the night in his apartment. It was a long night for me, and I cringed when I heard her heels on the floor/ceiling the next morning as I was getting ready to leave for work. I heard his door slam upstairs and knew she was leaving, and I ran out quickly afterwards, determined to catch up with her and tell her what a whore she was, what a pig, what an evil betrayer—all those things you say to a woman when it's really the man in the center that is the problem. But when I got downstairs I just felt too tired and broken-hearted to get into yet another squabble. I stopped on the sidewalk and watched her walk away until it was safe to start moving without being seen. I felt nothing but defeated rage and pain that morning. My ex tossed her aside fairly quickly and that was the last we saw of her around the building.
But I held tightly onto my hurt and every time I saw her out, which was regularly, I made sure she felt how much I hated her without ever once looking in her direction. I told our mutual friend that she had better steer clear of me or there would be problems. This went on for years until finally it changed, probably 7-8 years later, on New Year's Eve and when I was go-go dancing on a platform at Squeezebox. It happened to be one of those perfect go-go moments when the music is exactly right and you are completely connected to the crowd below and you can feel that you are almost conducting the dancers with your own energy. On occasion go-go dancing can be transcendent—and that's how it felt at that second right before I looked up and saw her walk through the door.
My heart stopped briefly and I steeled myself, but then a sort of miracle happened: I actually felt the anger drain out of me physically, starting at the top of my head and running down through my feet. It was one of the most vivid and spiritual moments of my life. And just like that I was free. I smiled at her sincerely and she smiled back at me, obviously surprised. I mouthed the words, "Happy New Year", and she responded in kind. And that was the end of it. I have never discussed it with her or felt anything but gratitude for the experience since.
So—fast forward to today (or not—sorry these blogs get so long!) and here we are again:
There is an older woman, maybe 70-80 years old, who lives in the East Village and has lived here as long as I can remember, who wears the most fabulous and severe outfits you can imagine. Every day there is a color theme, most often bright red, and there are generally matching side-tilted hats. She will wear red trousers, a chic red jacket, red stockings, red shoes, a kicky little red hat, and always, always a slash of bright red lipstick. She is not a soft or pretty woman and her hair is cut in a severe bob. She walks slowly and with determination without looking at anyone. She is always dressed to the hilt no matter what time of day it is, and I fell completely in love with her the first time I saw her.
That is, until one day when I was sitting on a subway platform waiting for a train. At the time she and I both took the same F train uptown to work every day. I always looked forward to seeing her there and wondered where she worked. I even considered following her a couple of times. But on this particular day I sat on a bench daydreaming, and as she walked past me she slammed the back of my head with her shopping bag. It wasn't on purpose, but it was done without taking any pains to move the bag away from the vulnerable head in its path, and it hurt and made a loud cracking sound that was impossible to miss. And to add insult to injury, she didn't turn around or say a word. She just kept walking!
So of course I was immediately enraged and shouted, "Hey! That hurt!" She turned around slowly, casually, and with a slight smirk on her face sang out sarcastically, "Have a nice daaaaaay." I cannot tell you how badly I wanted to get up and shove that ancient teal-covered ass onto the tracks. I was speechless with anger, just sputtering, until I got to work where I then ranted about her for hours.
And I festered—oh, how I festered—for years. With time this tiny injury took on the magnitude of a mortal wound. Every time I saw her on the street I sent her ill wishes and passed her with a haughty glare. I cut her off at subway turnstiles with glee. In one minute all my love for the woman had turned into a cold, abiding hatred.
Today on my way back from the gym I stopped into the corner deli to get paper towels, and there she was, my archenemy, the dreaded and most evil Dragon Lady (dressed completely in gray this time). I was already exhausted from getting up early to get my ass kicked by the usual heinous 110 lb and perky blonde Crunch class instructor (do they make these girls in a factory somewhere??), and just didn't have it in me at that moment to begin the usual inner dialogue in which I berate her about how horrible she is while she humbly begs for mercy. And then, as we stood next to each other in line, and in a raspy, cigarette-ravaged voice, the dragon spoke! She smiled into my face and complained about the humidity and complained about the line and discussed her purchases, and she talked and talked. I marveled at her audacity as I looked down at her (she's very short), responded politely and then when it was my turn paid the guy at the counter.
And then as I was leaving she called out sincerely, "Have a nice day!"
And just like that I loved her again, wholeheartedly and without restraint. And the obvious dawned on me: all this time that I have been glaring and hating and envisioning her tripping into traffic she has had absolutely no clue who I am or that we've had any contact before whatsoever. My feelings of being wounded haven't touched her in the least. She's a crazy old woman with a hat on the side of her head, fer Chrissakes! So again, to let the weight of such a silly grudge go and to let it be replaced with warmth felt really, really nice.
So that's my lesson for today--when I nurse this shit I hurt myself far more than anyone else. I'm not telling anyone to go out there and forgive anyone. That happens when it happens. I'm just saying that when it's possible and it does happen, it's pretty fucking amazing. And it frees us much more than it does them. And hopefully, the next time some old bat in a fabulous ensemble bangs me in the head with her Neiman Marcus bag it won't take me years to get over it.