I haven’t reached a ripe age of maturity yet. My proof? I still have yet to master the art of forgiveness.
I meet people and I either love you or hate you completely, just like you would do to me. If I love you, I bring you into my life entirely. I surrender my inhibitions, lower my barriers, and invite you into my ‘modern family’ and am fast to tell you about my Soviet immigration, my coming of age at the Staten Island donut shop, my first failed marriage, and my second chance at life and love, 11 years and going strong. I’ll invite you over and cook you gourmet vegetarian dinners and serve you brownies for dessert. I will lend you movies, make you custom artwork, and be your personal cheerleader hovering over your shoulder like The Great Gazoo, the Alien conscious from the Flintstones. (Only after I Googled it, I realized my reference was not only dated, it was wrong. Gazoo had nothing to do with conscious; he was a little provocateur, causing trouble for Fred and Barney.)
I will be a better companion than the Great Gazoo; I will be the Gargantuan Galina you want on your side! I will rally on your behalf, be there when you give birth or when you’re sick. I’ll hold your kids and love them like family. Once you’re in my heart, you’re SERIOUSLY IN THERE, folks. Like it or not. I remember everything anyone has ever given me and most things people have said to me and I treasure them as the golden nuggets that fill my life with joy.
If you take advantage of me or underestimate my Leo prowess, (you may not realize I need some applause, appreciation, or attention) or if I feel taken for granted or if you consistently put yourself in the taker role, in direct reciprocation to my giver role, I will slowly get frustrated, resentful, and one day, I’ll be done. When I decide I’m finished, I have a hard time with forgiveness. I usually give someone the benefit of the doubt once, but shit on me twice, buster and you’re dead to me. I can only arm myself with so many safety pins.
If someone breaks my heart once, I try to forgive. My maturity has taken me only as far as looking at the intention behind the action. Before getting incensed, I have learned to take a step back and try to understand the deliberateness behind a conflict. My husband is notorious for his tardiness. I have battled with this habit for 11 years, the first decade of which I would get furious when he disregarded time. Finally, I understood his goal was not to disrespect me or my time, which was the ultimate outcome, instead, I realized he is just time management challenged. It’s not always about us. In this case, forgiveness comes easier. He didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but it also doesn’t mean I can turn my responses off.
I have read the preaching of how forgiveness should be a gift I give myself. As a predecessor to anxiety, I know holding in anger and resentment will give me an ulcer; it will turn my inside into corroded rusty pipes. Ultimate forgiveness comes from actually forgiving someone and starting over without holding a grudge. I have faked forgiveness; my heart never let it truly go and it’s still there, a rock I carry.
Forgiveness is not my default and psychologically if I seek a scapegoat or explanation, I would point fingers at my strong-willed parents. Although now divorced, my parents demonstrated behaviors, which I’ve gone through my life, inadvertently, imitating.
Kind, generous and caring, both my parents loved hard. They opened their hearts and homes to people, but if someone took advantage of them, or even behaved in a way which warranted an apology both my parents agreed to not forgive.
My mother’s heart pulls her to help people and she is more willing to forgive you, but as she’ll often remind you, “I do not forget.” Over the years, I’ve come to interpret this as not truly forgiveness. When my father cheated on my mother right before their 15-year anniversary, she allowed him stay and promised forgiveness. But she never really forgave him. True forgiveness would have liberated her from the prison in her mind, which was stuck in a loop, repeating an awful memory over and over again. She needed to change the channel but the weight of a destroyed marriage and broken dreams was too heavy for her to carry.
My father is different. He doesn’t forgive or forget. He disowned his best friend of 45 years for something I was not privy to nor would I understand. His nostalgia or guilt is silent and he has lived a life where secrets intertwine with reality so his forgiveness has to happen internally first. Until then, he has nightmares he cannot disconnect which keep him up at night.
I’m not usually one to be the first to apologize nor will I be the one to call after a fight, but with every day, I’m softening, like they’ve promised age can do.