Without throwing him too far under the bus or betraying marital privacy, I will tell you that I found out recently that my husband did something quite stupid. Not on purpose of course — no one sets out to be a moron. He just made an unfortunate decision which ended up hurting me. My response? Quiet rage. Well, not so quiet at first, actually. Initially I hurled some biting words and angry questions his way. Then, wounded, I retreated to silently seethe. I was really stinking mad for most of the morning. He handled it in stride, promptly confessing to being an ass, asking what he could do to fix things. It was all very adult. I spent a few hours stewing, distantly and soundlessly chewing on my anger, processing what happened, assessing the damage, wondering about my next move. Occasionally I would say something or ask a question. He would calmly answer. He demonstrated appropriate remorse. I vacillated wildly. The voice on one shoulder told me I was absolutely right to be utterly and supremely pissed. The other voice told me I was being dramatic and to get over it.
I asked him if he wanted to join me on my morning run. It may have been an olive branch of sorts. Even when I’m mad at him I still want his company. Or, perhaps more likely, I just didn’t want to run alone and I knew he wouldn’t say no, especially given his current station in some moderately deep shit. We headed out into the frigid winter morning and hit the icy trails. He stayed quiet, maintaining a safe distance behind me. I spent a lot of energy working out my emotions and being mad. For me it was a productive and healthy way to deal, but it definitely sucked the fun out of the run. What a lot of effort I was expending being pissed off and not noticing the light in the sky and the clouds and trees and animal tracks. About 50 minutes in, a thought occurred to me: what if I decide to just not be mad anymore? How about if I decide it’s not a big deal. What if I decide not to be wounded by his idiocy and that no real harm was done and instead to notice the sky and the air and the bark on the trees.
I think this is what forgiveness looks like. It doesn’t happen all at once. It happens bit by bit. You don’t just decide to forgive someone and then it’s done. You exhale the tiniest bit. You ever so slightly relax the stubborn grip of anger. And then something happens: an impossibly small space opens up through which the tiniest particle of absolution can pass. Bit by bit, grain by grain. This is how we forgive. It reminded me of something: yes, there are a great many things in life that happen and that impact us over which we have no control. But, we do get to decide how we answer. What’s that saying about life? It’s 10% what happens to us and 90% how we respond.
Later, back at the house and warming up in front of the wood stove I turned to him and told him that I wasn’t sure how it would go, but I wanted to try an experiment. He raised his eyebrows and braced for what might come next. I said I want to try just being done with it and deciding not to care about the stupid thing. I don’t want to expend any more energy being angry. It’s over. Let’s just get on with things. His expression showed mild surprise but he didn’t utter a word. I reserve the right to revisit this if the experiment fails, but for now, I think we are both more than a little relieved.