Saturday, January 24, 2009

Yesterday was C’s birthday so we had a leisurely romantic wallow: bagels, lox, good lapsang suchong tea; flowers, a nap, the movie Milk, and a good dinner at a pub nearby with a tall glass of Guiness that was so thick you could stand a fork in it. Best was the talking—why are some restaurants and some dinners such perfect occasions for connecting, and others aren’t?

I remember an expensive dinner at a nice French restaurant after I’d won a poetry prize and gotten the MORE check, and the whole thing was marred for me by a large loud drunk woman at a nearby table who kept up a constant monologue to her poor companion.

I remember a wonderful meal with my mother—a date with just the two of us. I think I was eleven—I think we had just seen Hair. I had Creole shrimp over rice and we talked—that’s what I remember; we talked and didn’t fight. No other kids around interrupting, arguing, crying, asking for more, or spilling their water. I felt like a grown-up and ate slowly. My mother was very beautiful that day. She must have been all of thirty-five.

So many meals go unnoticed—most of them—but last night we were both conscious of how lucky we are, how precious this time is. Walking off the meal afterwards by strolling around the neighborhood smelling flowers and box hedges, in the very light drizzle. Listening to Eva Cassidy in the car on the way home, singing “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?”

For the past couple of weeks I have been working on this little book project. It’s half poems, half prose, and when I started it I thought of it as a poetic essay but now I’m thinking a whole book. I worked on it all day Thursday, from 7:00 in the morning until my friend Amy called me to go on a walk. Thank goodness she called because I wanted to go on working—my brain was still making words and lines—but my eyes were blurred from staring at the screen too long and my body was screaming to move.

I went to the gym, swam like a possessed woman, and then showed up, still spacey at Amy’s new digs and we walked by Alameda Beach just as the sun was setting. She took me on a less-traveled path and showed me how one could bicycle around there, although my brain was whirring so hard I couldn’t even process her simple directions. Really, when you go deep into the writing it’s like a drug, it’s like taking a mega-dose of caffeine mingled with hallucinogens and maybe a touch of Ecstasy. Kind of rough on a lightweight like me who can barely finish a glass of wine under normal circumstances.

I have been thinking more about this forgiveness thing: why do I find it so hard to forgive some people and so easy to forgive others? I do have an unfortunate tendency to hold grudges. Yet while I was very sad about my marriage ending I could never work up much anger at Alan—it just wasn’t there. There was some anger, but not the gnawing bitter kind that stays with you for years. I always knew he was doing the best he could, he had loved me as best he could.

On the other hand I’ve wrestled with anger and resentment towards my mother for years—all my life it seems—even though I also know that she did the best she could.

I’ve forgiven the criminals who have injured me and my property over the years—the guys sexually assaulted or molested me when I was young, the muggers who snatched my purse(s), the guy who masturbated outside my window in Miami, whomever stole my car(s) in Boston and in Oakland, whoever broke into my house two years ago and a few years before that. I never think of them, but if I did, the thought would probably be “Poor bastard.”

But I hold onto resentment about old lovers and a few former friends who did me wrong. I tighten up inside whenever I think of them. Their trespasses were so much lighter, but the proximity and the trust I had in them made them so much more painful.

It’s helpful for me to remember that it’s not that I can’t forgive, but that I forgive easily in some areas, and with great difficulty in others. And to try and tease apart—what part of my not-forgiveness is anger, and what part of it is the fear that still wants to make a boundary between me and that other person: I will not get close enough to you even to forgive you. I am so scared of being hurt like that again. (Even though my rational mind knows that it would be impossible for them to hurt me like that again, because circumstances have changed and I’ve changed—and they’ve probably changed as well.)

All this rumination is taking place against the reality of a March 1 deadline for getting the book of essays together, and also wanting to revise Shame Circus and get on with finishing the new play. I wonder: why the hell did I create this new project in the midst of trying to finish so many old and ongoing ones? I wanted to; I have so much to say about love and getting married—even though these subjects embarrass me a little with their overt heterosexuality—and it was the most actively bubbling pot on my crowded stove.

I still want (and economically need) to get a job, preferably some sort of counseling work, something in a non-profit. I’m doing some teaching through Poetry Out Loud, which is great fun—helping students who have memorized poems perform them for a national competition—and my essay class with Writing Salon has enough students in it, so that will be good. I’m just not sure it will be enough. We’re also still laboring on the in-law—sanding and washing walls today (me) and replacing flooring in the closet (C). And the wedding is six months away and we’ve got to, you know, plan it.


Anonymous said...

happy birthday, C.

David Shearer said...

Just a thought on forgiveness. I propose that the closer a person is to us, and the more we trust them, the harder it is to forgive them for hurting us.
The random thief who exploits an opportunity to steal does not violate a personal trust between himself and his victim. He simply seizes a chance for personal gain. I think that on some level we understand this and accept it as some kind of karmic "road tax" that we all pay in our travels through life.
It's the person who we have trusted and allowed into our inner self that we struggle to forgive. The deliberate violation of that trust may in fact be unforgivable to us. And, we struggle to resolve the burden of a lifetime of accumulated offenses.
I suppose some of it is balanced by the knowledge that we too have inflicted such a burden on others who have trusted us. And some of it simply fades from memory with time. But the worst offenses of all stay with us forever. And they take up their task too, molding, forging, and polishing the very aether that comprises our being.

Alison said...

Thanks, David, that's a very thoughtful and thought-provoking reply. I can understand the tendency in myself to be more wounded by personal betrayals than impersonal ones. I am dismayed that, even though I know better, I often feel "betrayed" when people close to me don't share my opinions and ideals, when they differ from me radically. I like to think of myself as open-minded, but there are places in my mind where I have very little space for others' ideologies. I marvel at the marriage between James Carville and Mary Matelin (I think that's her name,) the Republican. I think, No way could I be married to a Republican! I couldn't even be close friends with one! I'm not proud of this aspect of myself, I just notice. And of course I do know some really nice Republican people. I also feel clse-minded, even hostile about Christianity--which is a distressing thing to note, since a) many many people in the world are believing Christians and many of them are good people, and b) any kind of wholesale prejudice like that is wrong. But there you have it. I have no problem with Buddhism, Buddhists, Hinduism or Hindus or Muslims or Islam. It's just the Christian thing that bugs me, especially evangelicals. I really want to dissolve this prejudice because it hurts me.

Anonymous said...

Studying, or simply reading, Lincoln's proclamations will show you a country that makes the argument for the evangelicals that we lost something here in America and must get it back.

His Thanksgiving proclamation, for example. Or his Day of Fast, which is what Tday was to be. The prejudice will dissolve with study, really.

Thoughtfulness will replace it, which is what you are. And I appreciate your honesty.