What is forgiveness? It is a question I ask my tenth graders as we read through our most recent novels. In its most simplistic form it is an act of bestowing a pardon upon another for a wrong doing. Something that sounds so easy translates into an action that feels neither natural nor inclined. This brings me to today.
My sons and I are finally moving out of the house. My ex-husband is staying. We are going. I watch as my son’s eyes fill with tears as I once again explain that we are leaving but Daddy is staying here. He knows the word divorce; he understands the concept, but now he has to live it. My heart breaks for him. My mind begins to spin and wonder. Can I undo all of this? Can I forgive and go back and stay? My gut cries out and begs me to understand that I had to divorce him. To live, it seems to say. You needed to divorce him so you could live. I hope that someday my sons are able to see it that way.
As I push the dirty clothes into the washing machine, an action I have done over and over again, I wonder why I can’t forgive him. His past actions were deceitful, careless, thoughtless, and wrong. He never beat me or said a cruel word just to hurt me. He did not cheat on me or stay out all night and make me wonder if he were still alive. He did not steal away and spend all of our money on drugs or gambling. If these are not the transgression, are they terrible enough for there to be a divorce? For better or for worse, I think. I couldn’t do it. I said those words in the presence of a pastor, of our families. I clutched my hands in his and smiled into his eyes and said those words, believing at the time that they were true. Now I find that I can’t forgive. Two years of marriage counseling, countless begging for him to change and grow up, losing my hair from the stress of supporting our family in every way, and I cannot forgive him. I search my insides for where a feeling of forgiveness could hide. Which chakra contains the spider-web thin strand that will allow me to ravel back my life that I have tossed aside? I come up empty handed. If forgiveness is a choice, I cannot step on that path. I can continue to try and perhaps one day I will be ready.
As an empathy can I feel his pain. I understand why he did what he did, and I know that he can only be what is in his sphere to be. I can sit next to him on our couch, soon to be only his couch, and know that his need for me is almost palpable, but I cannot forgive, not yet, maybe never. Forgiveness in this case is even too much for me. It seems to me that it will erase I board that I find all to comforting to read. This are the reasons I had to do this. I peruse the list over and over again to remind myself of why I needed to leave. This is the only thing that eases the guilt. It is the only thing that allows me to brush away my son’s tears and promise him that it will be ok and that we will get through this together. He smiles and hugs his small stuffed puppy close to his body. I silently pray that the older man he becomes will forgive me for my choices.