January 16, 2014

(Letting Go Can Bite Me.) This is How We Forgive.

Warning: naughty language ahead.

This is part three in a new elephant journal series about love.

I’m sitting here realizing something: that I will never, ever be able to let go.


Letting go can bite me.

For real.

But I need to forgive.

I just sat down to talk with my best friend (my husband) and this is what I told him I thought forgiveness is.

It’s not letting go (because letting go can bite me), but it is this:

Forgiveness is never forgetting.

I cannot help that I remember more than I want to sometimes.

Forgiveness is acceptance.

It’s not saying that anything is okay, or not okay, for that matter—it’s not passing a judgment. Instead, forgiveness is admitting that it happened, that it occurred and that this might not be okay because…

Forgiveness isn’t denial.

It’s not pretending that “you’re a better person” for it or that “it was meant to be,” because that’s bullshit.

Still, forgiveness is moving forward.

That was the crux of what I said to him (my glorious husband-best-friend): it’s moving on, with what happened as a reality of our past.

And then, he said this: “But it keeps coming back to me.”

Ugh. So true.

It haunts me.

It visits me in my sleep.

My mistakes—the things that, really, have made me who I am and who I’m happy to be.

All those years spent hating my body, and starving myself because I thought in some odd way that it could starve my emotional self too; and that my old wounds would somehow wither and die along with my shrinking skin.

The sharp, dagger-words that I wish I could take back, but that I can’t.

The harsh withdrawal from someone I love, in order to first save myself.

All of that and more—all of the ghosts.

Because the past might be accepted or, further, even moved on from, but what about when it revisits, like a ghost—like a phantom of Christmas past?

I saw a ghost in my house last night. Twice.

I do not believe in ghosts. Rather, I’m not sure what the hell I believe in, but I’ve seen them more than once—so there’s that. And I saw a ghost in my house last night on my child’s video monitor while she slept. Twice.

I’ve seen ghosts before—although I don’t believe in them.

(It’s funny what happens to you, when you don’t believe.)

Once, in a farther corner of the world from where I currently sit typing, I saw a dog reclining in the sunny spot on the carpet in front of a bay window—right where a dog would actually lie. I was cradling my hot mug of tea in my bare hands and walking myself into the other room, to also sit.

I saw that dog like it was right there—a spaniel with spots just so, and of just this color. I had already seen this vision before, too. The dog had run into our parlor room (it was an old-fashioned brick house in the middle-of-nowhere New Mexico—which we adored, by the way).

I recall standing agape and holding the hinged screen door ajar—a dog just ran into my house! And then I turned, and it was gone.

And let me, equally, tell this: we received a gift from our New Mexican home’s former tenant.

It was a beautifully framed, old photograph of the house after it was first built—and there, in the foreground, was a woman holding a dog’s paw as it stood on its hind legs, shaking its hand. The dog was identical to the one I’d seen and felt in that house on more than one occasion.

(For those of you who have ever loved a dog, it will come as no surprise that if a ghost could exist, a dog deserves to be one too.)

I didn’t want to re-hash my spectral tale, but I must. Because the past is not irrelevant—or even invisible—and this is how we forgive:

We remember.

We never let go.

But we live on—we hold our former experiences and our former selves in the palms of our hands like apparitions that we can’t abandon—and we walk on.

We get out of our own minds, and our own prior experiences, and we live the fuck on.


And I’d love to insert an inspiring forgiveness quote here, but they all suck.

However, I’ll offer this up:

Letting go can bite me—it’s not going to happen—but my present will not now, nor will it ever, be determined by my past.

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Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Author’s own.

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Suzanne Feb 10, 2014 8:39am

This was perfectly said, exactly how I feel. To those people who callously think 'just get over it', I am…but I don't want the people who caused it in my life anymore. That's not being unforgiving, it's learning from the experience. Wasn't it Einstein who said, 'The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over & over & expecting different results?' Well, I'm not doing that. If the people who think I am being unforgiving for removing people from life who took delight in making my life hell while I was undergoing cancer treatment want to make them their best buds, go right ahead! I have better things to do, like live in peace…

akrose Jan 16, 2014 4:57pm

Just what I needed today, EXACTLY what I needed today. Thank you for speaking my (and so many other's) truths.

laurakutney Jan 16, 2014 2:15am

Jennifer, I love this and love your writing. I felt I could have written some of this. So many will relate to your beautifully true words. This is a gift you have given to others.

One thing on forgiveness–They say that not forgiving is like pouring a cup of poison and drinking it ourselves. We will become ill—not the person who wronged us. I'm sure you have heard this, and fuck forgiving anyhow some days.

I have a couple situations/[people who I just have to re-forgive over and over like a skipping record, but a lot uglier than that. (Think murderous/torturous thoughts and then multiply by 1000 or more, depending on the day).

And yes, I believe that if there are ghosts, dogs should be able to come visit as they wish. Cats and trees too.

Love, Laura xo

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Jennifer S. White

Jennifer S. White is a voracious reader, obsessive writer, passionate yoga instructor and drinker of hoppy ales. She’s also a devoted mama and wife (a stay-at-home yogi). She considers herself to be one of the funniest people who ever lived and she’s also an identical twin. In addition to her work on elephant journal, Jennifer has over 40 articles published on the wellness website MindBodyGreen and her yoga-themed column Your Personal Yogi ran in the newspaper Toledo Free Press. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in geology, absolutely no degrees in anything related to literature, and she currently owns a wheel of cheese. If you want to learn more about Jennifer, make sure to check out her writing, as she’s finally put her tendencies to over-think and over-share to good use. Jennifer is the author of The Best Day of Your Life, available on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She’s also as excited as a five year old to announce the release of her second book, The Art of Parenting: Love Letters from a Mother, available on Amazon.