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*Editor’s note: well-deserved salty language ahead!
A dear friend told me last week that I looked good.
I was taken aback. I mean, a quick look at the Zoom camera on my laptop showed me just how awful I looked. I hadn’t bothered dressing up and came to my online chat session wearing my beat-up, tired old pajamas. I didn’t bother combing my hair. My eyes had bags the size of a mini powder puff. I hadn’t bathed for two days at that point and, luckily, my friend couldn’t smell my stink since we were doing the modern-day version of “catching up” online.
So, WTF was my friend going on about? I asked if she felt alright. I did the whole, “Hey, you feeling okay, dude? Maybe you caught Covid and are hallucinating or something?” And I mimed touching her forehead to see if she was running a fever.
It was all fun and games for a bit before she turned serious and said, “Roop. You look dirty AF. Thanks for not dressing up to talk to me, you cow. But dude…you look good.”
It hit me then. After the grief fog that’s been all of 2021 for me, my friend said that I looked…happy-ish. My shoulders weren’t drooping. During the course of our conversation, I’d smiled a few times. I even laughed once. And given how I’d been at the beginning of the year, this was a big deal.
And then she said, “Roopa, I’m so glad that you’ve chosen to forgive and forget. What happened, happened. I’m glad you’ve let it go. I see clarity in your very being now. I’m so happy you’ve let bygones be bygones and that you’ve moved on.”
I nodded. I had an idea of what she meant. While the majority of my being was recovering from the monumental loss I’d experienced in December 2020, a significant part of me was also trying to recover from the harrowing experiences that I’d had with people during this recovery process. These were people I’d counted on, people who I thought were my support system, people who were family—who not just let me down, but actively went out of their way to be cruel during the most calamitous experience I’d ever been through in my life.
And during this time, while folks understood the grieving process, they also actively advocated that I quit being upset about the experiences I’d had with these heinous people and exhorted me to “forgive and forget” about these awful people. And that when I did, I would “genuinely move on.”
It sounds so good, right? This whole “forgive and forget so you can move on” advice? It imparts a certain saintliness to us. Makes us feel like enlightened souls. Makes us believe that it’s all about how we choose to look at situations. And that if we will ourselves to be the bigger and better person, then we can dismiss odious people and horrific situations and forgive and forget so we can truly start living again. That we can then take that next step and move the fuck on.
But here’s the thing though. I ain’t no fucking saint. I’m barely enlightened. I’m about as human as I can be with all of the flaws, frailties, and issues that come with being one. The truth of the matter is this:
I haven’t forgotten anything. And I definitely haven’t forgiven. But guess what? I have moved on.
I didn’t say any of this to my friend. This realization was such a mind-fucking-blown moment for me that I needed to process it privately and make sense of it before I could say anything about it—much less write about it.
And that’s what I’ve done this past week. Mulled over it, debated about it in my head, argued, counterargued, did the whole pros and cons of each perspective, and came to this significant truth in my life.
Before I proceed, let me give you a quick example.
Many years ago, I took my mom to see a friend in another city. We’d been planning our visit for well over three months, a visit that was this friend’s idea. She had invited us to stay with her during our one-week visit, and leading up to the days before we travelled, I called her and asked for her address. She told me not to worry and to just call her as soon as we landed; then she’d guide me on how to get to her place. I didn’t think much of it and did as she suggested.
The day finally came when we landed in the new city. I still remember it was evening and raining cats and dogs. My mom was tired since we’d had a busy itinerary for the entire week prior and she could not wait to be reunited with her friend, put her legs up, and have hot filter coffee and chill. As suggested, I called the friend from the airport. But she told me, rather bluntly, that our staying with her was not going to work out since she and her family were leaving town themselves. Stunned, I asked why she didn’t say anything before we landed. She claimed that she felt awkward asking us not to come at such a late stage, especially since it had been her idea to begin with.
I was truly speechless at this point. Not to mention I was with my mom in a brand new and unfamiliar city, it was dark and raining, and we had no place else to go.
But it gets better, y’all. This friend then hung up. Yep. No apologies, just the dial tone. To this day, I still remember the shock, sadness, tears, and anger on my mom’s face. But, most of all, I remember the sense of betrayal that ravaged her.
I eventually found us a hotel, and mom and I had a blast for the next seven days. But the relationship between our family and this friend was broken.
Over the next few years, she tried to make amends but not before writing a cloying letter to justify her behavior. When she was met with silence from our end, she became angry, then blamed us for supposedly inviting ourselves to stay. And while she spent a year coming up with excuses, during this whole time she has never showed true remorse or apologized for her behavior.
And I never—ever—forgot or forgave her. But know what I did do? I moved the fuck on.
I remembered this incident this past week. And as my friend commented on how good I looked, I took stock of myself as I am right now. My friend was right. I am looking better now. I’m walking straighter and I’m smiling more. I’m eating and sleeping better. And yes, I even occasionally laugh out loud. I’m also actively trying to move on.
I thought back to my life before the tragedy in December 2020. And I realized that there are so many devastating instances and experiences that I’ve had over my lifetime. I’ve been bullied. I’ve been falsely accused of doing something I didn’t. I’ve had so-called close friends and family turn on me for reasons I still haven’t figured out. I’ve had people take credit for my ideas, share my writing as their own, tattle tale about me to bosses and supervisors, and so much more. And barring a few, many of them have never apologized for their behavior. And that’s when I thought…
When people apologize, I completely and wholeheartedly forgive them. But there are people who say and do all kinds of contemptible shit, don’t ever say sorry—heck, don’t even acknowledge that they might’ve done something wrong or hurt your feelings—and continue living in the belief that they’re completely blameless. But I’m supposed to forgive them?
And the forgetting part? Never.
It’s so strange. We are all asked to learn from our mistakes and do our best to not repeat them. Well, how do we do that if we forget what happened? I don’t think so. Each time I get hoodwinked, I don’t forget what happened or those who took me for a ride. Moving forward with this knowledge allows me to be smart about my choices, especially when it comes to who I let into my life.
So, no, I don’t plan to “forgive and forget” those who have wronged me so I can move on. I move on because I have to. I move on because if I don’t, the world will move on without me. I move on…because life moves on.
Look, this doesn’t mean that I’ve held on to all of the horrible shit that’s happened in my life. Many just went away on their own. Either the instances weren’t that important anymore or the people no longer mattered, and I simply forgot about them. But it happened organically. I did not force any of it to happen.
Finally, I’m not advocating this perspective for everyone or trying to force it down anyone’s throats. I think, for a lot of people, forgiving and forgetting does help them move on. And if that’s your truth, follow your bliss. To each their own.
This is my reality. This is my journey. And this is my truth.
So, let me reiterate: You do not have to forgive or forget to move the fuck on.