Sunday, July 09, 2006

Forgiveness, Forgetfulness, and Fury

I'm in a reflective mood today. I received a phone call this afternoon from the sister of my old neighbor, who I will call Alice. She had passed away this morning. Alice had been fighting terminal colon cancer since March and after harsh chemo therapy and a bout with pneumonia that landed her in the ICU, she decided that enough was enough. She stopped treatment just around the July 4th weekend. I'm not too exact on the details, but suffice it to say that she failed quickly after that and passed away in her sleep this morning surrounded by family and friends. She was only 52.
As I struggle with Depression, AD/HD, tic disorders, sleep apnea, insomnia, food allergies, pollen allergies, and a weak immunity system I sometimes feel that life is unfair. I used to say that the Universe was out to get me - that God's having his little joke with me. I suppose it's only natural to feel that way. It's a full plate and I'm not too hungry for what's on the menu. Then I encounter other people with other hardships and I see that life itself is not fair to an awful lot of people. Life is, in fact, a lousy chef.
What struck me as sad today, however, was not simply the passing of somebody I knew. Instead I was struck with my own mortality and weakness. Let me explain.
Alice and some other neighbors hadn't been too kind to me when I moved into the area. They had accused me of various deviant behaviors that to this day still anger me. These were supposed to be my Christian brothers and sisters and instead they wielded stones. The rumors mounted as the months progressed, wilder and wilder, until they reached a crescendo where they became so outlandish that it was easy to disprove them. When all the furor amounted to nothing a lot of people were left with egg on their face. That summer several of the families involved moved away. I have unresolved issues with them, but with Alice, my neighbor, I was able to find forgiveness in my heart.
The story didn't end happily there with us arm in arm, though. Alice never really apologized to me, though her behavior towards my family and myself became kinder. Unfortunately, she was one of the people I knew who didn't believe in AD/HD. One day she told me her opinion on the subject right to my face after I mentioned I had it. I was so stunned by her bold opinion that I stood there slack jawed. I swore that day I would never let that happen to me again. You see a bit of that fire in this blog whenever anybody accuses me of not having a "real" problem. I am as fierce in person as well. Thanks to Alice.
And now she's passed on. Suddenly my anger feels petty and shallow. She moved away and now has died, but I allowed her to change me. I nursed a wound like an angry coal in my heart. I forgave her for one thing, but held a grudge for another. She became representative of all the doubters in my life and I used that as impetus for change. What type of person does that make me? On top of that, I have set lofty goals for myself that are proving hard to meet. Time is ticking and my 40th birthday is but a scant five months away. One of the byproducts of meeting those goals was to have a book with my name on it that I could bring into her elementary school classroom one day, slam on her desk, and say "Ha!" - as if my success would mean anything to her. As if that would prove my struggle with AD/HD was real. How silly. How foolish.
Alice was only thirteen years older than I. I can blink and be 52 tomorrow. Mortality laughs at me and replaces all of life's menu items with sour grapes and rotten eggs. What shall I order now?
Usually, my sense of humor keeps my spirits alight. Today, however, I see myself as being revealed as a small-minded man with insignificant goals. That even for a moment, no matter how miniscule, I was sad she died before my goals were met... This both sickens me and splashes me in the face with a brisk dose of reality. December looms and I read news? Time leaks through my fingers and I'm worried about a drop in comments on my blog? How did I get so turned around? Where did I get so terribly sidetracked? I need to remember what it is I want out of life. It is not to show up the doubters but to find joy in my own accomplishments. I know that, but negative thought attaches itself to our most noble intentions like a parasite. Allow it to stay too long and it consumes and replaces what was once good and uplifting.
I don't resent Alice. I never wished her ill. But I regret I let myself hold a grudge, however slight it seemed. Life is too short for such things. So I will allow Alice to change me again. That way when I order from the menu of life it will not be just desserts.

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