As I was saying...
At the gym today, as I was dressing, I pulled on my brand-new a-shirt (aka: wife-beater, which, had I known this years ago, I may never have worn one in the first place), and found, at the bottom hem, a white sticker. 1"x1/2", glue-backed, and on the front, a red arrow. Like you'd see on a traffic sign, telling you to turn... this way.
That's it. Just a red arrow, on a white sticker, on a new undershirt.
Not an inspection number, to let me know that #14 had checked to see that my shirt was A-ok. Just a red arrow. I think it might have been pointing to the top of the shirt, but I'm not sure. As though I wouldn't know how to put the garment on?
And this, on a shirt manufactured by one of the first underwear manufacturers to spend a bazillion dollars, hiring Michael Jordan and a thousand extras, to make TV commercials about how scratchy those darned tags are, scraping around at the back of your neck, on your t-shirts and wife-beaters, after all of us have been wearing these shirts for generations with no ill effects... All of which effort, of course, was simply to cover the fact that someone at Hanes was going to get a fat vice-presidency because someone else came up with the idea of not using tags at all, and just printing the size info onto the cloth itself, saving a bazillion dollars in materials and labor, which they could spend on Michael Jordan, etc. etc. I'm waiting for the day when some clever merchant convinces me to hand over my money in exchange for... absolutely nothing. Plus tax.
Which brings me back to that mysterious red arrow. If we're promoting people because they've overheard a conversation in the men's room, and thereby catapulted themselves into the career ionosphere, why am I now finding... little mysterious white pieces of paper, printed with meaningless red arrows, for no discernible purpose, in my new clothing? Should I collect these arrows, and cash them in for fabulous prizes, or to get new windows for the kindergarten in town? Maybe it would be better if I didn't notice these things, but... too late.
Now, the next thing, which only follows because it's next in line...
Yesterday being Easter and all, I was having a serious discussion about anger and forgiveness. 'Oh, I can forgive,' said the other half of the conversation, 'but I'm still angry about it...'
And it was as though a light went on, in an old, old basement, thick with ancient dust. Because I have had, for decade upon decade, a struggle with forgiveness -- or, rather, with my (mis)conception of what forgiveness might be. Or, more importantly, what forgiveness might legitimately feel like.
I had assumed, without it occurring to me to ask, that forgiveness (along with its apparently conjoined twin, forgetting) meant that, after the forgiving had been done, or accomplished, or conjured up, there was a kind of inner emotional blandness afterwards -- the way a blackboard might feel, if a long, complex mathematical equation it had been bearing had just been erased. There -- it's forgiven, and as a result, I feel nothing anymore.
But... I just couldn't seem to do this -- couldn't seem, I guess, to write a blank check to... whoever might have done The Thing. I felt that, by forgiving, I was in fact saying -- 'Oh, that's okay -- my heart's better off, having been ripped out of my chest and trampled on for a week...' It seemed degrading.
This forgiveness (and forgetting, don't forget) also seemed to imply -- to use the erasure metaphor yet again -- that my own history, that a significant -- if unpleasant -- portion of my essential identity, was being eliminated. If I've forgiven my father, for instance, for just dumping me on the doorstep of an orphanage, I must never think of this event ever again, and should certainly never talk about it, to anyone, under any circumstances. In spite of the fact that this means I walk around with enormous holes in my past -- or, actually, with the pretense of enormous holes, because of course, whether forgiven or not, these events did actually take place, and did actually lead to grave damage, the effects of which I still feel today.
And, this forgiveness/forgetting was further thwarted, in my mind, by the significant fact that -- to use the orphanage instance -- my father never indicated that he was the least bit sorry. He never even seemed to remember that any of this had happened. How, I couldn't seem to figure out, can I forgive someone who isn't the least bit sorry?
Oh, I know -- the adepts at such things tell me that, by holding onto anger and hurt, I'm really the only one who's damaged -- that the very fact that my father didn't seem to care much, one way or another, how I felt about what he'd done, meant that I had better focus on my own well-being. All of which sounds perfectly reasonable, except that, for some reason (is it my Cancer moon, perhaps? Being left-handed, in most things?), this indifference on the part of the perpetrator is like a hook that gets caught in my flesh, making it painful to move on. I just don't know how to do this... forgiving.
And then, there's the one other thing, like another jet that's been circling the airport, waiting for a runway to free up...
It's probably my fault, I suppose. I really never asked. Or, well, strictly speaking, I did ask, but by then, it was far too late. 'What', I finally asked my therapist, after having seen him regularly for some ten years, 'what am I supposed to get from all of this?'
Well, of course he was a nice, intelligent, compassionate man -- all my many therapists were nice, intelligent, compassionate people, with the exception of two, about whom I will for the nonce say nothing at all. But not one of them (including the two in the not-so-hot bracket) ever discussed with me... just what it was we might be aiming for. What was all this talking and talking and talking supposed to do, after all?
Well, I knew (without being particularly aware of it, of course) what I thought we should not only aim for, but achieve -- complete psychic healing. Which meant that, through some inexplicable mechanism (and why should I know how it worked? They were the therapists, not me), all the griefs of my childhood would be expunged. It would be as though each and every individual horror had been permanently erased from my little hard drive. I really thought this was what we were going to do, one way or another. And I was more than willing to do my part, if this was what the payoff was to be.
And then, of course, I realized that, not only was this an unachievable goal, but that no one had ever said this was even remotely on the schedule. I felt -- and still feel -- so stupid.
Of course, I quit going to therapy shortly thereafter. I don't know that I miss it particularly -- especially now that I fully grasp how unending and impotent is seems, for me, to be now.
I think I need a miracle -- although, with my track record for being perceptive, I've probably been marinating in a miracle for the past 20 years, without knowing it. Or maybe I need to be even stupider than I already think I've been, deluding myself into some comforting hope that I might be able to use as a screen between myself and... myself.
I could go on. But it would just be...
© 2013 Walter Zimmerman