Monica Rozenfeld moves to Brooklyn with two roommates — a Catholic and an observant Jew — and they each seek understanding of what it means to be religious.
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The Forgiveness List
Thanksgiving is over and Black Friday is coming to an end. Everyone is finishing their leftovers and enjoying family time before Monday calls us back to work again. Some of us took pleasure in our lot and will now carry on as usual. Others took time to write a Gratitude List, as Busted Halo columnist Phil Fox Rose suggests. I was not one of those people. There was something else I needed to do first.
The loveliest thing about being home is the comfort of my own space. After the festivities and the shopping were over, I sunk myself into a warm bath where I always bring a notebook and write in a stream of consciousness. Only last night, my stream of consciousness wrote me a “forgiveness list” instead and it kept writing itself until I was left with nothing else to feel sorry about. Before I could be thankful to anyone, I apparently needed to forgive a lot.
My list surprised me – especially with how much forgiving myself I needed. I forgave myself for my life-long resentment toward my dad, and then I forgave my dad. I forgave myself for not always listening to that little voice inside of me, and then I forgave myself for not always being confident enough to follow through on that little voice. I forgave others for not listening enough, and then I forgave myself for not listening enough to others. I forgave and I forgave. And then I dropped my pen and paper, and sunk into thankfulness.
I read one comment on Phil’s column that said:
I fear sometimes that forcing gratitude when we’re not feeling it can have the dangerous effect of making people feel guilty, which only adds to their pain. Plus, sometimes in a person’s life, the glass is truly nearly, if not entirely, empty, and it can be healthier to just accept the fact that life can often be grossly unfair…Well written essay, of course, and all good points, but I wish life could be this easy.
In Judaism, we do have a concept that is something like “fake it until you make it.” The meanest person can become the nicest if he fakes it long enough. And true of the most ungrateful person. But I have a hard time being fake about anything, and especially something as meaningful as what G-d has given me. The comment above rings true for me, and if you’re like me, there is a lot of detoxing that needs to take place before we can express the gratefulness we have underneath. I am 25 and my list was pretty long.
How often do we accept our lot of mistakes and mishaps as equally valuable as our lot of fortune and good luck?
After forgiving myself for all the little pieces that gave me weight, I am feeling thankful for all those bumps, all the pain I never confronted and all the moments I had to overcome, because it brought me somewhere else entirely if it had never happened. While we may wish for many things in life, I for one do not wish anything different of where I am today and my outlook. As my roommate Annie always says, “Everything happens for a reason.”
If a gratitude list is not on your periphery this season, maybe try something even harder to do – forgive. Even Glamour Magazine has a “Hey, It’s OK” column to remind ourselves to forgive all the small things in life, like bailing out on a friend’s dinner because it is too expensive. It’s worth a try to write your own. Let me know how it goes.
If you enjoyed this post, also check out “Remembering How to Pray” inspired by the book Eat, Pray, Love.