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Day 17: Love, Forgiveness, and Recalibration

This Day 17 of my 1000-Day MFA, a DIY education project I’ve undertaken that I learned about from writer Shaunta Grimes. You can read more about how I’m engaging with it here. By the way, there often is no rhyme or reason to how I choose the poems, essays, and short stories. I just throw my net out, and gather up what comes in.

Poem: The Truelove by David Whyte

Essay: Forgiven from “Small Victories”  by Anne Lamott

Short Story: Fat and Thin by Anton Chekhov

The Truelove Words about this would only clutter the page. It's one of the most beautiful love poems ever written. Just read it.

Forgiven If you’ve never read Anne Lamott, now is the time to start. She is compassionate with a peppery edge. She’s sharp, with heart. This essay is from a book called Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace. It chronicles her attempt at forgiveness one of the other mothers at her son’s school — an “enemy lite,” in the love-your-enemies department.

After a particularly passive aggressive comment the mother made to her, Anne writes, “I smiled back at her. I thought such awful thoughts that I cannot even say them out loud because they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.” The essay is seasoned throughout with hilarious comments along with important insights that, if everyone paid attention to them, could contribute to the betterment of mankind.

Her arrival at forgiveness for the woman is genuine, and, in the way of these things, startlingly simple. This book should be in everyone’s library.

Fat and Thin Two friends meet after a long separation. Their bond is alive and well until the conversation shifts and one of them recalibrates the relationship. I came away from this story remembering an encounter group I was in during the early ’70s. This experience was the same story, only a reverse image from Fat and Thin.

I had recently moved to a new rural town, and had learned just enough gossip to despise the local dentist I’d never met — a guy we’ll call Bob. Word was he’d left his wife. Everyone filled in whatever details were unavailable at the time. Anyway, there was a progressive Episcopal priest who ran an encounter group twice a year. My new husband and I decided we’d give it a whirl.

About twenty-five people who’d flown in from many different places sat in a circle, and we were given the ground rules (basic civility, no interrupting, etc.). We were also told we could choose a name for ourselves for the weekend. I chose the name Ruth. We went around the circle introducing ourselves.

During the weekend, you get very close to these people you’re never going to see again. You tell them things you wouldn’t dream of telling someone you had to run into later at the 5th grade band recital. I did a mirroring exercise with Sandy. I did imago exercise with Glen. I did a trust walk with Seth. The person I most resonated with was Glen. He was the most grounded among them, the least woo woo, engaging in the process with respect and intelligence. He was perceptive about others and honest about himself. I really like Glen a lot.

At the end of the weekend, packing our bags, we learned each other’s names. It turned out that Glen was actually Bob. The Bob. I recalibrated. Inwardly, I was all, “Aw man. I really liked you.” Past tense. As if, now that I know ‘who you really are’ (ironically, that negative knowledge being based on hearsay), I don’t get to feel the way I actually feel about you (positive knowledge based my own direct experience).

The operative question to hold: Why do we tend to recalibrate away from what we truly feel? Something to think about.


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