Forgiveness is a “virtue” that I was taught too well. I have spent most of my 75 years attempting to ‘forgive’ people for wrongs they have committed with a great deal of success.
Recently, after yet another brutal betrayal I heard myself say to my friend quite desperately, “ I have to get over this” as my voice cracked with anguish. Even as I spoke the words the Voice of my body cried out “NO! Not this time.” And this time I listened.
Reflecting upon my limited options with regard to the usually hidden, sometimes outwardly shocking acts of violence that dominate my neighbor’s split psyche, I recently decided that I had only two possible choices. The first solution is simple; I had already considered it: I simply leave – walk out – for good. And it may be that this is my only realistic option.
The second choice is more complex and may depend more upon me, and my psyche, than his. After wasting two and a half years of my life trying to adapt to periodic insanity by a clever man who feigns stupidity or the fact that he didn’t hear what I said, a man who routinely uses lies and denial to cover his tracks, a man who refuses to take responsibility for his actions on any level, I surrender.
Because my neighbor has periods when he is generous and apparently kind I have been too long “coming to knowing.” In my defense, these last two and half years have had me locked into a perpetual state of confusion, trying to make sense out of insanity.
Responsibility for trying falls squarely on me, and has everything to do with my personal history – my 50 percent. And I admit it. There were many times I actually felt sorry for this man during his quiet periods. I also attempted again and again to befriend him in a genuine way, offering companionship, compassion, and forgiveness of wrongs done, although I made it clear from the beginning that anything more than friendship has always been out of the question.
But crazy takes its toll. It is impossible to trust a man like this and for obvious reasons my lack of trust mushroomed over time. I also was forced to put more emotional distance between us, and now I am at the point where I choose not to allow this man in my house.
If I can’t protect myself from this man’s senseless acts of violence on a psychological, emotional, and psychic level then I will leave.
Because he victimizes me by driving insanely fast and dangerously, I won’t go anywhere with him by choice unless I have no other alternative – a recent example of this occurred when I had to let him drive me for a heart test because I couldn’t drive myself. I am severely dyslexic with directions and cannot drive through traffic of any kind – few realize what a severe limitation this is.
I must make it clear that otherwise his acts of violence are not directed at me on an overtly physical level. However, with that much said, I also know that my health is adversely affected by his toxic energy when he is in this fugue state. When he first acted out viciously (this went on for months) I ended up severely ill. Because of his refusal to own his rage, it became a form of poison that infected me. I also wasted so much useless energy being angry, or conversely trying to ‘work things out’ so we could be friends and I could live here in peace.
Surrender has definite advantages. I am no longer interested in having any sort of relationship with my neighbor. I am no longer sure I want to live here at all. What I want is to stay here for the remainder of this winter and see how I feel in the spring. However, I have a back up plan in place in case I can’t. I will be able to return to my house in Maine during the winter if necessary because I am keeping the road plowed.
If I can live here safely without becoming ill I will have to use every resource at my disposal. I am putting up physical and emotional blocks in every direction. But I am also aware that because I am a “daughter of the earth,” that is, a woman whose relationship with Nature is primary, that I have very fluid boundaries that work against me in this sort of situation. This means that psychically I remain very vulnerable, and by extension so do both my dogs, both of which have also become ill in the last year that we have lived here.
Up until this last brutal act of violence (when this man severed the limbs of beloved cottonwoods that provided this “Tree Woman” with a sanctuary and a cathedral), during the quiet times I would find myself forgiving him for his disgusting behavior.
But all that changed the day I heard myself say to my friend that I must get beyond this last betrayal.
When my body screamed “NO” I finally heard her.
Later, reflecting upon forgiveness I wrote that it is often used as a weapon to control people and to allow abuse to continue to flourish. After writing these words I thought of all the years I wasted forgiving people who didn’t deserve my forgiveness and here I was living out this pattern again.
Today I am clear, perhaps for the first time. Forgiveness has no place in this story predicated on all kinds of abuse. I do not forgive this man for this latest act of violence. Instead, I hold him accountable even as I return his violent impulses to him.
And, I make a conscious choice to release my anger, while hoping that psychically I can hold a firm boundary between us, even build a solid psychic wall out of the ugly stones he piles up all over this property, at least for now.