On Forgiveness

Hungry Horse resevoir, Flathead river, Montana, Rocky MountainsI’ve forgiven a lot of people for a lot of things. I’ve forgiven shitty ex-boyfriends for how they treated me, and myself for putting up with it. I’ve forgiven my parents for letting me down in really important ways. Mean comments, big and small lies, money borrowed and never paid back, unkindness galore. I thought I was pretty good at it, here in these later years of my life. But there’s this one friend I used to have.

In a life of mostly good things and happiness, this is probably the most hurtful thing I experienced – which I acknowledge makes me a pretty lucky bitch, no question. But pain is not measured on a relative scale. Pain is pain, and this one was/is the worst one I can remember. Or at least the one that has refused to go away, while others have faded to something else – regret or remorse or just sadness.

I used to have this friend. One of my closest, in a life where I have a lot of true friends, but not that many people I am so open with. A life where I keep friends for a long time and am still friends with most of my ex-boyfriends.

I’m not sure what made this one worse then everything else. I have experienced outright rejection before, but never from someone so close and so trusted. I’ve had people lie about me before, but not so painfully or for such an unnecessary and ineffectual reason. I’ve had people break trust with me before, but never so cavalierly and without provocation. I’ve lost people before, but never so unexpectedly or deliberately.

I don’t know why this one has stuck with me for so long. Well, that’s not really true. I know why, but I don’t know why it took me so long to do something about it.

It’s still here because I could not forgive them.

Could not stop wanting the situation to be something other than what it was. I probably spent a year in absolute denial – just could not believe the facts. Then I spent quite a few years in hurt anger, which moved into just plain anger and stayed there for a long, long time. I finally got to sadness, but I couldn’t let it go.

Because I used to have this really good friend, and I have not been able forgive them. I was waiting for an apology or an explanation or an alternate reality to show up and wipe it all away.

I can’t even say that I stopped caring about them in all this time, because I never did. I can only assume that this whole episode is firmly in the past for them, while it shows up in my dreams as if it just happened a few months ago.

It showed up again just a few days ago. And I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the whole situation. Not what happened more than 10 years ago, but what is happening right now. How I’m still wishing the situation was different. And finally, finally, I think I’m ready to do the one thing I actual CAN and MUST do, if I want this situation to be different.

I have to forgive them.

I’ve spent decades looking hard at the ugliness and anger and pain and stupidity within myself, trying to live on the outside like I feel on the inside. Trying to lead with kindness and understanding and clear-eyed intention. To be aware of the consequences of my actions and the example I set for my son and the rest of the human race that has to interact with me. But there’s this one thing that’s been around for way too long that I have not been able to root out.

I used to have this friend.

I think I’m ready.

Forgiveness.

Reading in The Age of The Internet.

woman-reading-in-a-garden-1903.jpg!LargeI read to learn new things, to understand the world, to challenge myself. I’ve always been the kind of person that, when I read a good book that references another book, I want to go read that other book. I want to know… well, everything, really.

I was up late reading Joplin’s Ghost by Tananarive Due. The main character, Phoenix, is a musician who becomes haunted by the ghost of Scott Joplin. I know who Scott Joplin is, and everyone’s heard The Entertainer, but there were a lot of other pieces mentioned, as well as other musicians. So I pulled up YouTube and listened to some guy play a dozen Joplin pieces on the piano while I continued to read. The next day, I looked up Jacob Lawrence’s Dream I, so I could see the painting Due described and better imagine the room Phoenix was in.

Jacob Lawrence's Dreams #1, Joplin's Ghost, bevyofbooks.com
Jacob Lawrence’s Dreams #1

When I was getting my BA in English 15 years ago, I had one professor who was very excited about the future of texts, where authors would embed links to other content in other media to enhance the experience and to make it something more than just reading. At the time, it seemed mildly interesting. But being the driver of my own hypertext experience has definitely enriched my reading life.

Now, I get irritated when I google for something and the internet does not offer it right up to me, as if its entire reason for existing is to help me read my book. I remember going camping with my friend and reading Virginia Woolf and being frustrated that I couldn’t look up the words I didn’t know, since we had no cellular coverage.

Multi-language users use code-switching to speak directly to their communities. Lit that likes to consider itself high-brow makes a habit of adding different languages and obscure references to signal its class. These texts can now be appreciated by those of us it maybe wasn’t intended for.

How different are these books without all of this outside information so readily available? Would I have liked Joplin’s Ghost as much if I hadn’t heard those songs? I loved the book, it’s fantastic. But that richer experience is something I love, too.

 

Book Post: I Already Know I’m Human, Thanks Anyway.

I recently read The Summer Before the War by Helen Simonson. This book is lovely, but I was immediately reminded of something Daniel José Older said (which I cannot find) about writing for those who rarely get to be the main character but don’t need to be reminded that they are already fully human. Or being tired of only having POC protagonists in books where that humanity was finally proven to all at the end.

I’m past the point in my life and my feminism where I need someone to remind/convince me that I am as much a whole person as anyone else who isn’t straight/cis/white/male. I much prefer to read about women who are just living their fucking lives and does she even know people think she shouldn’t? Only when they get in her way as she rolls over them, and no, she will not apologize. This is likely why speculative fiction appeals to me so much. Kameron Hurley, N K Jemisin, Ann Leckie, Nnedi Okorafor and many more are building worlds where women are the default gender, where genders come in numbers greater than two, where women can be anything and are indeed everything.

Once you get there, it’s hard to go back to sweet, wonderfully written books about proper young ladies who must hide their ambitions in order to keep the pathetically underpaid work they managed to acquire only with good connections – books in which the lower-class women who work even harder and make even less money are invisible. Give me head-chopping bounty hunters and world-destroying goddesses any day of the week.

I’ve mostly been posting about travel and whatnot, but I’m going to start writing about books again more regularly. For certain values of ‘regularly.’

So. Many. Questions.

Everglades National Park, bird, bevyofbooks.com, Florida

How long are you going to do this?

I’ve been getting this question a lot recently. Maybe because this is my first trip to Florida since I quit, and these folks haven’t had a chance to grill me yet? Maybe because I’ve been doing this for almost a year now? Maybe because the space-time continuum calls for it? I don’t know.

Regardless of why, it’s an interesting question. How long *do* I want to do this? My standard answer is, until I get tired of it or I run out of money – and I’m betting on the money running out first. I’m supposed to be working on finding more location-independent income, and I’m on a few lists, but I really should be doing more. But working in Portland this winter reminded me how much I do not want to go back to a nine-to-five.

How long has it been?

Another good question. Homeless? Since Feb 1, 2015. Stationary-jobless? April 3. Out of Portland? April 11. On the road? May 10. So when do I start counting, exactly?

For me, the important dates are April 3 and May 10.  April 3 was the day it was really real. I’ve quit a bunch of jobs in my life, but never with this kind of intention. I quit to move somewhere else, to make more money, to go back to school. I’ve been fired and laid off from permanent and temp jobs. But I’ve never quit with the idea of changing my whole life. That last gig was the best regular job I’ve ever had, in every way. But rather than making me happy, it made me realize that I’d never be happy doing that kind of thing, I’d only ever done it because I had to. And now that I don’t have to, I’m going to try and see if I can find a way of living and earning my way that makes me happy.

May 10 I left Great Falls with everything I thought I might need in Little Red, and no clear idea when I might return to home base. That feels like the real beginning of this… whatever it is. It really needs a name. Trip? Adventure? Insanity? So it’s been 11 months, and I’m nowhere near ready to stop, regardless of the challenges along the way.

Everglades National Park, osprey, Florida Bay, bevyofbooks.com
Maybe I’ll move in with these ospreys on Florida Bay.

Will I never have a real job again?

Who knows? I’m hoping not. But the idea that a different life is possible is a really good reason to try something else. I’ve made plenty of risky choices in the past with regards to jobs and whatnot, and all those were really in the service of paying off my debt. Now I get to use those skills in the service of a joyful life.

Where to next?

I’ve got to get back to Montana by the end of May, so I’ll be heading back north in a week or two. I’m thinking about going to the Science Fiction Writer’s Association Convention in Chicago mid-May. Maybe I’ll see some of you on the way.

Next steps: Searching for the YES.

Fireworks in the snow on New Year's Eve.
Fireworks in the snow on New Year’s Eve.

I’ve got a lot of things swirling in my head lately. Three weeks of downtime in Montana – where the area is utterly familiar (and beautiful) and the weather has discouraged me from wanting to go out – I’ve been evaluating my nine months on the road and what I want for the immediate future.

I’m not coming up with any good answers. I’m thinking about things like going back to work full-time or going back to work part-time so I can go back to school. Searching job openings in cities I’ve never been to.

It’s mostly just a mental exercise… a reminder that I really can do what I want, which means not traveling, if that’s what I decide. Nine months of travel is making it feel like a chore, when it was supposed to be a joy. Not enough time to myself means I’m moody and not always pleasant to the people around me.

These were my choices. Which means I can choose something new tomorrow. I don’t know why it’s so easy to forget that, but it is. Everyone I know does it, either occasionally or all the damned time. Some people even deny they ever had a choice (those people I mostly choose not to spend time with).

My biggest challenge this year has been choosing to spend money. It’s the biggest reason I haven’t spent enough time alone. Being alone almost always means spending money on lodging – the most expensive piece of most travel budgets. Yes, there are ways to save on the cost, and I’ve used them, but it’s hard to beat FREE, which is what it costs to stay with friends.

But I had seriously underestimated how living completely alone for five years had fed my love of solitude, making it even more important to my emotional well-being. Ask anyone I’ve stayed with this year, my favorite thing is to wake up in an empty house.

My lack of awareness, and later my denial of this need to be alone, means in the choice between saving money or saving sanity, I chose to save money. But that choice is no longer sustainable, so I must make new choices.

I don’t know what that looks like yet. Right now I have another opportunity to fill up my savings account, so that means I’ll be in Portland for longer than expected. Most of my mental swirling has been shifting from ‘how do I save money?’ to ‘how can I make more money?’

I know one thing. I’ve spent many years now trying to follow my heart, the voice in my head, the pull that tells me what I really want and what I can do. And every single time I’ve listened hard and believed that what I wanted was attainable, the fates have dropped that shit right in my lap. Jobs, career changes, housing, friends, travel. When my heart and mind would both give a big YES to a risk I was taking, it would all turn out even better than I’d hoped.

And on the flip side, every time I’ve ignored the big NO that comes with a bad choice, I’ve regretted it. I’ve spent years and tears trying to get back to a YES. I really have gotten much better at hearing that NO, I can tell you.

But you get busy with the day to day crap, and you forget to check back in with that YES and see if it’s still there. Make sure you haven’t wandered off, following shiny things, and lost track of what you were doing. To make sure that it’s not been fulfilled and time to find the next one.

So I’m looking for the next big YES. And looking forward to what will come my way.