Forgiveness is the fragrance that the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.
– Mark Twain
This is such a beautiful quote. To forgive is not just to free someone else from the wrong they have committed against you, but it is also to free yourself from being their captor. And for those who truly learn to forgive, it is being able to love those who have crushed you. Forgiving and loving those who have wronged you is a powerful experience. The idea of forgiveness has been on my mind a lot lately and I couldn’t quite understand why. I’m not one to hold grudges. I understand the power of forgiveness and I am quick to use it. I know that I am the only one who hurts when I begrudge another.
Still… it kept coming… this idea of forgiveness. Then I realized what it was about.
Six years ago, after I finished the Transamerica bicycle ride, I started working on a memoir that chronicled the trip – and the event that sparked it. For those who don’t know, my dad committed suicide eight years ago. The following summer, I bicycled the transam. There were events that occurred before his death, and things that emerged in the wake of his death, that made it really hard to forgive my dad. During that time, I was also in a pretty bad relationship with a guy who couldn’t even come to my dad’s funeral with me (we’d been dating for over three years at that time). So… I was mad and hurt. Some days, I seethed. I felt terribly wronged by the two closest men in my life.
At any rate, my manuscript opens with the details of these events. For six years, I have bled over those pages (nearly 100,000 words), rewritten them, hated them, loved them, cursed them. I have played with my voice as a writer, which has changed dramatically since I began writing it. This manuscript has been the monkey on my back for too long. I need to publish it but I just kept feeling that something about it wasn’t right. Was it just me being a perfectionist, unable to let my baby out into the cruel world of agents and publishing houses? Was I not telling the story the right way?
Then it dawned on me. I haven’t felt like the manuscript was right because it wasn’t right. Although I have forgiven my dad (and my turd of an ex-boyfriend), my words were still holding them captive. Every time I worked on those first sections of the manuscript, I would feel sick. My old bitterness and anger were still woven through the pages, and that’s not the type of story I want to put out. It was a nasty time of my life, but I want people to be inspired when they read my words – to see that I made it through a better, happy, peaceful person. I want to lift people up, not bring them down. I know that the manuscript needs to be reworked. I understand what I’ve been missing now.
There is a 4-day writer’s conference in San Francisco in February. I am going to go. And I’m going to have a polished manuscript by that time, which is ready to pitch, and is finally right. I am declaring it.
My dad was a good dad…he made some mistakes, as we all do. But I love him for the father he was to me. I love him for all the softball teams he coached. For all the hours he spent with me at batting cages. For all the weightlifting meets he attended. For all the hard, long hours he worked to provide a good life for my family. For the words of encouragement, for believing in me. For seeing the beauty in me that I could not see in myself.
And I love the ex for the strength he helped me find in myself. For the independence and adventure he roused. For pushing me to see what I’m really made of.