There is never really an ending to anything. Even with death, we cling to the memories of someone, death-gripping and white-knuckling them back to life in our minds.
I don’t think this was a concept I really ever understood until recently. There isn’t a finish. You never win. My friend Erin said to me tonight on the phone, “This thing, this big thing is only just a day.” It really is true. Whatever it is that is happening, it happens in divisions of time — seconds, minutes, hours, days, months, years — and eventually, the one tiny moment is over, but the infinity that lives inside of it just leaps over to the next moment.
Whenever things happen with my exhusband, I am reminded, of course, of our past. Before now, I would look back into the windows of my history and the emotions would boil up inside of me. I would let myself be just as angry as I was once upon a time. The resentment and frustration felt tangible, much like when you wake up sobbing from a dream.
I’m thirty, no where nearly as seasoned or wise as I will eventually be, but in my thirty years, I’ve wrapped up experiences and filed them into the attic of my heart. In the past, I would look at my exhusband and his wife and a snarled scowl would appear on my face (or, if not on my actual face, certainly in my heart). And now, I find myself having overwhelming bouts of pity for them. How terribly unfortunate to have plowed through nearly a decade of hate-rage and resentment toward me, only to find themselves in a new space, feeling the same things.
I can tell that I’m growing up because I am developing empathy for my enemies. It’s a startling and uncomfortable and, yet also terribly comforting feeling.
When the bottom fell out of my relationship with the sociopathic filmmaker, I was ANGRY. So angry that the back of my throat burned. So angry that when he would come up in conversation, I would have to spend ten or fifteen minutes spitting out insults and calling him names and recounting for whoever would listen, all the details of how horrible of a human he was.
My friend Devon said to me, in those moments of furious frenzy, “Aw, I just feel really bad for him.”
FOR HIM? You feel bad FOR HIM?
I’m the one that was wronged. I am the one that is dealing with the damage control over here, man… How in the WORLD do you feel bad for him? He’s a monster!
But now, I get it.
If I had a dollar for every moment that I tell Devon, “I get it now…” I would be a millionaire. Or at least have some money to take Devon out for a couple of cocktails.
But really, I get it now. I’m curious about other people’s empathy now and I SEE it in people now like I never saw it before. Colin is a supreme example to me about how to love people no matter what they do… He always takes the high road, always gives people the benefit of doubt (to a point, mind you. He has his limits like everybody else). But Colin even says, in the midst of all of this stuff that happens with my exhusband, “I can understand how he feels, as a man.”
If you had told me two years ago I would be writing about empathy and forgiveness and all of this, I would have laughed in your stupid, foolish face. I would have thought you were ridiculous and blind to the facts.
But … I get it now. Empathy really does build this strange bridge between touchstones in your life giving everything continuity and connectedness.