I went to see my rabbi yesterday. I have been thinking of going for a while, but with everything that happened in the last week or so, this was a particularly good time to go.
High Holidays are coming up. The annual time of reflection and renewal. The time when we ask forgiveness of those we have wronged in the past year, and, most relevantly to me this year, the time when, on the eve of Yom Kippur, in the year's holiest (and one of the shortest) services Kol Nidrei we absolve those who have wronged us, but have not asked forgiveness, of any punishment on our behalf. This is so relevant to me this year because the person I am concerned about forgiving is my MIL.
I have alluded to, but haven't written about her here. Details are not relevant. Suffice it to say that while her and I have never really gotten along since Monkey was born, the hurt she caused us when A died is head and shoulders above anything she has done before. It was bad enough that afterwards it took me months to allow Monkey to stay overnight with them, and it is bad enough that when I think about any possible new baby, the only thing I block on is letting her into the room with that baby. And yet I know that come September 21st, I am supposed to forgive.
This, Rabbi R. said, is why honoring your mother and your father is the hardest commandment. I haven't heard that before. And it makes a lot of sense. But it doesn't make it any easier. It was a long conversation, and at one point I said,
"so basically what you are saying is that I am supposed to be an adult."
"But it's hard, and I don't want to."
"Yes, and yes, but you have to. That is the work of this month."
Rabbi R. also said that I am misunderstanding what forgiveness has to mean in this context. Five years ago, when this question first arose for me, I came to define it as being allowed to remember and to protect myself against possible future hurt, but not holding emotional attachment to past hurts. I think I have been mostly successful with this formulation over the past five years. And yet, for a while now, I knew it wasn't going to cut it this year. Not holding an emotional attachment to the hurt my MIL has delivered this year felt like a betrayal. Of my son, of my family, of myself. It still does. Rabbi R. has a new formulation for me now-- forgiving in the context of Yom Kippur, she says, can mean understanding that this person is never going to change and freeing yourself from the emotional attachment to that concept. Or, you know, being an adult.
I find myself, right this minute, resentful of having to do this work. Of having to do all this additional emotional work because this woman is who she is. I am tired and I am cranky. And I. don't. want. to. But already I know that I have to, and that I will. I don't yet know how, but I do know that I have to find the way.
You know, being an adult is not all it was cracked up to be.