October 9, 2009

I’m not sure when exactly it happened. I always think of an experience like forgiveness as something that occurs at a notable place and time, when you suddenly feel a weight release.  But it’s really never like that, is it?  The awareness of it may be sudden, but the actual act of forgiving happens so subtly you never really experience it.  Or, maybe it’s that you just don’t care any more; other experiences have crowded into your brain and you just don’t have the neural space and energy to waste.

I lost my virginity to a guy who was raised a Jehovah’s Witness.  I note this not because it matters, but because the list of the first 3 men I slept with always makes me laugh, like the set up to a bad joke: “So a Jehovah’s Witness, a black guy and a bisexual walk into my vagina…”

We were coworkers and friends for over a year before our attraction to one another became apparent.  Once it did, it wasn’t long until one drunken night, I made a decision, and he trekked down 6 flights of stairs into a cold rain to buy condoms.

In retrospect, the issue was never that we slept together, but rather ill-communication between a naïve late-bloomer craving her first taste of physical intimacy, and a male unable to resist sexual opportunity when presented to him.

The hurt came from subsequent weeks of thinking something was “happening” between us, working together with frustrating vacillation between awkwardness and affection, ultimately culminating in him, instead, bringing his new girlfriend to my house for a small party I was hosting.

To my house.

There was a lot of emailing that happened after that: from me calculated and biting; from him, defensive and confused.  And then silence. I stopped speaking to him for about 6 months, until we had to start working together again the following season, and my manager insisted we get together to make sure we could still function as coworkers.

We could. It wasn’t fun, per say, and the total lack of flirtation and affection felt uncomfortable, but at least neither of us lost our jobs.  But I was still bullshit.  I was bullshit at his insensitivity to flaunt this woman in my territory, hurt at my perceived rejection, and, probably more than anything, mad at myself for expecting this situation with this particular guy would turn out any way other than it had.  I managed to not regret losing my virginity – I was 24, it was high time – but, upon looking back, I was angry with myself that I had wasted my time and energy on a non-functional situation.

Years went by once we finished that particular job, where I had little to no contact with him, until one day I realized I missed him.  Not in that want-to-sleep-with-an-ex sort of way, I just missed him.  I guess that meant I forgave him, and myself.

Forgiveness, I guess, is a slow, barely perceptible process of letting go of our beliefs.  To grasp on to a feeling of right-ness – of having been wronged – is to believe that any action is ever actually about us.  It isn’t.  Nothing is about one person. It’s about millions of events which have occurred over years of time, and at some point two lives intersect, along with those millions of events.  To forgive a particular event is to acknowledge that nothing is static, that everything changes constantly and nothing happens in a vacuum.

In the movie Shortbus, an NC-17 rated art film about the sexual lives of a handful of New Yorkers, one particular sage-like character expounds, “People come to New York to seek forgiveness.”  The first time (and the next 10 times…) I heard this line, I began weeping.  I’m not exactly sure why – I don’t know precisely for what it is I still feel I need forgiveness – but it obviously had a huge impact on me.  I came to New York to perform; I can’t say when I moved into my first apartment I ever dreamed of teaching yoga or being a Buddhist, but where the emphasis in both schools of thought is of a constantly renewed effort of letting go, I’d say the quote has some serious merit…



  1. very insightful.

    we have a way of clenching our emotional muscles hatefully hard, until and unless we’re distracted for long enough that they atrophy or slack. intriguing and somewhat sad point that we rarely take real-time notice of this transition. maybe that’s the only way it’s possible.

    in the semi-related, i read an article about phantom limbs (among other things, summary here: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2009/05/11/090511fa_fact_colapinto), and apparently one of the problems they present is that many patients imagine the limb they no longer have as clenched with horrible strength, to the point that it causes them a near-constant physical pain.

    the genius doctor in this pretentious and long winded article (oh sorry, i mean ‘in this new yorker article’) came up with the first ever procedure for dealing with such phantom anguish. unlike all previous procedures for this condition, his approach is extremely inexpensive and non-technical. although i’m not sure i understand it completely, the gist is that patients arrange a cosmetic mirror so that they perceive an existing limb posing as the base of the non-existent one. result: instant relief to the imagined hand, and steady improvement over time. the once-unmovable fist begins to unclench, and psychic peace gradually returns.

    i’m gonna go ahead and not burrow the massive and inviting metaphor tunnel-matrix out of this fertile compost-barge of knowledge… but it plays, i think.



    1. What mental arrangements of introspection might be most suited to the release of our least conscious but most pernicious clenches?

    2. Is this what things like Yoga and Buddhism are all about in the first place?

    3. Could we just be doing this shit in a cosmetic mirror? WTF?



    cosm ic


    • 1. see 2

      2. yes. it’s basically an issue of mindfulness, which is ultimately the foundation of both those modalities. that is, you can only unclench when you know you’re clenching first. once you know you’re clenching, whenever you clench, you can witness it, and make an effort to relax that particular clenching. Though I guess that works against my hypothesis that forgiveness comes from unconscious letting go over time. Maybe it’s the general practice of letting go, that allows some things to be released without mindfulness. but generally i think it takes awareness to realize you’re holding on to something, to eventually let it go.

      i really like the connection to that article. i do think it’s similar parts of our brains. RE: 3, the problem is, it doesn’t matter how long you look in a mirror, many (most?) emotional clenching won’t be visible, bodily or otherwise. To see the lack of an arm, is to let the right hemisphere of the brain gain spacial awareness and release the proprioception it previously had for that arm.

      The mirror has to be internalized which is, basically, what mindfulness is – being present and able to compassionately acknowledge what arises in the mind. Hold the mirror up to your own nature.

      As ’twere.

  2. awesome

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