I’m sitting in a hotel room in Jackson, WY, next to my BF for lyfe, Leslie. We’re beginning our road trip back to Chicago today, and making a few fun stops on the way. I’m not telling you where we’re going, just in case you’re creepy and want to follow us, but if all goes according to plan, we’ll be back in the Windy City by Thursday.
The family I nanny spends the month of July at a Jewish Summer Camp. I can’t overstate how much I miss them, and I’m so excited to see them when they get home next Sunday. But no matter how much one loves their job, one must get at least a little sad and nostalgic to bid the Fatherland goodbye and return to real life. Let me tell you a little about my trip.
On the way to Utah, I called my brother, Matt, and asked him to prep a bed for me. “Oh, yeah,” he said. “Totally.” Great, thought I. I’ll actually have a place to sleep this time. Congratulating myself on thinking ahead, I sped forward along I-80, feeding myself and Lois our combined body weight in Cheetos, and listening to the Grapes of Wrath on CD.
When I arrived on Saturday afternoon, I was greeted enthusiastically. Lois immediately bullied the other dogs into submission, and I was pointed in the direction of my bed. My “bed,” as it turns out, was a carefully constructed row of three couch cushions on the floor, with a pillow placed on the northernmost cushion. “Um,” said I, “I’ll just take the couch.”
I basically spent the next two weeks on the couch, drinking Utah beer, watching Mad Men, and eating corndogs and other healthful foods prepared by the little bros. I did get off the couch for a few nights of rabble rousing with old college pals, and I went to a lovely wedding reception for my old ladyfriend Alexa. We all got good and drunk, shot a terrible game of pool, and talked late into the night. It was swell.
Growing up, my grandparents had a cabin in Island Park. It was built on a forest preserve, so Grandpa was always yelling at us for nailing forts out of the trees and trampling the grass down too much, but it was one of those building blocks for good kid memories. After we all came to live with my Dad, he began renting a cabin in Island Park every other year or so, and this year was a lucky year!
Thankfully, my family sees vacations the way that I do: an opportunity to sit on my ass, have a smoke with coffee in the morning while I appreciate the scenery, catch up on sleep, read, eat, drink beer, burn shit, and otherwise get fat. So that’s what we did. Sure, we went to Yellowstone, but Old Faithful is basically Old Hat after all these years. After our amazing-slash-awful hike to Union Falls a couple of years ago, we played it safe and preserved ourselves from overexertion in the form of aerobic exercise of any kind.
And then, like we do every time we go to Island Park, we drove down to Jackson, and blew way too much money on a once-a-year meal with such excellent food and wine that it nearly makes me weep just to think of it (I got roasted duck boob, and gnawed the bones of Dad’s Leg-o-Lamb. Cakebread Cabernet. Superior old fashioneds. Cue weeping).
So here I sit in the hotel room, slightly hungover, simultaneously dreading and looking forward to the drive home. It’s sure to be filled with me vehemently advocating for Bernie Sanders and Leslie listening patiently, even though she’s heard it all before. She’s a hell of a friend. I hope you all have a Leslie in your life.
On a more serious note, I got a message today from somebody I haven’t thought about for a very long time. It doesn’t do anyone service to tell the story here, but a long time ago, in college, I had a friend who did some awful things. Not just to me, but to everyone around them. Most, but not all, of these things came in the form of lies so big and fat that, in retrospect, it’s almost easy to chide myself for believing them. But believe I did, and when the facade eventually came crashing down, I invited this person in no uncertain terms to never involve themselves in my life again.
Then I unconsciously set about the process of forgiving him. It look a long time. Sometimes I could ponder on it, detached enough to wonder what would drive anyone to do the things he did. On those days, I felt pity and empathy, and sorrow. Other days, I was still so angry about everything that I had to distract myself just to keep my heart rate from skyrocketing. (Side note: About a year ago, I found a can of corn in my brother’s room that had a massive dent in the side. Apparently, in a fit of rage about this person’s obscene bullshit, I had thrown the can at the brick wall in the basement. It hit the wall so hard it dented halfway through the can and my brothers kept it, although I must say it hasn’t been an effective reminder to them about what happens when Lizrage breaks loose.)
The process of forgiving is a funny thing. You almost have to forgive yourself to forgive the other person – forgive yourself for hating them, for hating yourself for allowing yourself to be hurt by them, for going through the seemingly endless cycle of anger, hurt, resentment and still not quite coming out on the other side.
But, at some point, you realize that you’re not doing yourself any good by not letting go. You certainly aren’t getting back at them. And life continues to go on, regardless of what this person did. At some point, you realize that most of the time people hurt you, it has nothing to do with you, and everything to do with them. You begin to truly experience empathy for them. And then, maybe one day, maybe over the course of many days, you realize that you are breathing easy again. Thinking of that person doesn’t catch your breath painfully in your chest, and you don’t want to throw canned corn full-throttle at brick walls anymore. You’ve forgiven them.
So anyway, this person wrote to me to apologize and ask me to forgive them. And because I know you read my blog, person, and because I said some really awful things about you to a lot of people who read my blog, I just want to say that you are fully forgiven. You were a long time ago. I still think of you from time to time, wondering where you are and what you’re up to. Sometimes I’ve even asked mutual friends if they know anything about you. I’ve wondered if you’re alive, if you’re happy, if you’ve learned how to love yourself enough to be honest with everyone else. I’ve wondered if I’ll ever hear from you again, or whether you’d remain this occasional figure in the dusty vestiges of my alcohol-reduced college memories.
Everything that happened during that year was a period in both of our lives that caused huge amounts of growth (I guess I can’t speak for you, but it certainly pushed me to be better in ways I didn’t even know I needed to.) To not forgive you would be to forget all of the wonderful times we shared together – convincing other people that we weren’t in love, reading each others’ writing, eating ramen, bitching about Mormons, and drinking boxed wine into the night.
I Facebook stalked you a little bit. You’re married. You look amazing. I’m happy for you. And you are forgiven, you dumb little shithead.