I have no idea what, if anything, these three topics have to do with each other. But they’re what’s on my mind, so here goes.
On the protective value of anger
Forgiveness has been a big topic, going all the way back into the dark-dark ages. I’m talking about people forgiving people, not gods forgiving people, which is a different and even more parlous topic.
Modern proponents of forgiveness cite its personal healing value. Forgiveness, they say, doesn’t mean that you excuse a bad thing someone else did, and it certainly doesn’t mean you lay yourself open to being clobbered all over again. Forgiveness, they say, isn’t about the other person at all. It’s about you living at peace with yourself. About putting grudges and anger behind you.
This all makes a certain amount of philosophical, spiritual sense. Anger and brooding are unpleasant. They don’t feel good and don’t improve us as people.
Yet it seems to me that there’s something huge left out of all the urgings toward forgiveness. And that is this: if you put a bad thing behind you and let go of your anger about it, then how do you, as a practical matter, avoid being victimized by the same thing (deed, person, institution) again?
Merely having a cool-headed intellectual understanding (“The IRS stole all my money, but I don’t feel anything about it” or “So and so will lie at the drop of a hat, but that no longer eats at me”) isn’t enough. Yes, you can say, “I remember that Jennifer is a manipulator and I’m going to avoid getting close to her because of it,” or “When Gerald gets abusive, I’ll just leave.” But if you don’t have some real negative emotion behind such resolutions, you’re likely to get buffaloed next time Jennifer or Gerald tries to charm you or promises that they won’t do the bad thing again.
Anger — unpleasant though it is — is also both armor and incentive. When you remember “so-and-so’s” foul deeds, not only in your head but in the pit of your gut, you’ll protect yourself way better in the future than if you’re all sunshine and lollipops about it.
Yes, forgiveness undoubtedly feels better in the moment, but does it feel better in the long run if forgetting the anguish leads you to walk right back into similar situations?
I’m all in favor of forgiveness, in a way. Yet it seems to me that those who promote it are leaving out that crucial “how to you protect yourself” element.
On dogs, or one diva dog in particular
At 13, Robbie is a tired old guy who mostly just likes to lie around and sleep. Lately he’s also developed a lot of fears and he often wants to lie with his head on my lap for comfort. Knowing he’s not going to be around all that much longer, I’m happy to shower him with all the affection and comfort he wants.
This situation is intolerable to Ava, who’s always been the star of her own life and expects all the human world to be as bedazzled by her as she is by herself. (There’s good reason her nicknames are Ava Diva and Her Royal Highness Princess Ava Prettypaws.)
Robbie snuggling against me automatically signals Ava to get in my face, wiggling frantically to make herself larger and more noticeable. If that doesn’t work, she goes and finds a ball which, though she may have abandoned that very same ball 30 seconds ago, simply must be thrown for her right this minute.
She’s not above trying to physically insert herself between Robbie’s head and my lap. Five years ago, Robbie would have threatened to remove her face over such an intrusion, but now he just sighs and moves away.
Only one thing deters Ava from her attention seeking. It’s this:
Since I bought it at the millionaire garage sale in June, Ava has slowly dismantled this large stuffed dog. Where Robbie (again, in the olden days) would have shredded it in five minutes after I brought it home, Ava has taken five months merely to behead it. Once every evening she drags it from her toy basket and spends a leisurely hour nibbling on it and pulling out just this much of its green foam stuffing.
During that hour Robbie is allowed to be the most loved dog in the house.
I rarely ever buy new clothes. Other than undies and socks, everything in my closet comes from garage sales or thrift stores. Shoes, especially. New, they’re so expensive and why pay $70 or more when the very same pair will turn up at the Ministerial Association store for $3 a year later?
But this year, as summer closed, I was seriously in need a good, water-resistant woods-walking shoes or hiking boots and the usual garage-sale/thrift store magic just wasn’t working. The two pair of walkers I’ve been alternating all year have holes in them and leak like a Washington, DC, bureaucracy. I thought I was going to have to break down and buy new ones at the hardware store. (Yes, around here you buy shoes at the hardware store. You also buy office supplies at the lumber yard. What can I say? Small town.)
Then yesterday I came upon a beautiful pair of suede walkers, so new it looked as if they’d never even left the original owner’s living room. They fit perfectly and were so softly padded inside that I feel as if I’m walking on clouds.
I also feel as if I’m walking on bowling balls. The soles on these are of a design that was trendy three or four years back. The entire bottom of the shoe curves like a rocking-horse runner so the thickest part is under the arch, rather than at the heel. The concept was that these soles would “tone” a person’s legs, and I suppose they do; they definitely exercise different muscle groups than regular walkers.
I have no idea whether the design was successful or not. But for sure a certain number of trend followers wore these “rocking shoes” once or twice, said “ACK!,” and shoved them in the back of a closet, to be donated later to some good cause.
In the last few years, I’ve bought several pair of them, all looking out-of-the-box new.
I love “trends.” Three years after the fact, I get cool kitchen gadgets, fancy jackets, and great pairs of shoes from people who’ve moved on to the next “in” thing.
You get used to the “bowling ball” feeling after a while and don’t even notice it.
Dry feet. Good thing in this climate. Even if I did have to pay a whole $5 for this pair.