As I write this, we are in what is known in the Jewish Community as the “Days of Awe.” Granted, a lot of the Days of Awe are spent with half of our number saying things like, “Aww, man, do we really have to go to temple again? We just went!” But that’s not the kind of Awe we’re talking about. No, these are the ten days in between Rosh Hashonah and Yom Kippour, the days in between the Jewish New Year (which is actually in the middle of the year – seriously, don’t ask) and the Day of Atonement in which we are supposed to think about all the things we have to atone for, and go about atoning for them. We also eat lots of sweet things, like honey, to justify eating sweets in the name of having a sweet year.
It’s also the period of time where, allegedly, God makes His plans for the rest of the year about who is going to live, who is going to die, and how it is all going to happen. Of course, we also believe 100% in free will, so go reconcile that, I dare you. You know what they say – two Jews, three opinions. So it’s fair enough to say one Jew, two opinions. I guess that’s why so many of us (including me) are lawyers, because it is so easy for us to argue both sides of an issue and split legal hairs.
All of this lesson in comparative religions is merely to point out that I’ve been a little bit self-reflective lately. I’ve spent a lot of time focusing on the enormous pile of excrement also known as the things I’ve screwed up royally over the past year.
I don’t like examining these things. They make me feel squicky and embarrassed. My stomach is not fond of the hard work that goes into the days of awe. I’d much rather think about the things I did right. There are a number of things I did correctly, properly, and in ways for which I am proud. I know that.
But still. I’ve said awesomely stupid things. I’ve ‘replied all’ when saying off-color jokes meant for one. I’ve made mistakes, given advice that turned out to be terrible in retrospect, I’ve lost my temper, I’ve said hurtful things, and generally fallen short of being all that I could be. My kids have plenty to speak to future therapists about. My husband has plenty to complain about over beers with his buddies. I don’t call my mother nearly enough.
I’ve been, in a word, human.
I do my best to forgive myself for my own humanity, but it’s hard. I replay those boneheaded moments over and over again like GIFs. Yeah yeah yeah, I did something good over here, but did you see THAT. That takes it all away. It’s sudden death. It doesn’t matter how many wins you have – you lose one time, and it all goes away.
Except it doesn’t. It’s important to remember that feeling of hot shame and how yucky it is, because if you keep it in the back of your mind, it will serve as a trigger not to do whatever placed it there in the first place. Forgive yourself for your own humanity, but don’t forget your fragility, your capacity to stick your foot in your mouth and swallow the whole thing, boot, laces, and all. Remember: forgiving and forgetting are two completely different entities. If you can do that, if you can forgive and remember all at the same time, you have truly fulfilled the purpose of the days of awe.
As for me? Not so much. I forgive others for their humanity a lot more easily than I do myself, because I know I should know better. It’s easier for me to forgive from a distance – I have to live inside my own brain, and that’s a frightening, twisty place. But, just like comedy equals tragedy plus time, more often than not forgiveness equals colossal mistake plus time. And no matter what kind of stupid thing I’ve just done, time marches on. Nothing I do in my tiny little insignificant capacity is important enough to affect the space-time continuum.
And that? That is truly awesome.