I was standing outside, watching the fireflies dance in the tall grass, when suddenly my ex-husband came to mind. I flashed back to sitting beside a campfire with him on a hot summer night in Bethel, Maine, leaning back in a chair, drinking a beer, and watching shooting stars streak across the sky. Their light was just as improbably magical to me as the winking fireflies and in that moment, I felt a rush of love for the people we were once upon a time.
I thought, not for the first time and likely not for the last, "I forgive you."
But for the first time, I also thought, "I hope he can forgive me."
We all need forgiveness. We all make mistakes. We are all human, flawed, and weak in some ways. We blaze brightly and flash across the night sky and are easily mistaken for someone other than who we really are.
It's easy to dole out punishment for that. To others -- why weren't you who I thought you were? -- and to ourselves -- how is it that I am not who I wanted to be?
It's harder to forgive. It's challenging to say, I understand that you are human, and imperfect, and I accept who you are. It's more difficult still to look in the mirror and say those words to yourself. However, at times it is necessary.
I am choosing to forgive the people in my life who have caused me pain. I am also choosing to forgive myself for being flawed and foolish.
Forgiving is not forgetting.
Forgiving IS agreeing not to throw someone's transgressions in her or his face at every opportunity . Forgiving is not "I now take this opportunity to punish you every time we have an argument." That's not forgiveness; that is a guillotine blade poised to strike every time the going gets tough.
Forgiving is remembering. Forgiving is holding on to the lesson. It's storing a map of what got you to this place in your memory. It's carving the memory of this moment into your heart so you don't find yourself precisely here again.
It's learning. About yourself. About the people you need to forgive. It's placing your expectations on a scale opposite reality and understanding the balance that evens the two out, and not holding the a grudge to counterbalance the scales.
That's forgiving. Rather than forgive and forget? Forgive and remember. Remember that those who hurt you are just doing their best, and that sometimes their best, like yours, is a jacked-up catastrophe.
But other times, it is as beautiful as a field full of fireflies, or a meteor shower in the summer sky.