Forgive… and Forget If You Can

Traveling with my mother across Wyoming toward Salt Lake City, I droned on and on about a recent embarrassment, dissecting every disastrous detail, even though the poor woman was present when I humiliated myself.

contentA month before, as a student speaker at my junior college graduation, I had astonished both the audience and myself: During the random minutes not obligated to finals or my boyfriend — the current love of my life and thus quite distracting — I outlined, practiced, and memorized my speech. Then I misjudged my mental capacity and carried no notes with me to the podium.

Halfway through my memorized words, I ran out of them. Like a discordant music box winding down, I lurched between blurted phrases and agonizing silences, then died: “My fellow graduates and I have…my fellow graduates and… My-y-y-…………..”

What an impressive sight: eyes bulged, mouth agape, mind blank. Mom looked horrified; Dad hung his head until his forehead rested on his knees; and my siblings tried to appear unrelated. Twenty seconds of absolute silence crawled by while I stood mute, trying to reconnect with my brain.

Four weeks later, as Mom and I passed Evanston, I continued to obsess about the sea of eyeballs riveted on my stricken face as I searched for my AWOL words — until Mom abruptly interrupted my monologue.

“Janet, let it go,” she said with rather more force than I thought appropriate. “Learn what you can from the experience, forgive yourself, and move on. Dwelling on it does no one any good. Least of all me.”

I sat in offended silence for several miles, but over the years I remembered my mother’s words. Eventually, I realized I could readily forgive my friends and loved ones when they hurt my feelings, dropped cherry pie on my new carpet, forgot a commitment, or wore out their welcome, but I didn’t extend the same courtesy to myself. Finally, I began to follow Mom’s advice: to learn what I can from my foibles, then let go of them by forgiving myself.

But, forgiven though I am, I find some incidents impossible to forget.

1st year teacherAs an anxious student teacher, I gazed out the window of a classroom still echoing with the clamor of recently departed students. Below on the lawn, I could see two robins fighting over a worm; I related to the prey.

“Mrs. Phillips isn’t angry; she’s just worried about Rose’s grades,” my supervising teacher told me, “Remember to greet her, then introduce yourself, encourage her to talk, and listen carefully before you answer. You know Rose and her work well; you’ll be fine. And I’ll be here if you need me.”

Then she added, “One caution, Janet: Don’t stare at Mrs. Phillip’s nose. It’s huge, and according to rumor, she’s sensitive about it.”

As I waited for Rose’s mother to arrive, I studied the construction-paper daffodils dancing around the room and worried.

Mrs. Phillips entered. I stood and stared.

“Good afternoon, Mrs. Phillips. I’m Janet Bohart, Mrs. Miller’s student teacher. I understand you want to talk to me about your daughter’s nose.”

Forgive myself, yes; forget, never.

 

 

 

 

 

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70 thoughts on “Forgive… and Forget If You Can

  1. Oh, I’m laughing and feeling sorry for you at the same time. Too bad your supervisor even mentioned it. You might not have noseticed, I mean noticed. Back when I was trying to get over the fallout of my brother’s life and death I read something on facebook that answered my question. “Forgiveness is accepting that you can’t change the past.” Nothing there about forgetting and I think “forgive and forget” is kind of a stupid idea since no one wants to be burned twice by the same stove…

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  2. Oh no. You broke one of the Ten Commandments: Thou shalt take notes with thee when thou makest speech. Then you added to the dastardly deed by calling attention to it for weeks on end. Then you made the offense worse by stewing in offended silence when Mom told you, “Don’t worry, be happy.” You should be ashamed of yourself.

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  3. Such wise words that we all need to remember, we can be so hard on ourselves. I had to laugh at your closing comments, you are hilarious!

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    • No such luck, Barbara, she said, quite coldly, “My daughter’s name is Rose.” I quickly apologized for misspeaking, and launched into how much I enjoyed Rose Things went OK after that, but I knew by Mrs. Phillips’ flushed face that I’d offended her, and I felt terrible.

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  4. On a sunny, though very cold January afternoon, at 35 I could not stop laughing at my Ma’s Funeral…I had never really forgiven her for sending my pony to the Fox Farm years before, there we stood, minister rabbiting on about sin, everyone passing me snot-rags, distant rattle of a logging truck, (which Ma loathed), when across the farmers field, into the graveyard came a low, determined mist, it circled the casket once, and drifted back out up the road,and took with it all my guilt, disapointment, anger, it left huge, mutual forgiveness …never spoke to anyone else about it ever. Thanks again Janet, you poor thing, for the good laugh.

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  5. A lesson that I have to remind myself of on a regular basis. Age (and life) has a way of reminding me that I am not God and that forgiveness of one’s own mistakes truly helps us when forgiving others when they’ve made mistakes….thanks for the reminder. Sometimes I’m too darn hard on myself!Beautifully written. I love how you used humor at the end to nicely wrap it up and let us know that we’re all human and all make mistakes! A great piece.😊

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    • I appreciate the connection you felt to this piece and for admitting that you are as hard on yourself as I am on myself. Being that way is quite a trap, and though I try to avoid it, I can’t always. Though sooner or later my sanity returns. Thanks for being a faithful reader.

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  6. What an excellent post Janet. Your Mother was such a wise woman and she taught me so much. I remember a time when she wanted to give me something, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I didn’t feel I should accept it. She asked me if I enjoyed giving to others and I said yes that I did. She then asked if it was right that I deny that pleasure in others. She went on to say that I should receive a gift that was offered graciously in the spirit that it was given. I had never looked at that way before I suppose because of “it is more blessed to give than receive…”. it was a powerful lesson. In the years that have followed since I received that advise her words remain wise and true.

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  7. I so enjoy your comments sharing your experiences with mom. She taught me a similar lesson about receiving gifts graciously when I complained that Bill’s mom was always wanting to give us things. Wise indeed.

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  8. Your website loaded today without any problems. And I’m glad it did!
    I loved the story at the end of this piece; it perfectly lightened the mood.
    And thanks for the reminder to not fall into the “poor, poor pitiful me” trap. It’s a distinctly human, but unattractive, quality.
    Great post!

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  9. I’m glad you liked my Rose and nose story. But I would like to say that a few days after shoulder surgery, I think I’d be feeling a bit pitiful — but I’d do my best not to wallow in it! Let me know how the physical therapy goes.

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    • Interesting thought about our judicial system and the punishment we inflict on ourselves, Troy. If I’d hatched that comparison myself, I would have used it in the post.

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  10. I love you Aunt Beulah! Even though I read where the name is a tribute to your aunt. Your transparency is freedom! …and freedom to giggle just a little bit! Thank you for sharing it.

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  11. what a great story! Even though I found it funny I too felt sorry for you as it has happened to me before and those kind of incidents are hard to forget! So yet another great blog post! It is always a pleasure to read your blog posts!

    P.s I know this is going to sound very strange but how did you manage to get so many blog followers?

    From Anna 🙂

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    • I’m glad you liked my story, Anna, and I’m sorry you’ve done the same sorts of things because it’s so embarrassing, isn’t it?

      I didn’t find your question strange at all. I, too, asked it when I was learning to blog. At first I had very few followers, but I slowly built that number by saying I would publish a post every Tuesday and sticking to my schedule without fail so readers could rely on me. I also answered every comment made on my blog, and in the next few days went to the blogs of those who left comments on mine and left a comment on one of their posts. I did the same with likes: followed up with a comment on their blog, not just a like, within the week. Soon I started to get regular visitors, and by commenting back and forth, we became friends which is the best. Before I started to get many comments or likes, I browsed blogs randomly on wordpress, leaving comments on ones I enjoyed two or three times before giving up. Often I received responses. Does that help? If not, let me know.
      Janet

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  12. After my sympathetic laughter faded here, I thought of your very good point about how we so readily forgive others but rarely extend the same courtesy to ourselves…and this was a perfect, timely reminder for what’s going on for me at the moment. Thank you for your gentle wisdom.

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  13. Friends who understand quickly move on from my mis-speaks, mistakes and missteps. When I berate myself for the foibles, I usually miss the next part of the conversation. Quite often this includes the laughter of ‘we love you’ even when you are human. Thanks for a very human story.

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