Forgive Thyself

Last week, I wrote a blog in which I admitted that I had written the words why do I do that thing that I hate in the notebook in which I write blog ideas and had completely forgotten what I meant. I was sitting in church this past Sunday, half-heartedly listening to our pastor’s homily. He is an excellent homilist, and normally I am transfixed by his words. That day, however, I was more transfixed by coming up with ideas for Christmas gifts for my grands. As various gift ideas wandered around my mind like the Israelites wandered around the desert, I suddenly heard our pastor say, “Why do I do the things that I hate.”

I snapped to attention, and realized he was referring to St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, 7:15, in which (according to my Catholic New American Bible, which can’t be that new because I’ve owned it for most of my adult life) Paul says, What I do, I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.

And as quick as can be, I remembered that a few Sundays ago, our New Testament reading had included exactly that passage. The priest had simply shortened Paul’s always lengthy prose to something we could more easily remember. Why do I do the thing that I hate.

I also recalled that the reason I wrote it down had nothing to do with my blog. The words simply captured me, and reflected the way I feel much of the time these days.

I’m pretty unforgiving of myself when I err. I find this ironic, because I forgive others pretty easily. I don’t however, cut myself much slack. My daughter-in-law Lauren told me recently that whenever I am ready to get mad at myself, I should think about what I would say to my sister or best friend had they made the same mistake. Her suggestion has made me cut back on the number of times that I tell myself, “You are so stupid.” I would never call a friend or a loved one stupid.

The thing about which I am hardest on myself is my role as Bill’s care partner. He is such a model of excellence in the way he handles having PD. I couldn’t be prouder of him. But in the same way that Bill suddenly learned he had to live with a difficult disease, I learned that I suddenly had to be his care partner.

I remember the first time I was alone with my son Court when we first came home from the hospital. My husband went off to work. The door shut. I looked down at Court’s sweet face and thought, “What in the hell am I supposed to do now? No one trained me to care for an infant.” That’s kind of what I feel very often these days. I am wholly unprepared for this journey.

And yet I’m not. Because as the phrase suggests, Bill and I are partners in his care. And he’s an excellent partner, and I believe he thinks the same of me. If I forget to remind him to take his pills, the world won’t end. So I shouldn’t do that thing that I hate, namely, blame myself.

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