One feeling I discovered early was resentment. It was not that I had not resented things before. It was that a whole heap of resentment had been pushed down and remembered. Somehow I had not let go of it. As I began to feel, I felt this resentment in a new way. Any hard time would bring these resentments back fresh as yesterday and even more potent. Long held and deep anger resurfaced in my life. I began to lose respect for my partner. I wondered about leaving... wondering turned to working out how I could... I began to wonder when it would be... what would be the best time. I became distant and withdrawn. I became angry with her in an instant, losing all patience, not listening, reacting with hostility and defensiveness.
Feelings are natural. If we have spent time in church we will likely have learned that it is bad to resent something. The church itself has been so afraid of feelings that it has defined many natural emotions as bad. The fact is that people get angry, sad, scared, and resentful quite naturally. It happens. If you get flattened by events, she apparently goes happily to sleep in the end, and you get left awake and churning... and if that becomes a pattern, then there would be something wrong with us if we didn't get angry and resentful.
The feelings themselves are not bad. The fact that feelings of resentment rise in us tells us something is wrong. What we do with those feelings can be helpful or unhelpful.
I can choose to brood on events, rehearsing them, painting myself as more injured and her as more at fault than was really the case. I can invent events... imagining things getting worse, putting worse words in my partner's mouth. I can brew up emotion that is purely fictional in origin, but which will turn me against her.
I can use past events as weapons, rehashing old pain to humiliate her and force her on the defensive. I can refuse to forgive, holding old faults and past events over her head.
Or I can let go. This is not easy. Some things can be said and done which hurt deeply. Things can be said and done which are plain wrong. But if I do not let go of the hurt then it will fester. My experience has been that despite the best of intentions the pus flows at the worst of times unless the wounds are cleansed.
Letting go does not mean saying wrong is right. Letting go does not mean becoming a door mat.
Letting go for me has been about empathy. It has been about getting inside her skin and understanding just little of what she feels and where she is coming from. Having listened to where she comes from in her long life, I can understand some of what drives her. Having listened to what it means to be female and alone in a remote place at night, I can begin to understand the feelings that experience can raise in her. And it is under-stand. That is, it means to stand under the feelings and feel what they do. It is patronising if I think that having heard what the feelings are which she sometimes faces, then that makes them go away. That means I have not really listened or understood, for I have not really felt them. There has been no empathy.
Letting go has also been about remaining friends, and talking, loving her again. It's been about remembering the best of her, and the person I fell in love with, not making some angry hurt time be the person she is.
Ceasing to resent has been the main thing for me on the long journey of listening, and beginning to understand a little, and remaining in love. It has freed me from much of the defensiveness and automatic reactions that used to complicate every hard time we had. It has allowed me to be friends again, and appreciate just how fortunate I am to live with this woman.
July 12 2001
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