You Don’t Run Away

What’d you learn in Sunday school today? I ask her. We’re in the entryway gathering shoes, stuffing a tote with bug spray, hats, sunglasses. We’re off to the pool.

I learned that when someone is sad, you don’t run away. You hug each other, she says, slipping on Crocs.

That’s a great thing to learn, I say.

Mom! We forgot my ball! she says.

Last year, I grew sad. I let a small hurt grow into a big hurt, let a friendship snowball into something distant and unfamiliar.

We don’t hug each other much anymore, just every now and then.

I forgave my friend for the small hurt, but I didn’t forgive myself for the big one.

Forgiveness is capital H hard, isn’t it? You think you’ve got a handle on it, you think you’re ready to move on, to let it go, to forgive, perhaps even to forget, to maybe even start anew but then – boom – you’re on the path to reconciliation and find yourself spiraling into old patterns.

There’s a dry erase board wall in my kitchen that has held hundreds of reminders over the past five years – oil change @ 10am! need eggs! make dentist appt! We’ve written and erased, written and erased, but the original picture still remains slightly intact, faded and permanent, the very first game of Hangman that had ever been played on the wall.

If you squint, you can read it ever so slightly, lines and letters permeating the wall from the heavy shorthand of our friends’ 4th grade daughter: C-A-N-W-E-C-O-M-E-B-A-C-K-T-O-V-I-S-I-T-S-O-O-N?

We’ve tried to erase it completely, but it’s been there forever. It was the first mark, and first marks have a way of lingering.

Clean slates are rarely spotless.

The pool water is cold, and Bee opts for the sandbox instead. I watch her dig and build, dig and build. She buries shells, buries leaves, buries Legos.

I bury things, too.

There are times I want to just shake the mean stuff right out of my head. There are times I want to forget what she said, what I said, what I did, what I didn’t do.

There are times I want to erase it away, and then there are times that I do erase it away, except that it resurfaces the next week in a forced interaction and a lump in my throat.

Clean slates are rarely spotless.

I don’t have a solution, not yet. I know what the right answers are, and I know they have something to do with letting these things sit for awhile, giving it time, trying really hard not to screw anything up further in the process. I know there is prayer and faith and grace, and I know that when you feel like the whole of it isn’t working, it probably is.

And I know what Bee learned today. When someone is sad, you don’t run away. You hug each other.

The sun is lower now, and a swim sounds nice. Want to join me? I ask Bee. She’s still digging, still sandy, still in exploration mode.

In a long while, Mom, she says.

That’s precisely what it will take, a long while. To learn and re-learn, to not run away, to stop recoiling from past hurt but instead, to allow a hug.

To offer one, too.

Dry erase boards are never clean, never fully erased, never spotless.

Sand is never without grit.

But all fades. All softens. Over time – In a long while, Mom – if we choose to use our hands to write something new, rather than our feet to run away.

  • Love this so much it hurts a little. Wishing the best for you and your friend in your reconciliation attempts.

  • I don’t know who said it first but I find it applies in my life often: Healing happens in spirals and layers. We think we’re done, then we come right back around to do more work. I look at forgiveness not as cleaning the slate to sparking white and pristine, but as the first step in the process to let the hurt/slight/anger/sadness fade. You don’t have to pretend it didn’t happen to let it go. Hugs, Erin!

  • As I read this piece in the midst of my own long journey to forgive a friends’ hurt I am thinking “wait, I’m not alone!” And that may be my favorite feeling in the world. Thank you for your honesty.

  • This writing really spoke to my heart.My chest hurts when I think of my former friend. A small & loving (in my opinion) confrontation,by me about our a misunderstanding in communication was the beginning of the end for us. I don’t know how it all got so huge & messy. I did all I could think of (especially praying), but my friend was unwilling or unable to forgive me & let it go. I’ve loved her for years.Now, 5 years later, I see how this separation has turned out to be for the best. But, I still love her & pray for her.

  • I love the idea of using our hands to write something new, rather than our feet to run away. Sometimes sitting in that un-comfortableness is so scary that I just want to run…but there is always another way or another choice and it’s never really too late. Thanks for your beautiful insight as usual.

  • Such grace filled words on forgiveness. I found myself thinking of situations and people in my own life, and felt encouragement about the journey of forgiveness and reconciliation. Thank you!

  • How wise of Bee! Beautiful post. It’s so hard to be ok all the time and perfect. The ocean crashes on rocks and the smoothest most beautiful ones have undergone the pressure. Somehow thought of that after your post.

  • Beautiful message. I’ve been ruminating the last few days about a particular relationship, so this post offered me a new perspective. This person and I have layers and layers of hurt and passive aggressive interactions that seem like they could never be undone or smoothed over, but maybe the point has never been to completely erase them.
    I’m a newer reader to your blog and I am in awe of your way with words and perspective on life. Thank you for sharing.

    • oh heather, thank you for your encouragement! i can absolutely relate to precisely what you’re saying. it’s so hard when the layers are many! here’s to a nice sanding and refinement for us. :) big hugs.

  • It’s so lovely reading how you are learning from your daughter. I’m writing the first chapter of my PhD thesis now and a big section is about how adults have so much to learn from children (and vice versa) if we allow the space. I also love the ‘long while’ time frame…. I’m going to use it when people ask me when I’ll be finished with my PhD ;)

    • ha! that sounds like an INCREDIBLE project, katrien – best of luck piecing it together. and you are so right – SO SO much to learn from each other, but so hard to make room sometimes, yes?

  • Just stumbled onto your blog from Kate, the Small Things blog. LOVE it already! I’ve bookmarked it and you have a new daily reader. Love blogs that make me look deeper at myself and my life, and make changes…for the good!

    • oh laurie, thank you for visiting, and welcome! so kind of you to leave such a sweet note. :)

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