Thursday, July 27, 2006

Dropping Some Weight

"You know, Lily, people can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different." ~Secret Life Of Bees

I went through a phase in my spiritual journey where I was convinced that reading adult fiction was, if not evil, pretty darn close. After all, it wasn't true. Uh, ya - thank God people change.

Reading the above quote set me thinking about a conversation I had with my younger sister recently. She is working on a dvd for my parents' 50th anniversary celebration. Something that is a cross between a video and a powerpoint presentation. We have a brother who is a wiz with computers so she spent the weekend at his house getting the vision of the completed work out of her head and onto the screen.

My (two) sisters and I have kept up with one another over the years. My brothers have not. Not with each other, not with us. Any information I get about them comes through my mom. My older brother has been in my house once in 25 years and it's been nearly 20 years since my younger brother has been. To be fair there is quite a bit of distance separating us geographically but even if we had lived closer I am not sure how much more I would have seen them. My sisters and I would have been in and out of each others' houses often.

At one point in their weekend together my sister was telling my brother what was new in her life - that she was going to school and what her dreams were. He looked at her and said, "It's nice to see you have more direction than you had at 18." She shot back, "When I was 18 I was working 3 jobs. What were you doing?" Touche.

I was sitting on my deck the other day reading this book. When I read the above quote I got lost in my thoughts. I thought again about this conversation between my siblings. And I was thinking about how my brother still saw my sister as if she were still only 18. How he had her pigeon holed without much thought given to the 20 years that have flown by since then. He had an idea in his head about who she was and that was that. I thought of a homily I heard a few months ago about the dangers of boxing people in by seeing only one aspect of the truth about them. The priest said when we did, it became destructive truth. Jesus saw the truth about people but he didn't pigeon hole them by it. The priest said that to see one facet of truth about someone and have that truth enclose and define them with no hope for the greater Truth of who they were, was wrong.

No sooner had I thought about how sad it was that my brother hadn't given my sister any room to grow or change in 20 years than into my head came a barrage of questions. "How about you? How about only seeing your brother as the one who offered to take away your virginity when you were 17? And your other brother, the one who forced you to give him a blow job when you were 8? And your mother....isn't there more to her than the abuse she dished out? And what about you? Do you want your kids to pigeon hole you based on one incident of their childhood?"

Sometimes the Holy Spirit feels like a pair of boxing gloves socking it to me. I started bawling my head off as if I had been pummeled. I thought about Father Charlie telling me last month that it was possible to have a relationship with my older brother that was not defined by the abusive incident. I couldn't wrap my head around that. I thought about a movie Father Charlie had told me about - The Mission - where Robert De Niro is carrying a pack of belongings and how he loses his grip on them and they start to scatter. And try as he might, he can't pick them all up. He told me I could choose to drop the baggage I carry.

I believe forgiveness has layers. And over the years forgiveness has peeled away like sheets of onion skin paper. And I have no idea if I am at the bottom of the tablet of paper but I sat on my deck and said outloud, "Ok God, I forgive. I choose to drop the baggage. I choose to stop letting the baggage define me. I choose to stop letting my baggage define them." And I bawled and I bawled and I bawled.

And when the tears subsided I realized that by choosing all this I was also choosing to finally have a voice. That instead of jabbing my finger into their chest and saying, "This is who you are because this is what you did to me" I was now free to stand up and speak my truth with confidence. Now I could say, "This is what happened. This is how your actions affected me. But that is not the whole of who you are."

"You know, Lily, people can start out one way, and by the time life gets through with them they end up completely different." ~Secret Life Of Bees

Touche, indeed.

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