Several blogs back, I wrote about my first real love and what a disastrous screw-up and total horror show that relationship turned out to be. Names were changed to protect a certain party’s identity, but it was something I needed to get off my chest. The only person who would know any of those details and recognize said individual was my friend Eric, who’d lived through part of it with me. (You can read about it here if you’re interested: https://melissacrandall.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/all-the-wrong-reasons/)
On January 14, I received the following email:
Melissa, something inside me told me to Google your name last week and one link to another landed me to your home page and your daily blog. As I started reading back thru the entries I came upon the one that featured a person named Alex I believe. As I read, the pain and sorrow of how I hurt you came screaming back. I have never been able to forgive myself for my immature and insensitive behavior towards someone that I did love. I am so very sorry. I had hoped that an opportunity to tell this to you face to face would have presented its self but, I felt that it needed to be said now. I can’t ignore a sense that time is short. When you obtained your freedom, I began serving my sentence. I know where and what hell is- it is having to live knowing what you have done and being helpless to correct your past sins. This has haunted me till this day. I am sincerely and profoundly sorry for all the hurt, pain and disrespect that I directed to you. You didn’t deserve it, I am sorry.
It was signed by the individual in question, the man I referred to in my blog as ‘Alex.’
I was astonished. I never expected to receive such a letter, ever. My hands shook a little and I experienced a weird sort of vertigo, two conflicting sensations at the same time. On the one hand, I felt a bottomless swirl of mixed emotions, all of the rage and sorrow and self-recrimination and hatred and despair and loss I’d experienced long ago (but not the love, I’m happy to say; no, the love I once felt is dead, buried, and gone to dust). I also experienced, quite unexpectedly, a deep sense of satisfaction and the sensation of a long-open wound closing at last.
I went first to my husband and read him the email. “What are you going to do?” he asked.
What, indeed. There was no question that I would respond. (Common courtesy dictated that much.) But how? A dozen possibilities went through my mind. In the end, I left it at this: “Thank you for your letter.”
Why didn’t I write more? Mostly because, at the time, I didn’t know what to write. I wanted to acknowledge the letter, but was not certain what to do beyond that, if anything. I needed some time to process.
I’ve had that time.
So here is an open letter in response:
Thank you for your letter. I accept your apology.
It’s hard for me to use the word “forgive” when I think about all that went down between us. I long ago accepted my share of the responsibility in not standing up for myself, in not walking away from you right at the start. It’s up to you to bear the burden of your behavior. If I have, indeed, forgiven you, it was not for your sake, but for my own. I had to forgive you if only to move forward in my life without carrying the weight of all the hatred and resentment and hurt I felt by the end of our relationship. I’d already suffered at your hands for four years; I wasn’t about to give you one second more.
The larger work I had to do lay before me — learning to forgive myself for allowing you to treat me like shit. That took a lot more work because I had over 20 years of practice in not thinking well of myself, in not recognizing my own self-worth, in thinking I had to take whatever life tossed at me rather than holding out for what I really wanted and what was good for me. It’s been a long road. I still have days when the work is harder than others, but mostly I’ve learned to have a little backbone, to not worry about losing people if I stand up for myself, to realize that I may have warts, but there are also some pretty nice things about me, too, and the people I want in my life are the people who recognize that.
I have a good life. I hope you have the same, although I don’t wish to know about it one way or the other. You are a part of the past, an unhappy memory laid to rest, and there is no place for you in my world.