The hook

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I forgot one of my closest friend’s daughter was pregnant and so when she texted a photo of a beautiful newborn baby a month ago and said she was now officially a grandmother I was confused.

“What? Eve was pregnant? How did I not know that?” Underneath the blame-y-ness of my response was the sick feeling that this was probably on me. I have a terrible memory.

“You probably just forgot,” was Kerry’s cheerful reply. I apologized every way I could think of then cringed each time the thought dropped by later to say, “Hey, remember that crummy thing you did?”
A month down the road this thought had just become part of the ambient background noise every time I thought about Kerry, which was quite a lot this past week since we were having them over for dinner that Saturday. As we texted back and forth about the menu and who was bringing what, the fact of my self-involvement (because what else explains forgetting such a thing) became the underlying subtext of our conversation in my mind. Then Saturday came and I woke up feeling bad. Was I sick? I did feel a little bit ill. But when the thought, “I wish it were Sunday,” followed, I knew I wasn’t sick. I was dreading the day because I felt guilty.

As I tried to figure out what to do about this situation since throwing myself at the Jordan’s feet and begging for forgiveness in a second round of apology was probably not going to set a festive tone, it occurred to me that I was going to have to be the one to let myself off the hook.

Okay, how? What does one have to do to earn this release? An image of that ever-patient card reader at Shaw’s and Hannaford’s providing me the opportunity to donate to muscular dystrophy or some other very worthy concern flashed before my eyes.

Done. From here on I will always, ALWAYS, donate. What’s more, I will swing by the bank later this morning to get a roll of dollar bills ready to go for additional spontaneous donations. I felt instantly better. Unfortunately, it was a fleeting feeling of wellbeing. It didn’t add up. I can’t just buy my amnesty.

I thought and thought. Then I just knew. It was simple and so obvious. The trade for letting myself off the hook was letting everybody else off the hook, too.

I tested it out. Could I actually do that? Truthfully, why should everyone get to be let off the hook? Shouldn’t we sometimes be on the hook? However, as I worked this over, a line I’d written down the week before while listening to one of Virgin Pulse’s new mindfulness programs came to mind:

“I wish for this person to be happy.”

This line, a bit of a different spin on a loving kindness meditation, clarified something for me about this hook. Letting people off it isn’t about disregarding their responsibility. It’s just about believing in their fundamental goodness and therefore wanting the most basic of graces for them: happiness.

I tested it out further, reviewing in my mind a string of old situations I possibly might not be inclined to let slide. Did I believe in that person’s basic goodness and therefore could I wish for them to be happy? Put like that, yeah. Pretty easily, actually. One after the other, I let them off. The hook is not a happy place to be.

And now for the big one. What about me? Do I believe in my basic goodness? It’s kind of a rigged question because most everyone qualifies, but maybe that’s the point. The hook is no place for anyone to be. And in the end we had a beautiful time together Saturday night. No amount of throwing myself to the floor could have made anybody happier.