So you all know I read. Pretty much all my “spare” time and unspare too is spent with my nose “buried in a book“, as my mother has been saying since I was old enough to hold onto one. And I read everything, both fiction and non-fiction. When I was a child, I used to tell my parents I was afraid of the dark so they would leave the hall light on. Then I could lay upside down on my bed and see my books by that angled dim light. I read the news, biographies, novels, classics, memoirs, history, magazines, current commentary, blogs authored by both the famous and the un-famous, travel guides – you name it. I read gossip at people.com, I look at CNN.com at least five times a day, and I read cook books like they were juicy romances. I read Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations and the dictionary. I love to read books that get everyone talking and books that my friends have read. I love it when I find something with which I strongly identify. I love books.
So a couple of weeks ago, I wrote a blog called Forgiveness which I put up and brought right back down. And then strangely enough I picked up a memoir from my mother’s book pile in Maine and there it was – Mennonite in a Little Black Dress by Rhoda Janzen. I read the first page and thought oh I am not going to like this she is trying too hard for the laugh. But I kept on going. And I found profound thoughts and words scattered throughout this book.
Like many women, I can take a hearty string of expletives, but Nick really knew how to go for the jugular. He had a knack for it. I didn’t mind the broken fans, the amputated chairs, the shattered glass, the holes in the wall. I minded the hurtful things he said to me.
Perhaps because I am a writer, or perhaps because I mean what I say, I attributed the same intentionality of expression to Nick. I thought that at some level he must have meant the terrible things he said.
“Damn,” I said again. “Middle age is all about learning to live with ambiguity.”
It was easy for me to show compassion and understanding for Flip’s suffering, since Flip had never hurt me personally. But it is much harder to show compassion and understanding when we are the ones being hurt directly, when the wrecking ball of someone else’s misery takes us down, too.
I know a woman who is still holding on to her feelings of betrayal after twenty-two years!
Are there not other ways to process abandonment than through the lens of our own victimization and anger?
Who knows how we can be both good and bad, both hurt and hurtful? The answer is that none of us knows.
And since even the most virtuous among us displays this adiaphorous morality, what if we agreed just to let people be who they are, since we can’t change them anyway?
And lastly on p. 175
But I have come to believe that virtue isn’t a condition of character. It’s an elected action. It’s a choice we keep making, over and over, hoping that someday we’ll create a habit so strong it will carry us through our bouts of pettiness and meanness.
So here it is. A beautiful well-thought expression of anger, betrayal, the search for forgiveness. And lots of other things too. A lovely memoir from a woman who has explored her innards. I want to meet Rhoda and I want her to be my new BFF. I think we could have marvelous conversations after which at least one of us, me, will be a better person. A person who has been given a new idea. All I want from any book I read is one good idea. And I got a few from this one. Thank you Rhoda.