How Should I Feel Today?

19 Mar

How Should I Feel, Today?

Today a man died who spent the last thirty years of his life hating me, disrespecting me, disrespecting my children, and taking great glee in my many misfortunes—and I gave him much over the years to be happy about. And although I must admit at times I yearned for this day to come, that yearning subsided many years ago. At this stage of my life, rarely does an event happen for which I do not have a clear-cut stance, emotion or response, but today I have no idea what I am supposed to feel.

I tell my students that many times the best writing happens when we have no answers to our questions. Writing then gives us the opportunity to explore our feelings and exorcize our emotions if necessary, so I thought I’d write an elegy this morning.

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can pay this nameless soul is that he forced me to become a better man. The day he laughed in my face when I told him I was going to law school provided the motivation I needed to see my way through seven difficult years of college. The fact neither he nor his wife showed their faces at any of my graduations just made the accomplishments that much better. But later, as my life imploded and he laughed and mocked my many failures, he taught me another great lesson.
Success is the greatest revenge.
There is an old cliché about trying many bold things will result in many bold failures—something like that. I tried many bold things and had many bold failures. I also had many failures because of my own stupidity. At one time of my life, I often ascribed my failures to bad luck. After my law office was destroyed in a fire that consumed one whole city block of my hometown, I lamented the bad luck of having my insurance lapse three weeks before the fire. An attorney friend of mine replied that wasn’t bad luck, that was just stupid. His words had a tremendous impact many years later on my life. I say many years later because I still had a whole lot of “stupid” left in me waiting to come out.
All of that stupidity gave great pleasure to this deceased man who delighted in my many misfortunes and who never missed a chance to be rude to me or my family. Then came a day when rock bottom slapped me on the cheek, and the thoughts of others no longer mattered. I found myself in a desperate struggle to survive.
I discovered who truly loved me, the friends who were more than friends, the family who were truly family. I also learned that no one else mattered.
The good thing about rock bottom is you have two options. You can lie in the filth you created and quit. That was never an option for me. The other: there is only one way out, and that is up!
I began a systematic reclaiming of my life. I returned to school. I started a new career. I took control and instead of blaming my mistakes on bad luck, I began to make my luck. I took all the small steps necessary to place myself in a position to be successful. I went without instead of using shortcuts. I worked endlessly and tirelessly, educating myself in areas I had little or no knowledge. In 2002 I didn’t even know what an email was, but I had decided to return to college. Once again, I could hear the laughter of my number one detractor in my ears. Once again, I felt that old motivation.
Over the years, many things changed–including me. The thoughts of my detractor no longer provided motivation, or anything. They no longer mattered. If someone could profess to be a Christian and still act the way he did, then they had bigger problems than their hatred for me. It still upset me that I believed he punished my children for keeping me as a part of their lives, but he soon saw he could not interfere in that arena. Sadly, all he did was affect their feelings for him.
Today my greatest concern is that he is being judged by his maker for his actions, and I am sure my name will be mentioned prominently. I take no satisfaction in this. I would much rather have a positive impact on a person’s life. I would rather help a person achieve in a positive manner instead of in a negative way as this man affected me. I would hope to leave positive memories in the minds of those who may even mourn my passing.

But today, my thoughts are on the waste of life and precious time that occurs when lies and bitterness, hatred and hypocrisy control our existence. Because no amount of attending church on Sunday morning or eating of communion can atone for the way we act during the week. Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from this person was that a lifetime of bitterness and hatred shrinks a soul to a life of inconsequence. Eventually, people will forget you and your feelings for them, and go on with their lives. You will be left with your hatred and bitterness as your own communion. So today I now know how I am supposed to feel. Today I know I must release any old grudges; I must forgive and forget all grievances.
There was a time when I had sworn to drink a 12 pack and be the first to piss on this man’s grave. Today all I can do is say a prayer for his soul. Perhaps in the end, this man made me a better man than I could ever have been without him.

I hope this thought doesn’t cause him to roll over in his grave!

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9 Responses to “How Should I Feel Today?”

  1. Wendy March 19, 2014 at 8:59 pm #

    What an inspiring blog! If we cannot forgive others, a bitterness can creep into our souls that can only harm ourselves. Forgiveness is for our benefit as well. Very nicely stated!

  2. Linda Govik March 20, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    What a powerful and inspirational post. I too believe in forgiving, in order to let go and move on, for your own peace of mind. It’s a very important lesson, indeed. Thank you for sharing this, and giving us the chance to reflect and learn!

  3. Pat Allen March 20, 2014 at 4:14 pm #

    I was struck by your point of view and the sad, lost, loneliness in your words. I’m not sure how I feel about how you felt, though. I would like to believe that you went back to school and ultimately made a success of yourself because you wanted to and not because someone else disliked you.

    The only criticism I offer is to use a darker font. The light gray is too hard to read.

  4. alanyount March 21, 2014 at 1:06 am #

    I really understand this post because . . . today Fred Phelps, “pastor” of the Westboro Baptist “Church” died. Rather than dwell on all the bad done by this man, I pray that he has found peace (and the truth of the Gospel!). Amen.

  5. Kelly Boyer Sagert March 21, 2014 at 1:15 am #

    I truly believe that, once a person learns the importance of forgiveness and is able to put it into practice, even under the most challenges of circumstances, his or her life will never be the same. There is peace and joy on the other side of that transformation, greater than can be achieved in any other way. I applaud you.

  6. Julie Ryan June 8, 2014 at 9:35 pm #

    forgiveness is an amazing thing. we have to learn to forgive ourselves before we can learn to forgive others. Once we can learn to let things go, it gets easier. Holding on just sucks the energy out of us and makes us hit rock bottom faster. It’s not worth it. Your post inspired one of my own http://countingmyspoons.com/2014/06/hit-rock-bottom-two-choices/

  7. Eleyne-Mari June 10, 2014 at 7:50 pm #

    I remember the first time I read “You Can Heal Your Life” by Louise Hay, scoffing at her insistence that we “chose” our parents. I had been angry at my father most of my life, so I couldn’t believe that I would have intentionally selected someone as cold and harsh and abusive as he. However….I have come to understand that my father was one of my most important teachers because he taught me how NOT to treat people. He also gave me a reason to FORGIVE, which I did, several years before his passing. Yours could not have been an easy post to write, C.D., so I thank you for sharing. Forgiveness is the key and then your heart will be free.

    • cdmitchell1964 June 10, 2014 at 8:11 pm #

      Thank you for all of the comments. You are right that this was not an easy post to write. I had no idea the direction the blog would take or how I would conclude it, and I have learned from my creative nonfiction that unlike writing fiction where I love to have a direction and an ending in mind, sometimes the best writing comes when we openly debate ourselves and draw our own conclusions with pen in hand!

      • Kelly Boyer Sagert June 10, 2014 at 8:13 pm #

        Creative nonfiction can definitely take us into a wilderness . . .

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