I’ve got to begin by being a fan girl for just a few minutes. Guess who I got to meet last week at the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention? Charlaine Harris! Darynda Jones! Molly Harper! And Robyn Peterman! And they were all lovely and wonderful and gracious and totally cool. And funny! They were all exactly who you would expect them to be. Interestingly, all these authors write in the first person, and while they are all different than the characters they’ve created, of course, their actual voices are remarkably reminiscent of their book voices. Nowhere was this more evident than with the inimitable Robyn Peterman. It must be hard for these authors to have rabid fans come up and tell them how much we love them and how much we enjoy their books. I know they appreciate it, but it must be weird to be accosted total strangers who act like they know you. But I do feel like I know these women. And I do love them. Especially Robyn Peterman. She is the bomb. And, the convention happened to coincide with the release of her latest Fashionably Dead book, Fashionably Fanged, and while I didn’t have a lot of time to read last week, I’ve been catching up since I got back, and it’s just as full of awesome sauce as the rest of this laugh-out-loud series.
As with all of her hilarious books, Robyn Peterman’s latest offering is funny with an undertone of seriousness. As Ms. Peterman said at the conference, comedy isn’t funny unless it also includes pathos. I need my laughs with a side of tears, please. In this case, our heroine, Venus, is a kick ass Vampyre warrior who is part of the monarch’s inner circle. She is also a former slave whose entire family was tortured and killed by a sadistic landowner. This horrible human being got his just desserts when Venus, after becoming a Vampyre, terminated him with extreme prejudice. Since then, Venus has been searching for his wife, Claudia, who stood by and watched as Venus’ loved ones were slaughtered. Except when Venus finds Claudia, who is also a Vampyre now, all is not what it seemed and forgiveness is the watchword of the day. Venus had already gotten in some practice with forgiveness, as she had also been called to forgive her mate, Gareth, for being a manwhore and for not claiming her earlier. I found myself admiring Venus. She seemed able to let go of anger and truly embrace the adage that forgiveness is letting go of all hope of having a better past. Me, not so much.
I struggle with forgiveness. Not with the petty stuff; I’m usually more than willing to overlook that. I’m also not one to hold a grudge, and if someone is sorry and asks for forgiveness, I don’t think I’ve ever denied such a request. Unfortunately, not all of those who have wronged me (or who I think have wronged me) have sought absolution from me. The part I find most challenging about forgiveness is letting go of past actions and moving on when the perpetrator of crimes against me doesn’t see that they did anything wrong and/or they keep doing it.
I have three people on my hard to forgive list. They are all related to me, unsurprisingly. Family is where the heart is and where the knife through the heart resides as well. No one can hurt us like those we love, because we are the most vulnerable to those to whom we’ve given our hearts—or those who claimed them because we can’t choose our parents.
You all know about my mother. Narcissistic nightmare. Enough said. I’ve worked hard to forgive her. To understand that she was damaged and sick and all that stuff. I also understand that my holding onto whatever shit I’m still clutching isn’t doing her any harm at all. She’s six feet under, and she can’t change a damn thing. She was a horrible mother and she scarred me for life. But I want to forgive her. I want to finally, completely and absolutely release all the anger and grief and frustration that she inspired in me. I am not stupid, and I do realize that I will never have the childhood I always wanted and that I will never have a mother who loved me—in any recognizable semblance of that emotion. What’s done is done and let the dead bury the dead—whatever that means. I’m over it. Finally. Thankfully.
I’m also having a hard time forgiving my brother—my mother’s ultimate victim. He is a disaster and I know exactly how and why he ended up the way he did and why he’s done the terrible things he’s done. But I can’t feel all warm and fuzzy toward him. I don’t wish him ill, but neither can I be a part of his life anymore. Continuing to subject myself to his abuse would be masochistic and suicidal and I am neither.
So where do I go with all of this? Like Venus, I can’t change my past. But unlike her, neither can I just cozy up to those who hurt me and say, “All is forgiven, let’s sing Kumbaya.” My mother has been gone almost four years, and the absence of additional offense has helped mellow my feelings for her. I can’t change my past and I won’t give her any more of my present or my future. Done. My brother? Well, he continues to be a heartbreaker, but I think I would forgive him if he asked and if our future relationship diverged from our past. But he has no interest in that. Can I forgive him? Yes—for the past. Unfortunately, he continues to behave badly in the present and it’s difficult to ignore that reality, so the forgiveness needs to be an ongoing activity with him.
And who is the last, most challenging person on my list of those who need my pardon? Me, that’s who. I find it almost impossible to forgive myself for my myriad trespasses. All the tasks I failed to perform. The food I eat when I shouldn’t. The exercise I don’t do. The gossip I don’t avoid. The bitching and whining I indulge in far too often. Every day there are things for which I castigate myself and then continue to self-flagellate well beyond any reasonable expiration date. It’s almost impossible to let that shit go, and of course it’s by far the most toxic.
And then, ironically, I need to forgive myself for not forgiving myself. And I don’t and the cycle continues. Vicious and pointless yet seemingly unending. Sucks to be me. But I’m guessing I’m not alone in all this self-condemnation. For many of us, no one is harder on us than we are. And maybe all that crushing judgement that we heap upon ourselves slides off our own plates and onto those of others we condemn and then fail to forgive. Wow. I’m going deep and dark. Too much pathos and not enough humor. Better get back to Venus and the porno grannies—although I’m going to save those old bats for another post—but don’t forget about them, they rock.
Where will I leave this? Unresolved. We ask God to forgive us our trespasses, and God knows, I’m not God or anything close to him/her/it. So I will continue to struggle with forgiveness. And I will continue to enjoy reading about these important themes in wonderful books by wonderful authors like Robyn Peterman. And in case I haven’t mentioned it lately, writers are my rock stars and Robyn Peterman is the Big Dipper.