Sunday, January 2, 2011

palimpsest.

I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."
~Maya Angelou

my friend just posted this on her status. it was part of a longer excerpt, and right when i hit this part, it hit me back. in the time it takes to reheat a cold cup of coffee, i thought one hundred thoughts.

i've read maya's memoirs, and liked them very much. what a life...love and sorrow and sex and struggle and poverty and success...and all along, learning. she was always learning. i saw her speak at wvu many years ago, in the student union, which is cavernous. and she still took up space. she is big...her presence, her stature, her voice. big, but not intimidating. solid.

maya is right about forgetting. forgetting what people have said and done is why the people who are in your life are still there. i have a habit of kicking people out of my life...sometimes directly, abruptly...when i can't forget any longer or when i can't deal with the frustration that comes along with giving a damn. other times it is emotionally...that's what you do to the people who stick around. despite how you will let them down, they somehow know to stay. the "wall" metaphor, it's not quite right. people don't have walls; they have doors...wide open or slammed shut or cracked just a little. giving is complicated. it makes your world smaller; your options, fewer. giving means not knowing what will happen next...even though you can never know anyway. the illusion of control is powerful. and sometimes, the only control you have is to continually create chaos. so you hesitate and stumble and give a little but not nearly as much as you want, and then you make apologies to the people you shut out, even if only as a whisper to yourself, amidst the strange realization that you are not as wide open as you thought. age and time alone allow for an objective view of the self that is often surprising.

people will never forget how you made them feel. that part reminded me of an old love. years ago he told me—over the many years of us, in different conversations that i've pieced together like a puzzle—how he felt so proud when i walked into a room, how amazed he was at the way i took care of him, how he was afraid that no other woman would love him the way i had. in earlier years, those words went straight to my heart. now, they go straight to my head. i never felt that love from him. it was almost always in words, as if it only existed in his mouth, just like a taste. lingering, then fading off. he would resent me for saying that. he would say that he tried, and that nothing he ever did was good enough. he would say i had to have everything the way i imagined it should be and that dee, you can't tell someone how to love you. and he is right, a little. my love for him, it was so big. it had a presence. like maya angelou in the student union. it was an urgent, overwhelming, i-can't-live-without-you kind of feeling. i'm not sure i'm capable of that again. nor do i want to be. age and time alone allow an objective view of love that is often surprising.

i wonder why maya said forget, not forgive. the two words seem inextricably linked, at least rhetorically. i think about the balance between forgiving and forgetting, and the lack thereof, that has lead and continues to lead people in and out of my life. friends, loves, family, all of it. all this forgiving and forgetting, it builds up, uneven and thick like scar tissue. sometimes i can't help but to look at it, run my fingers over it. learning, always learning.

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