Guilt, forgiveness and the still-open book

Today, at the synagogue, the rabbi mentioned that the book of life is still open through Sukkot, the current holiday. We have a sukkah in the backyard, unadorned as yet, but with festive fall decorations just waiting to decorate it.

I’m feeling guilty. For good reason, and yet, it’s one of those situations of needs outstripping resources, namely, my resources. I feel awful that I couldn’t do more to help a particular friend, and I know she thinks I ought to have done more to help her than I did, but I was also overwhelmed, and feeling stuck. So, if I failed, it was a human failure, not a malicious act, but still, I haven’t been able to contact her, and I so can’t make amends.

But there was this sense of hope when the rabbi mentioned that the book of life is still open. I’m far past my imagining that god is a white man with a white beard on a white throne, book open in front of him, choosing who to include in the book of life. But the idea that windows of opportunity for forgiveness can close slowly is a nice one.

I’m feeling a bit of that with my husband. We’ve been together for 19.5 years, amazingly, and in the spring it will be 20 years since we first met and “got together.” I don’t quite feel old enough for that to be true, yet, it is. And we’ve been through so much together, as much as any member of my family and I have. We’re still working on forgiving each other for the bumps and bruises and serious scrapes that 20 years of living can cause — I think I’m more ready to forgive than he is, but that may not be precisely true.

One difference, I hope, is that when we first met, I almost couldn’t forgive him for being attracted to me. It seemed ludicrous, this gorgeous guy wanting to be with me, to marry me, to look at me with desire. And yet, there he was. But over time, as I knew myself and him better, I did understand a bit what he saw in me, and knew enough to actually be disappointed that there were things I loved about myself he didn’t love in me (and the reverse is also true). We now need to forgive each other for not seeing the best in each other more often, and do our best to give the benefit of the doubt.

We are two adorable, aggravating people. We are raising an adorable, aggravating little girl.

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In other news, I have been reading far too many versions of the story of Cinderella. Stories with bunnies, dogs, cats cast in the roles of Cinderella and her step-family. And what I would love to write (although I’ve never aspired to be a children’s book author) is the story of “Slenderella” — a sarcastic nickname given to a naturally plump and sweet girl stuck in the home of dieting stepmom and stepsisters — who discovers that the prince, contrary to the fashions of the day, prefers plump princesses to slender ones. The scene I am imagining is when the fairy godfather (okay, so I’m imagining a particular person in this role) waves his magic wand and turns the pumpkin into a carriage, etc. The entire assemblage is waiting to take Slenderella to the ball, and in most of the versions, this character says something like “am I to attend the ball in rags?” and Slenderella, helped into the carriage by a footman while she looks angelic in a gown of the finest lace and silk that she fills out beautifully, in a perfect pair of size 6.5 EEE glass slippers, asks “Aren’t you going to make me thin?” and the fairy godfather smiles, shaking his head as he waves goodbye, saying “not necessary.”

That’s the vision I’ve been carrying around lately. The “not necessary” one — it’s not necessary to be anything other than what I am. Today’s Peanuts hit this button, too.

So, the book is still open. I am holding the pen. I might not entirely control the plot, but my character has a great deal of leeway in how to respond to the twists and turns. And in order to live my life — being thin isn’t necessary.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Guilt, forgiveness and the still-open book

  1. Amanda

    That is a wonderful book idea! If you do not intend to write it, would it be permissible if I used the idea for both a children’s and young adult novel? I absolutely love it, and I am an aspiring writer (currently a teacher as well) who has to deal with both students calling me fat (among other things) and students being teased for their bodies. I can’t imagine being published, but even using the idea for my students once written to promote acceptance would be amazing. Thank you for your permission, if it is granted, and for the lovely picture in my head if it is not!

  2. You know, I think we need more ‘Cinderella’ stories where Cinderella doesn’t need to change who she is to be happy and find either success or love (or both!) with the person of her choice.

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