My parents always told me not to “make waves.” I can happily say that I am not making waves, but conquering them.
I remember going to a specific waterpark as a child where there was an area called The Wave Pool. A wave pool is more or less what it sounds like–a giant zero-depth pool in which waves are generated in the deep end and move toward the shallow end, bombarding swimmers along their paths. There were always hundreds of people in The Wave Pool, and it was remarkably easy as a scrawny seven-year-old to get pulled under by a wave and have my body swirled around the bottom of the pool. I would eventually bob back to the top, spitting out water while feeling the burn of chlorine in my nose. And then I would swim farther into the pool, ignoring the recommendations (or rather, pleas) of the adults supervising me.
It is easy to look back at seven-year-old me and want to warn her of the thing that was harboring in her brain. The thing that would soon present itself as her first tic–a throat grimace (that, and this has nothing to do with the story, I associate with a man I have never met who lived in Australia). I want to warn her of the looks and comments she will receive. The “concern” that really wasn’t. Sadly though, as I am sure many of you are all too aware, this is not how life works.
As I grew up, the comments and looks did not stop. There was a short reprieve in college (it is a wonderful life to live in Bloomington, Indiana!). But moving away from the place that became my home put me into a community once more with the starers. I should note that I do have an incredible support system that is filled with the least judgmental people I have ever been so fortunate to meet. However, living a life in which I do not feel welcome in coffee shops or libraries is difficult. Some people stare, some get up and leave, and some laugh with their friends at my expense. After 23 years, a sense of anger and indignation formed in my heart. I hated those people.
But my disgust for them quickly turned on me. The logic is easy enough to follow: they did not like me so I did not like them….but why didn’t they like me? You can see how this line of thinking ends up with toxic results. As the old adage goes, “Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.” I was drinking poison daily.
Forgiveness is a two pronged outlet for me. One part of forgiving people, the most common part, involves the apologies that never happen. These are the people at the movie theatre who move seats or the people at restaurants who leave because they cannot happily continue their evening while I am there. I understand these people, and their need for a less tic-y environment. The second part of forgiveness, the harder part, involves deep hurts done by someone more than a stranger. This one is hard, because so often we want people to say, “I was wrong, and you were always right.” But if we wait for that to happen, we will be tasting poison for years. I think a more reasonable approach, for both of my forgiveness battles, is to go back to The Wave Pool.
Every time a wave threw me down against the hard concrete of the pool, I got hurt. My whole body would be dragged under and I could hear the rush of the unforgiving water in my ears. At the bottom of the pool I would be disoriented, flailing with every ounce of energy to get back to the surface. As soon as I would get halfway up, another wave would come and push me back down. Sometimes I would get to the top only to find a person in an inner-tube in my way, and I would have to swim around under the darkness of my closed eyelids trying to find air. But every time I got to the surface I wanted to keep going further. To see how deep the pool got, how big of a wave I could survive.
I think sometimes it is easy for me to remember the scrapes and bruises I felt growing up with Tourette Syndrome, as well as the heaviness of whatever had pulled me into a negative space. But oh, how many things I have learned because of my tics! I am adventurous and compassionate. I work hard for the things I want. I am strong. And I am so resilient. I look for newer, deeper waters where I search for new challenges.
And I let the old waves go, because I already know how deep the pool is in that spot. I do not need to stay and ruminate about the scratches those waves gave me. They taught me depth of feeling and tenacity, and I can move on knowing that they will dissipate into oblivion.
The peace that comes with forgiveness is less like The Wave Pool, and more like a small river. One where the fireflies gather and the frogs croak at dusk. Where you can hear the small splashes of fish swimming in the cattail weeds. I choose to let myself live there, with cool water and warm breeze against my skin, and the poison of anger far away.