Tonight marks the eve of Rosh Hashana, the beginning of the holiest days on the Jewish Calendar culminating in Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, next Wednesday.
Usually at this time, I rejoice at the rolling of the tumblers on the space-time odometer toward another year. In this case, 5779. I welcome the chance to identify and make good on my transgressions as well as forgiving those who have transgressed against me. But, this year, the “spiritual scales of justice” find me especially deep in debt.
I have neglected friendships. I’ve been unnecessarily curt with colleagues. I celebrated the indictment of a state representative who I believe thwarted my dying father’s chance to live his final months knowing that this nation was grateful for his service at the Battle of the Bulge in WWII.
For months, I justified my inattentiveness and warped joy at another’s bad karma by the magnitude of life events that had “befallen” me over the past year. I nursed my feelings of entitlement as a child might suckle a piece of hard candy to make it last. Sweet in the moment, but ultimately unsatisfying.
These “life events” themselves are not relevant. It was my reaction to them that revealed my deeper composition - elements in my character I vow today to reform.
But nothing changes without forgiveness. My only path toward making lasting amends is to forgive, starting with myself.
Fortunately, I have a live-in model for forgiveness at the supreme level. Because, to her, there is nothing to forgive.
Thanks to her simple psyche, our Lilly, the Boston terrier, does not carry grudges or harbor guilt. Lilly may sulk for a few moments when she’s denied human food cooked with enticing ingredients that could put her in the hospital. Once or twice a week, she’ll forget her manners and spin into a tirade if a passing dog taunts her.
These events - and many more - pass through Lilly without leaving a scar. As quickly as she is jostled, she has recovered. All because she was born free from the human gene of rumination that causes the rest of us to fret over what we did or didn’t do or could have done. Lilly doesn’t curse life for the hand she was “dealt.”
For Lilly, life is the gift itself as shown in her sheer exuberance over the most basic things: sunbathing in 110 degree weather, licking our freshly-laundered sheets, or romancing then decapitating her stuffed kangaroo.
My wife and I many never know the full impact of Lilly having been neglected, then rejected by what should have been her forever family. What she never lets us forget is that she will always be a part of ours.
Without explanation, Lilly chooses to love and forgive my imperfect self.
Perhaps I can, too.