Webster's dictionary defines redemption as: "An act of redeeming or the state of being redeemed." They go on to say then, that redeeming is: "Compensating for some fault or defect." I've been thinking a lot lately about redemption- and not the fire and brimstone kind, either. Every so often all of us get up with that feeling that this day is the day that you'll finally stop feeling bad for that thing you did- that this will be the day you lay down at night and the guilt will finally come to pass, atonement paid, bill collected, debt laid to rest.
Some days though, the bill collectors just won't stop calling.
Let's talk, then, about redemption. About paying for those past sins, and I mean really paying for them. Not just shucking and jiving your way past them- saying you're sorry in that "Not so sorry" voice, but rather “curling up in a ball in the bottom of your shower and weeping until the water turns cold” regret. True redemption often means the people you hurt walk away and don't come back, and pain you caused doesn't get closure. The debts you settle are often in your head, the kind of scores that crawl up to you late at night, sneaky like. They're not afraid to let you know how they feel when the lights are off and the day's been put away. Those are the kinds of debts that are like twisted black animals with shiny thick coats, ready to lie on your chest, stealing more than just your breath. They take little pieces of your soul these beasts as well. And just when you think you can try to pet them, in some desperate effort to placate them, you realize why that coat looks so shiny: because they're soaked in blood, and you can't ever get it off your hands.
Redemption isn't meant to be easy, it's meant to be an arduous, uphill battle to better your self. If forgiveness was easy, no one would ever worry about their actions. I went around for a very long time like this, guilt free and fancy-free. It took a great deal of personal growth to change some very basic things about my life, and just when I thought I had them under control: That goddamn thing comes crawling into my bed again, trailing its bloody coat all over everything it touches.
Basically, I’ve not always been, or am I always now, a nice person. I know this, and hopefully that makes me ahead of the game already. It's not as though I'm unaware of these things in my life. Who I am, what I am, the things that define me- my actions, as it were, I can’t change many of those things. Who really knows how? Therapy? Hypnosis? I mean, I've stopped smoking, drinking and doing drugs, but I've never stopped being a fundamentally self-centered person, and that means that I've hurt and caused pain to a great many people. Does that mean I can’t feel relief at some point? And who decides what decency is?
There are things in all of our pasts that haunt us. Things that we would be wise to never forget. Forgive and forget, my ass. Learn, always. The reason our sneaky little friend keeps visiting us at night is because we let him, and ultimately we need him- without him, we're monsters so unspeakable even Lovecraft couldn't imagine. What separates us from the garden variety sociopath is good old fashioned guilt, the mother of redemption. We need to feel better about the things we've done, because we want to be told that we're not as bad as we're telling ourselves that we are.
I'm learning this right now:
Self discovery sucks.
After all this, the question remains: At what point are we allowed to let go of those things that haunt us? When can we say: "Enough?", and turn our backs? Are we allowed to be the judges of our own hearings? And if so, can we decide our own sentences? I'd like to pass out probation for just about everything I've done, but most likely I'm more deserving of a few life sentences. But who's to say? What can we do to give ourselves a little redemption?
And there's the rub, isn't it? What right do we have to excuse our actions on the behalf of others? Can we say, “It’s okay to stop feeling this way?” and start anew each day? I mean, really, in the end, it's just me, my dog and that hideous bloody beast in my bed at night, wet, mewing and whispering in its sibilant voice to me all night long:
Each night it's the same: I reach out my hand in the dark to pet it's fur, knowing as I always do what I'm going to feel: hot and sticky, wet and slick, but I do it anyway, because despite it all, in the end, it's my beast, and my blood its covered in. I've spent years trying to escape it, and maybe its time to just pull it closer instead of shooing it away.
So tonight, for a change, when my friend comes calling, instead of pushing it away, I'm going to grab that sticky little creature and pull it under my blankets- hold it close to my body like a rag doll. A little blood never hurt anyone.
Besides, I could use the company. This redemption business can be awfully lonely.