This I Believe

Linda - Knoxville, Tennessee
Entered on August 30, 2007

I believe in forgiveness, though reaching it, living daily in its embracing relief, comes over years of thinking it will never be possible amid so much anger, rejection, distance. I believe my mother’s bipolar disorder has been my greatest enemy and my greatest strength. Fortunately or unfortunately, it has shaped my youth and my adult life, brought me to the expansive vista I look over today. I haven’t always had a socially acceptable ‘label’ for her illness, whether bipolar or, in the older, more descriptive language, manic/depressive–only that I have feared her and wrestled with her quicksilver moods and cutting tongue, her narcissism and questionable judgment of character, especially men. Our relationship became so strained that, at the age of eleven, I left her and moved to my father and stepmother’s house, an unforgivable response my mother never fully accepted or understood. When she received a formal diagnosis three years ago, at 73, I felt a dragging weight lifted from my shoulders and heart–finally a reason, an illumination into our painful past, an epiphany for now and the future. I believe that my mother stole my childhood, bound it hands and feet, stuffed it in a closet–but until I forgive her and the unnamable demons that have driven her, I am the one setting the ransom higher and higher, keeping myself gagged in darkness. As a poet, I believe I must language myself into healing—I cannot wish or dream or even pray myself into this place of relinquishment. At 54, I believe I am at last on the path to forgiveness, words I couldn’t imagine saying a year ago. Only writing can ease my uphill journey into this necessary direction, each word a step closer to the freeing light.


I believe in the bicycle of forgiveness, the potholes barely missed and jarred over, stickiness of new-laid tar sucking my speed to a crawl. I believe in silver spokes, unswerving wheels bouncing me along, though the way forward is fogged in false hope. I believe in the way–that if souls are reincarnated, I chose you for my mother, chose the rutted road we’ve traveled/travailed, chose the misfiring in your head, manic/depressive charge that drove me through Alice’s looking-glass, under quilts, behind chairs until stormclouds lifted. I believe in gravel slung, wedged in my Keds, for limping and bruised I can salve others’ woundedness, pick the rocks from their knees. I believe in highways simmering ahead like heated lakes, mirage of reconciliation near enough to imagine. I believe in roadside angels: grandmothers, aunts, friends, a stepmother who rescued strays from traffic, raised me without blood boundaries. I believe in torque, the physics of angle and altitude, in slamming the pavement to make time, knowing in my heart of hearts forgiveness has no schedule, no map, no AAA triptych. I believe in the small bell, the night’s music hushing my child’s fears that fifty years have not extinguished. I believe in the night, its haunts heard only by the misbegotten, for later comes the peach morning. I believe in the fickle wind renewing my hair and ears, its shifting horse latitudes and rainbow arch. I believe in the endpoint lowering its heavy barricade, in your faith’s Savior waiting to pick you like a field flower, your goodness reborn. I believe I will stand at the opened earth and grieve for the wasteland we’ve ridden far and wide, light slanting on hills we never stopped to admire. I believe grace will carry us there if we lean into the hairpin curves, pedal hard, in life or after, beyond the blue rise.