"Forgiveness is a reflex for when you can't stand what you know."
JANE SMILEY, A Thousand Acres
I OPENED THE DOOR TO MY CAR, swinging my feet out onto the dark asphalt of the driveway. Suddenly I found myself out of balance for a moment, found myself swaying into the gravel path edged by the shadowy yew bushes as if I were going to spill, chin first, onto the ground. I righted myself abruptly, jerking up marionette-style, strings taut again, and heard at that moment with a sort of auditory hindsight that I had been screaming, moaning really, but low and powerful, like a train coming through. The sound shocked me more than the dizziness. I had never felt a sound like that in myself before.
My husband had just left me, suddenly, mysteriously, and the sound in my body came from the strange rift his leaving had made. Of all the parts of my life that I had just lost the two of us nested in bed at night, our working hip-to-hip in the narrow kitchen, the family's joking after dinner, elbows sprawled around the plates and glasses the most startling loss was this, the crack in the spirit, the gyroscope tumping over, the compass points scattered.
When I was a child daydreaming on shiny metal fold-up chairs in the cool retreat of a Sunday school classroom, the act of forgiving other people, no matter how bad they hurt you, was as surely a sign of rightness as the chicken and cream gravy I…