Friday, September 18, 2009

The List

By Susan Esther Barnes

Tonight is the evening of Rosh Hashanah. This is the time when we seek forgiveness from God for our transgressions over the past year. We also seek forgiveness from each other, because God forgives us for our transgressions against God, but for our transgressions against other people God does not forgive us until we make peace with one another.

Around this time in the year 2000, I was living in Nevada and talking on the phone with my best friend John in California. For the first time, I explained to him what happens this time of year, and I asked him if there were any transgressions for which I needed to seek forgiveness from him. To my surprise, he was able to come up with a list of items. Perhaps it should not have been a surprise. After all, this was the first time we had engaged in this discussion, but we had known each other for 15 years.

As John went through his list one item at a time, I listened, we discussed it, I apologized, he forgave me, and then he insisted that I tell him my list. I don’t think I was able to come up with much, but we discussed what I had, and I forgave him. It was a bonding experience. At the end of the discussion, he asked, “Explain to me again, why aren’t we dating each other?” I was at a loss. We began dating, and in January we will celebrate our 7th wedding anniversary.

As in all relationships, from time to time, things come up. We say something snippy; we don’t pay enough attention when we should; we do any number of things that hurt the other’s feelings. Whenever these things happen in our relationship, John and I immediately talk it out and seek the other's forgiveness. In these cases, it is rare for one of us not to say, “Are you sure we’re okay now? When Rosh Hashanah comes, I don’t want this to be on The List.”

Thus, The List, and our desire to be sure there is nothing on it, marks our days and focuses our intention regarding how we want to interact with each other. The last thing we want to have happen is to reach Rosh Hashanah and to find out the other has been harboring some hurt that has been festering over the past weeks or months. Instead, the threat of The List helps to ensure that we solve issues in the moment, as they arise. It reminds us that openness and honesty, as well as the willingness to broach uncomfortable topics, is one of the pillars on which our relationship is built.

Now, when Rosh Hashanah approaches and we sit down to discuss The List, it is empty. Once we confirm its lack of items, we take some time to talk about our relationship and our appreciation of each other. It is always a good beginning for the promise of a sweet and happy new year.

L’shana tova.

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