Usually life is a continuum. But occasionally you run across one of those flipswitch moments. The trick is—are you open to them?
A friend of mine, some time ago, told me this:
My dad was an alcoholic and a smoker. We loved him and resented him at the same time, because he would be there for us one moment, and then the next moment, not at all.
Eventually he got lung cancer, and we figured that was it. I ended pretty much staying away from him during his illness; I was just too resentful. And then he had surgery, and made a completely unexpected recovery. He quit drinking and smoking, and we were delighted. Though still suspicious.
He picked smoking back up soon enough, and then the drinking. And after a few years, the illness was back, and I knew he wouldn’t beat it twice. He told me once, “You know, I’m not an alcoholic, I really could stop whenever I wanted.” I hated him for that lie.
As the end came, I got more and more bitter about his irresponsible actions toward all of us, and his refusal to take any blame. He never apologized. I went with my siblings to see him in the hospital, but I hated it.
A nurse pulled me aside. She said, “He only has a few days left. He doesn’t have the emotional or mental energy to change at this point. If you’re waiting for your father to apologize to you for all that he’s done to you in life—now is the time to give that up. It’s never going to happen. Now the only one who can change is you.”
I shivered, because I knew she was right. The next day, I was able to forgive him. He did the best he could; it wasn’t very good, but it was his best. I told him I loved him, and I did. I was able to give up the rest. And I’ll always be grateful to that nurse for giving my future back to me.
My friend was open to the flipswitch moment.