I was putting on a piece of jewelry yesterday when it reminded me of something my husband did nine years ago that angered me. Almost nine years to the day, in fact, and I know this because the events are tied into my birthday so the timing is unfortunately easy to remember.
Nine years, I think. That’s too long a time to stay mad. Certainly about one of those bits of behavior that any girlfriend would shake her head at and agree I can’t believe he did that, but which, in the grand scheme of truly awful things that humans do to each other, was pretty insignificant. I remember reading somewhere that human cells replace themselves at a rate such that every seven years we are made up of completely new material. What a wonderful concept. I realize that my husband is not the same man he was nine years ago, literally, and therefore it’s about time that he should be forgiven for inconsiderate behavior.
As I apply a little make-up to a face that is not the face it was nine years ago, I take this a little further. We do all change, albeit slowly. What if you could only be held liable for wrongdoing committed over the last eight years? I mean, what if society really accepted that as truth? How much personal guilt would be washed away? How much would forgiveness change families and friendships? Hell, how different would our world be if our penal system was designed around this belief?
Everyone would be totally liable for their recent behavior, no excuses. But eight year old behavior? No, that was another person, long ago and far away. You can’t even remember what they were thinking. As I start the daily fight between my hair and the hair straightener, I am warming to this new approach to life, to this idea of a total reboot after eight years.
Then I make the mistake of getting on the internet, to verify my new found insights. Damn. Guess what? The seven year cell replacement story isn’t true at all, as this online naturalist and several of his friends are all happy to explain. Some parts of your body grow new cells at an amazing rate, and some don’t. Your colon, for example, is all shiny and new. Your brain? Not so much so. The neurons in your cerebral cortex are yours for life.
Maybe this physical fact doesn’t negate the wisdom of the original insight, I think. Those neurons may be there from birth, but the heart, mind and soul that they feed with information is a work in progress. That is one of the beautiful things about life. We change, we grow, we hopefully improve. Forgiving ourselves and others lets us move on, lets us move forward in time. We we can chose to embrace this progress without regard to how fast our body replaces our cells.
I had the good fortune to be born around the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving. It’s a wonderful confluence, because each time I face another year on this earth, I am reminded to be grateful for all that the past years have brought me. This year, I’ve decided that I’m not going to be grateful for the past. This year, I’m concentrating on gratitude for the future, and for all the hope that the very concept of change brings.