Sonder: A Gateway To Forgiveness

Sonder: n. the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own

Love is an intense word. Not only because its ability to be a noun and a verb makes it incredibly versatile to the English language, but also because of its ability to evoke emotions that don’t seem to have a name. It drives us to the brink of insanity and slowly edges us back to reality when the tides of change have settled.

We do a lot of crazy things for love, as a human race. And I would say that on a personal level I have done some outlandish things for that cause. I renounced my faith, my extra-large family, and my identity as an Indian woman for the sake of a man I once loved – I even picked up the pieces of my shriveled life and carried them 3 hours away from everyone and everything I knew for this man. It was a lot to lose, but I went through with it because I knew it was a price worth paying for a love I thought would last.

Though that romance quickly fell apart, I still believe the price I paid was justified. What I learned from those years of being hopelessly and often recklessly in love is the intensity with which I’m able to feel things. I learned how my anger can make my body feel like it’s harnessed the power of a scorching fire within my veins. I learned how my frustration can reduce me to tears and silence. And I learned how my happiness and my sadness can create an ache so powerful within my chest it would seem as though I had found where my soul made its home.

They say that when you have a sonder, you have that realization about random passersby. Though I’ve had a proper sonder many a time in my life (having the realization about random folks), never have I had one so intense as when it hit me about my father.

I read a book authored by him a few weeks ago as part of a year-long book challenge I’m taking. One of the categories required that I read a book that would help a certain aspect of my life. Being new to the world of inter-faith marriage, I thought his book may help guide my way a little bit as my husband and I shuffle tentatively down this unknown road.

In the least amount of words possible, the words I read from his perspective in each chapter were captivating. Each line was littered with bits and pieces of his personality that mirrored my own, and in reading his book I felt as though I was seeing a familiar face take on an entirely foreign and inviting light. What shocked me the most about his book was not how much I learned about my marriage moving forward (of which I learned a great deal), but how much I learned about the person my father is – and how quickly that insight turned to forgiveness and closure.

All of these years, in my mind, my father has been the face that launched a thousand ships sailing towards the edge of a raging waterfall. All of those years we were fighting, he was never more than the stubborn man that refused to see my side. He was nothing more than the source of my anxieties and reason for years of therapy. What I failed to consider all of those years, was his perspective. His honest and true perspective that included not only why I thought he was mad, but the memories he held, the feelings they evoked, and how all of his and my own choices leading up to that moment had affected our current argument. Most importantly what I failed to consider was his capacity to love and the intensity at which he felt all of those feelings I felt myself.

My father and I had spent nearly 10 years of my life at odds with each other. And while many years of therapy helped me gain control over my own feelings and helped me understand and work through feelings of pain and anger, it never helped me see my father as a person. Simply put, reading his book evoked a great sonder in me. It made me realize how deeply he feels happiness, anger, sadness, and frustration – his emotions are almost dripping from every line he writes.  It made me realize how emotional he truly is, and how similar that makes us on so many levels.

Though he may not show it, it seems to me that my father feels every emotion as thoroughly and as complexly as I do. And it comes with great relief that his book brings me this realization. Not only because it shows me how alike we are in more ways than our cleaning habits – but it gives me an immense sense of closure to know why our past looks the way it does having been scorched by two sides of a raging fire of emotion. I may never understand certain parts of my father, and I suppose that will be one of life’s great mysteries. But for now, I’m content to know that I’ve forgiven us both for the last 10 years and our relationship can finally move on.


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