I happened to read something the other day .. it was a blog post listing about 20 things we often say we're sorry for, but shouldn't need to. And while I agreed in large part with it, that stupid tagline from Love Story kept running through my mind: Love means never having to say you're sorry. I needed to unpack these things because I know that I've spent a great deal of my life apologizing for things ... even when I knew an apology wasn't really necessary. So ... what's the deal with the love means never saying you're sorry?
The assumption would be, literally, that if you love someone, you will never do anything that would require an apology to them. Ergo, if you do love someone and apologize for something, you're obviously not as in love as you thought. Boogers on this. I'd rewrite it as "love means you ARE able to say you're sorry."
There is no one alive who doesn't make mistakes. I'm not even going to try and categorize mistakes - they are large and small and in-between. There is no one alive who hasn't hurt someone during their life. Again, there are all sizes of hurts. And just as there are all sizes of hurt, there should be only one size of apology. And that's the sincere size. Anything else is just lip service. And therein, I believe, comes the confusion. I think that we too often apologize for things that are unnecessary and too infrequently apologize for the things that should be apologized for.
If I put up a chart of things we apologize for, you'd likely find things such as: forgetting an appointment/date/phone call, commiserating over some kind of hurt caused to someone else (I'm sorry that happened to you), bad weather, sending back under or overcooked food. These are examples of what I call "casual" apologies. Yeah, you're in an uncomfortable situation and you need something to say, so you apologize. I'm sorry flows freely here, sometimes as a cover for having to speak a truth.
Then there are the "sorry's" when you have caused someone else discomfort or pain. These need to be real. That's why I think we need a scaled step chart of words to signify regret. Like, how is "I'm sorry but steak is too rare, can you please cook it some more?" even comparable to "I'm sorry I cheated on you." See what I'm saying? The words sound the same but they carry very different resonances.
"I'm sorry" is always going to remain a toss off for just about anything. Which, when the event is truly egregious, seems to denigrate its importance somewhat. Even drilling down on why you're sorry for hurting someone seems inadequate because then you get all balled up in defending your position, which may not be the best option at that time.
So, what to say as we advance up the "sorry" chart? I've thought alot about this. And the best I can come up with is this: Look. I acted and spoke stupidly, carelessly, childishly (pick your poison) and I've hurt your feelings. Please let me know what I can do to help you/us/me work through this." I've been on both sides of these kinds of conversations. And I don't want to hear "I'm sorry" for something that rocked my world on a 9 Richter scale. That's too small. I want to know that you recognize my pain, or vice versa, that I do understand what I've done. Trite throwaways are not going to cut it there.
And lastly, what about this. How many times have you apologized to yourself? Not many, I'm sure. But this may be the only place where you speaking "I'm sorry" carries emotional weight. We are all WAY too hard on ourselves. And we either fret over it or ignore it. Both options suck. It's OKAY to not apologize for removing people from your orbit. It's YOUR orbit. They'll survive. You need to worry about YOU. It's okay to value yourself: your time, living as you choose, how you feel. There's no need to wrack yourself up over this. Stop blaming yourself for being you. Take a deep breath and tell yourself you're fine, that there is nothing wrong with you or the way you see things. Tell yourself that you APOLOGIZE for the hurt you've heaped on yourself as a coping mechanism. But that was then, and now, you're on a new path.
It's totally about you. Stop feeling like you're not worth it. You're MORE worth it than anyone you know.
I wish you love.
So many things since last I did a blog entry. Little and big things. Life changing and not so much. But still impactful. All of what has gone down in the past year or so has led me to this place. It's a comfortable place. It's a place of me.
COVID and the changes it has caused is a whole semester's worth of writing in and of itself. The Presidential issues, the same (and no, not going to get political). All in all, 2020 proved to be a slightly sour year with little sugar to pour on. But no one goes through discomfort without eventually coming out on the other side of it better. It might be different, but it's better.
I guess if I had to try and pick a title for it all it would be "downsizing." And I don't mean that just in terms of my physical circumstances, though God knows my personal body could use some downsizing. I'm not just talking abut hauling junk out of the basement of my house. I'm talking about hauling it out of my heart and soul too.
Over the past year, probably not unlike a lot of you, my personal beliefs and morals have been tested by the way the world is turning. More so than at any time in my life, and that includes growing up in the 60s. I've been frustrated by my feelings about people, and felt I was being judgmental about their views. And how do you end relationships that you've had for years over something intangible like an opinion? Because really, that's what any "unfriending" comes down to. Regardless of how egregious the act. You choose to go with your opinion and walk away. The trick is to be true to yourself and not act capriciously. There's the rub.
One has to be somewhat egotistical or narcissistic to end friendships without thought. I just don't get how people can do that. Or explanation. But, that's their gig, not mine. In my case, 2020 brought me to a place where I no longer could tolerate my own wishy-washy thoughts. If something or someone went against my moral fiber, I usually just brushed by it with a standard "hey, it's not my life" thought. But 2020 opened the floodgates on all of that, didn't it.
When we make the awful choice to put down a loved pet, how many of us struggle with the idea of playing God in the situation? I know I do. Well, I found that struggle to be equally real with respect to some long held relationships. What do you do when someone you've loved forever, or thought anyway, disappoints you by making some really bad decisions or holding some really disturbing opinions? For years I allowed myself to glide past it like a snake on glass. But for some reason, 2020 ripped that bandaid off and I made some tough decisions that were best for me. That meant ending some relationships that I have held dear for years. But I realized that holding them dear was not enough to excuse racist or bigoted behavior and language. It wasn't enough to excuse actions designed to advance oneself at the expense of others. And, it wasn't enough to continue excusing behavior that was personally hurtful and taxing.
So, I wrestled with the God question: what makes me so special that I can judge someone else's actions? And I finally realized that I wasn't judging them at all. People are who you think they are. And for years, in some cases, I'd thought erroneously that some folks in my life were of value, when in fact, they really were not. I don't say these words lightly. This was very difficult for me. But this downsizing wasn't just necessary, it was life enriching. When I ended relationships that were toxic to me, I found myself going through a transformation. I was suddenly free to think my own thoughts without fear of stepping on someone else's opinion that might result in retribution.
And, I found myself gradually emancipating myself from the need to please. Not in an arrogant way at all. Rather, I now choose to please in a spirit of gratitude. I used to do so for reward. Not a good look for anyone.
So, I have made some internal changes. Some mental downsizing. I've walked away from people who made me uncomfortable but I wouldn't admit it. Now, I can miss the friendship, but I'm at peace even at the loss of someone's presence.
It's really not a bad place to be. And with that process in place, it became easier for me to decide what was important to ME. To make judgments about the future based on what *I* want, rather than what I think others might think I should do.
So it's a return to me. Maybe it's an introduction to me, I don't know. I only know that life is slower and less complicated now. The grass is greener on this side. Of that I am certain.
I wish you all love.