Ugh. I so totally hate to have to admit to another person (or persons) that I’ve acted in a way that was, let’s just say, less than becoming. But in my life, I’ve had to apologize to friends, family members, clients, and colleagues for many, various transgressions, some intentional and some innocent and accidental. But while I was I was creating a list of the errors of my ways in order to illustrate my point, it occurred to me that each and all of these offenses, as different as they might seem, fall into one category.
I have offended by not showing up.
I’ve not shown up by not calling, writing, or appearing when or where I said I would, or when it was just the right thing to do.
I’ve not shown up by being there in body, but not in mind. I don’t know about you, but I can be in the same room with someone, supposedly engaged in a conversation, and yet be miles away. I don’t do it all the time, of coure, but I can be thinking of just about anything other than the topic of conversation. Thinking things like:
- “What’s for lunch?”
- “Why am I here?”
- “I wonder how the dogs are reacting to this thunderstorm.”
- “Wow, look his outfit.”
- “Ooh. That’s a good topic for a blog post.”
- “Who’s that over there?”
- “Oh! I need to talk to her.”
- “I’ve got to add ink to my office supplies-to-buy list.”
- “Speaking of lists, I’d better go. Today’s list is so long, and I’m never going to get this time back.”
All of which lead to the next set of thoughts:
- “Stop that, Laura. You get back here.”
- “Now, what what was I just thinking about?”
- “Darn it. How do I get that thought back?”
- “I should have written it down.”
- “Was it about something I’m supposed to be doing right now?”
- “Who was it about someone I was supposed to write or call today?”
- “Oh, no. Who is it I’m going to let down this time?”
- “Crap. What is wrong with me?”
Can you relate?
I hope so, because that would mean I’m not alone. I hope not, for your sake and for the sakes of the people in your life.
This morning I wrote an apology letter to someone I really care about, and yes, it sucked. You know, all that grovelling, explaining my actions (or my inaction, as it was in this case), asking for forgiveness, and hoping beyond hope I’ll get it.
But while writing that letter, I began to experience something else – something in addition to the angst. What was it?
I don’t know how this person is going to respond. Certainly, I hope she can find her way to forgiving me. What I didn’t do is kind of a big deal, and so it would be a big gift to get a sincere pardon from her.
But in a way, I’ve already received a gift. A gift from myself.
Apologizing and asking for forgiveness has already saved me. Saved me from having to slip out the back door of our relationship and then avoid her for the rest of my life. Saved me from the debilatating self-hatred that comes from not showing up for the people I care about, including myself. Saved me from all of the self-destructive behaviors I would eventually engage in as a result of that self-hatred.
So yes, apologizing sucks and saves, simultaneously.
Can we do better?
I believe we can. I believe that when we acknowledge what we’ve done, feel the impact of that (on ourselves and others), and ask for forgiveness (from ourselves and others), then regardless of the other person’s response, we get relief. We can change. We are saved from being who we’d otherwise have become.
We can do better. We don’t have to spend the rest of our lives all twisted up – running, hiding, performing, hustling, and pretending to be someone we’re not, because we hate who we are.
We get to do better.
We get to be with the people who are important to us, really be with them. We get to connect on a level much deeper than we could the other way. We get to see and be seen, hear and be heard. We get to truly be with ourselves, too. We get to have different conversations in our heads. We get to love ourselves.
We get to be real. And what a gift that is.