Monday, March 22, 2010


There are so many times in life we utter the words, "I'm sorry." We bump into someone as we're rushing out of the grocery store and say sorry as we hurry on our way, barely looking back; we forget to send in our kids' permission slips/snack-drink money/party treat for school and offer our apologies; we step on the dog's 6 months-post-surgery leg and even apologize to her. (Poor puppy. Baaaad Forty.)But you get the gist. We toss out those words probably on a daily basis and most likely we genuinely do mean them, but we often say them because it's just what you do; it's good social etiquette. When you say "I'm sorry" though, especially for larger, more significant wrong-doings, meaning those words is equally as important as uttering them.

I remember being a little kid and for whatever stupid, stupid reason, I made fun of one of my friends. Maybe I was trying to be funny, maybe I thought it was cool - I don't know. I just specifically remember feeling like a horrible person for being so mean to someone who didn't even deserve it. My little eight or nine year old self knew how wrong I was because I felt so damn awful. So I marched up to her, a little nervous to admit what a jerk I had been, and told her I was sorry. Thankfully, she accepted it. I learned that when you do something wrong, (and recognize it), you can be forgiven and given another chance. I'm going to guess and say that it was probably from then on that I never feared apologizing to anyone again whenever I was wrong. To this day, I still don't. And why should anyone, really? Smaller sorries, larger sorries - meaning them is what really matters. Meaning them and learning never to make the same mistake again that caused the need for apology in the first place. While I think small accidents or wrong-doings deserve an apology suited for the "crime,' I also believe it's the larger, more significant things where the sincerity behind the words "I'm sorry" need to carry more weight.

It's always been my belief that when you hurt or offend someone and you are aware of it, apologize. It doesn't make you weak or look foolish; it does just the opposite: it makes you stronger for recognizing that you're fallible and for letting others know that you are, too. Being wrong sometimes, (or even a lot of times), is part of being human. We'd have nothing to learn from if we never made mistakes, and quite frankly, if we were always right and perfect and smiling and happy, I think we'd be boring, too.

There's probably not a day that passes that I don't utter one of the smaller, "I'm sorries" to someone at work or one of my kiddies. Those are just part of daily living and part of respecting other people. But recently, I made an error in judgment that, at the time, I didn't think was wrong at all. But because of the other (offended) person's response (or lack thereof) to what I had said, it made me step back and think, What did I say that was so bad? Why would she be so upset?. Or maybe it was the idea behind my words. I went over what was said - at least 15 times - in my head. I knew the original point I'd been trying to make to her, but I decided from her reaction that maybe I went about it wrong. Or maybe it was just one of those things that should have never been mentioned to her at all as it wasn't even a big deal (in hindsight, anyway). I asked my friend to please tell me why and how I'd upset her, what was my mistake. I wanted to know her side so I could understand where I went wrong. But she didn't want to talk to me except for a few pointed words. I apologized anyway but still no response.

This wasn't an "I'm sorry" tossed-over-your-shoulder-in-the-supermarket type thing. I offended/irritated/hurt someone with my words which I never, ever meant to be hurtful. I was upset and hurt about something and voiced it but after all was said and done, I realized that maybe not every little thing has to be brought up front and center for discussion or analyzing. Maybe I read into something and made more of it than it was. Maybe I need to learn to censor my thoughts and feelings sometimes because everyone doesn't have to know them at all times. Maybe I was just...stupid.

I made a mistake and judging by the deafening silence that followed, an even bigger one than I realized. But I am still sorry even if I wasn't forgiven.

But I guess sometimes maybe being unforgiven has to teach us a lesson, too.

Monday, March 15, 2010

What's It All For?

What's it all for? is a question my sister, Forty-Two, and I always ask each other when we're sitting in her kitchen, doodling on newspapers, snacking on leftovers, and bitching about life.

I sit and wonder this while I'm by myself, as well. I wade through all the memories in the depths of my mind, picking out the ones that make me question who I am and the choices I've made and I agonize over the answers I come up with. I should have been stronger/tougher/bitchier/selfish are usually some of the things I realize in hindsight, but alas, there are no do-overs.

The pains I experienced in my past were severe and emotionally paralyzing but they certainly have dissipated over time. Back when these experiences were happening, I never did think I would get through in one piece, but somehow I did. Somehow, I pulled through, even if weakened and in disrepair. And the more hurt I endured, the lower my self esteem dipped. And the lower that dipped, my vulnerability soared.

It's tough, too, because for as long as I can remember, I've always worn my emotions plainly on my face and in my stance. Unfortunately, others mark you as overly-sensitive when they see that, (which, to a degree, I've always been) and also view this unfavorably. Apparently, when you are sensitive, you're also open to hurt because of the vulnerability that comes with it. Oddly enough, I always thought being sensitive was one of my better qualities, but growing older and surviving the deaths of friendships has taught me differently.

Any time I ran into a problem, whether it was with people or situations, I always thought I had what it took to get through: reason, understanding, sensitivity, the ability to listen, the gift of being verbally articulate , the desire to learn how to be better and the desire to make others happy. And damned if I know why, those qualities never served me the way I needed and hoped that they would. In the aftermath of any situation, I always found myself wobbling and unable to steady myself. How did all of those things I prided myself on being backfire? I always replayed these things over and over in my head ad nauseum until I couldn't even stand to hear myself think anymore. All the whys and how could I have done things better or different swirling around my over-worked noggin. And no matter what, I always winded up feeling disgusted with myself and blaming myself for things I knew weren't even my fault or in my power. All these qualities in myself that I thought were so integral to being decent and caring were always spit back in my face. If those things in me weren't good enough, then what the hell else was there?

Well when Cynicism crept up on me, tapped me on the shoulder and baited me to come play, I had my answer. I didn't really like it, especially when Distrust, Skepticism, and Caution followed. When my Inner Bitch boiled up, I found it too difficult to really unleash her. I still wanted to be good and do good by all. Now, don't misunderstand; I'm not saying I always handled everything perfectly - I am human and faulted - but I'll be damned if anyone can ever accuse me of not trying my hardest. But all these newer things were hanging around me so much and I wasn't sure if I liked them. It wasn't who I was or who I wanted to be. But it seemed that everyone else befriended their inner bitches and their inner-cynics so I wondered if that was the way to go?

I've found that for me, it wasn't, but I tried to find a happy medium. Through the years, I've tried to incorporate these unfamiliar things into how I handled myself in sticky situations. Mostly, I have been able to balance these things out: I am still sensitive and wear my happiness/anger/disappointment/name-an-emotion-any-emotion on my face, but I am able to hold back the tears and really think things through using my newer, more cautious, cynical self to complement my older self. Things that formerly caused insomnia for months now only have the power to irritate me for a day. Or two. Okay, who am I kidding? A week at least.

And now that I'm that wonderful, hopefully magical age of Forty, I realize that all of those past bad experiences have just been par for the course that is life. My life now is not quite a smooth ride by any means, but somehow I'm finding I'm able to use the past experiences of pain to my advantage. There's something to be said for going through many damaging storms - if you're smart, you don't toss aside the damaged parts: collect them and prepare to use them to build something (someone) stronger and better prepared for the next one that comes blowing in.

That's what it's all for....