…or is it “Queendom”?
My mom used to say that “I’m sorry,” meant very little. What mattered was saying, “It won’t happen again.” And after yet another Oscar worthy alcoholic performance by my ex-husband, I understand her words better than (I think) she does. An apology is another way of saying we understand how our actions negatively affected someone else. And while the search for forgiveness is a worthy quest, within all apologies, or even the need for one, lurks something sinister.
Yes, apologies are commendable. But the disappointing and long-lived consequence of an action (or inaction) that merits an apology is distrust. The more apologies, the deeper the distrust. This applies to others and ourselves.
When I was young and had to apologize to my mother it felt more like I was the one slicing off the pound of flesh she wanted from me. And while I’m pretty sure I took the lesson from the circumstance, I really just wanted to get to the part where I wasn’t in trouble anymore. The lesson, “Don’t do it again.” Why? Because I was wrong and either disappointed, embarrassed, or angered someone. Or maybe all of them.
I never really knew the deeper implications of my actions because there was never an explanation. Nor did it seem my parents had a desire for me to learn the “why.” So while I was never ashamed to apologize, the lesson I really learned was how to behave as to not to anger someone. Which meant jumping through a lot of hoops in the service of others’ emotions with little or no attention paid to who I was or teaching me how to “be” in the world.
Clearly this isn’t the same as understanding how my actions caused the need for an apology. That would’ve been entirely too functional. But it is the perfect lesson for a codependent in training. Because that’s what my childhood was, “training.” Not “teaching.” Oh, and the biggest emotion I learned from my apologies – shame.
Call It Karma
Fast forward to adulthood. I strived at all costs to avoid causing anger. But codependent tendencies are frustrating to the recipient. And if the recipient is a narcissist, you’ve really ascended to the olympics of emotional hoop jumping. Needless to say I have given a lot of apologies for causing their bad behavior.
So, while I do care how I make others feel, in retrospect learning this was potentially by chance. Because my apologies had little to do with anything more than their anger and my shame.
I often found myself begging my (narcissistic) exes to understand how much they were hurting my feelings. It seems that, from the apologies I received, I had come to expect (and accept) the same minimal consideration that I once gave. But unlike me, there was apparently little remorse, and certainly no shame.
Bigger Than Right and Wrong
But as I got older, and especially with the realization of my codependent tendencies, it became clearer that apologies are deeper than proving we know the difference between right and wrong. Apologies mean (or at least they should mean) that we care about how we affect people, including ourselves.
Truthfully, I never even considered that my actions may have hurt my mother’s feelings. A perk of having emotionally unavailable parents means you don’t have to even consider pesky emotions. You just have to make sure never to provoke the one emotion they were capable of having…anger. Fortunately, I learned that apologies are about caring. And I’ve also learned that my mother, no matter how “hard” she was, cared and wanted me to be my best.
You see, the origin of all apologies is within behaviors. Behaviors that hurt ourselves or someone else. And if we find ourselves making apologies for the same or similar actions it’s pretty clear that we don’t care. Thus my mother’s appreciation for “It won’t happen again.”
Some would say it’s overused, but The Hero’s Journey has set me on a new path. It has made me realize that life is our very own kingdom (or queendom, for the ladies). And within that kingdom there are paths we all take. While we may “follow in the footsteps” of someone, the dragons and demons we encounter (and reconcile) along the way are personal and are what make the journey uniquely our own.
Along the paths, there are destinations we visit. Within the destinations there are lessons we must complete in order to make progress. (Are you starting to see how video games are a lot like life?) Each destination is its own world with its own challenges and characters. Some new, some old. But as you go, you become wiser. You begin to realize that yesterday’s solutions won’t always solve today’s problems. And so you must evolve if you are to overcome.
Here’s My Point
And this is about the time you realize that it’s the actions, whether yours or of others, which influence life. It is here that it becomes plain to see that apologies, while kind, do very little to undo the scar of distrust the action created.
Apologies and Forgiveness
And apologies to yourself are no different. They are part of your evolution. They are part of your awareness. But it is forgiveness that is the real influence. Although, not the forgiveness of, or for others. Forgiveness is a trust which must be rebuilt. Rather, it’s forgiveness of yourself which teaches you not to make the same mistakes over and again.
Understanding how you are making yourself feel by allowing others to treat you poorly is the most important issue. These are the things which influence your perspective as you move through life. It’s just like allowing good things to lift your spirits. It’s a choice. And understanding how you make others feel is equally important. It’s all related. Because how you see yourself is directly related to the outward expression of how you treat others.
There was a time when forgiveness meant “no longer in trouble.” And while you can be forgiven and forgive others, the most important and healing forgiveness you can have is for yourself. Because if you won’t do something to yourself again, you will think twice before doing it once to another.
An Inspiring a Non-Apology
Surely you can see that something happened which caused me to reflect on apologies. And while I’ve received a slew of empty apologies in my relationships, today I am actually inspired by an apology I don’t want.
Do you remember when I told you my ex stays at my house a couple of days a week? Well, that loyalty I’ve mentioned is what has kept me in his life, even to my own codependent detriment. And his alcoholism is part of that detriment. Coincidentally, this has granted me more than an average amount of apologies in a lifetime. Suffice to say that the other night he and his ridiculous alcohol intake set the scene for many apologies. One which left his usual path of beer cans and broken household items in his wake. All of which were illuminated by the path of light switches I found in the “On” position at 3am. And one which would merit another of his usual walk of shame apologies the next morning.
Fewer Apologies, More Gratitude
I set the house to rights and settled back into my bed around 3:30am. I found myself mentally back where I once was. Rehashing and obsessing on the abysmal alcoholic situation I felt a duty not to abandon. And that’s when I felt something eerily familiar. It felt as though an arm was reaching up from my guts and a hand was slowly starting to squeeze my heart. (Not physically, but emotionally.) But this time, somehow, I had the mental prowess to make myself take all mental focus away from that sensation and focus on my mantra. A mantra focussed on goals rather than the distractions I face along my path. And the sickening feeling vanished almost instantly. What’s more, there were no apologies necessary. Metaphorically speaking, I simply set the situation down and carried on.
As though that weren’t amazing on its own, something more amazing happened. Without warning, I began to weep…with gratitude. Gratitude for the freedom from such a sickness. And gratitude for all I had learned and for how far I’d come. And believe me, that was a long way. That’s when I knew I had gotten something right all on my own. I didn’t need countless apologies to prove his contrition. Nor did I need them to reassure myself that I didn’t do something to deserve this experience. I simply saw myself clearly and had become grateful for all the struggles. The struggles were lessons and I had finally learned something.
A Kingdom of Fewer Apologies
Now that I’m having all of these epiphanies, I realize that the time is coming for me to set my ex down somewhere on this path. I’m not sure just when or how, but the seed has been planted. No matter how many apologies he gives. No matter how much he thinks he sincerely means them. It’s just too exhausting to continue carrying his negativity and arrogance with me as I move through my kingdom.
Every person has had his/her place in my life. And every boyfriend, lover, husband, and ex has their place too. It’s such a shame my ex doesn’t care how he affects others. I see a cruelty in that more than ever. But like my ex-lover, he has taught me who I don’t ever want to be. The time of my lessons through his presence and unending apologies is coming to an end.
When I started this entry I was thinking about what it meant to “forge your own path.” So many people encourage you to be a trailblazer. But the more I think about it, the more I realize that many people want for you what they feel they didn’t do for themselves. As I mentioned earlier, we are all forging our own paths simply because no two people are the same. But that is a bit oversimplified. So let’s take this blog as an example.
You don’t have to look too deep to see the Hero’s Journey emerge through my catalogue of posts. It began as an ordinary blog. About an ordinary subject – sex. Objectively speaking, I entered a territory forged by many others. But I embarked nonetheless and as you have noticed, I have run into my own dragons and demons which makes this blog like no other. Similar, perhaps. But still uniquely me.