The Daily Think: Hard to Say I’m Sorry

The past few weeks have been the most difficult of my professional life. The strain of it has left me not at my best: grumpy, listless, unfocused, and having difficulty finding time and attention for the most important people. I’ve had to do a lot of apologizing for it, which I don’t like. It’s not that I have trouble apologizing. When I know or even suspect that something I’ve done or said has caused someone harm, an apology is my natural first response. A sincere apology isn’t particularly comfortable, but it is a relief. An apology doesn’t necessarily fix things, but it is the first part of a correction. It is in many ways empowering.

Yet, the apologies I’ve been offering lately just felt burdensome and left me feeling worse. I was ruminating on this after a particularly apology filled weekend, that in addition to all of the professional stress, here I am having to apologize for it, too. The feeling was uncomfortably familiar and confining, one of those sensations that took me out of myself and made me wonder, “What am I doing here again?” Then I got mad and kind of self-righteous. Why the hell am I apologizing like I did something wrong? Why can’t someone just cut me a break and let me be stressed out for a while?

When I started to answer my own questions (because I was the only one having the conversation) this became clear: I was the only one having the conversation. No one had actually asked me for an apology and the people close to me were trucking right along and being perfectly nice. I didn’t owe any of them an apology. I owed them my gratitude. The only one not cutting me a break was me.

So, I decided to try it out. The next night I was spending time with a special fellow, and I thanked him for being so great to me when I’m not at my best. His response was to continue to be great, and instead of me focusing on my own stressed-out shortcomings for the rest of the evening, I actually had a nice time, albeit a very tired nice time.

It’s cliche when I try to put it into words, but these are things I seem to need to keep learning, no matter how damn evolved I get. There is this snake eating its own tail, where I hold myself to ridiculously high standards, like not having normal emotional reactions to difficult situations (drama, heaven forbid!), and then end up surrounded by people who really like that, and need me to be perfect and steady all the time. Then I get lonely because I have to stuff down all the humanness. Then I collapse, the people who can’t handle it flee, and I’m even lonelier and have to go be perfect and cool at some new people. And on it goes. The reality is that the people who have stuck with me for many, many years are the people I’ve never had to be perfect for anyway. They’re the ones who I bitched and complained and was human at all the time when I felt stifled and lonely. I’m so grateful for them.

This is my new idea: gratitude first, apologies second and only as needed. If you’re out there and haven’t gotten my gratitude yet – some of you know who you are and some don’t – thank you.

2 thoughts on “The Daily Think: Hard to Say I’m Sorry

  1. michele

    Well done. I love your honesty about being human and wish more people were as honest about their struggles (incuding me).

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