An apology

shadeshaman's picture

If you could ask for, and receive, an apology for ONE thing that has happened to you, what would it be? How would your life change if you got that apology? (Not to be confused with going back and making that thing go away. An apology in the here and now.)

(What is an apology, anyway? What does it do to the person issuing the apology? To the person receiving it?)

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shadeshaman's picture

When I was 19, I tried to commit suicide. A couple weeks after I got out of the hospital, my family had a “family meeting”. It was held at my mother’s house, my parents having been divorced for over a decade by that time. My 16-year-old brother, who lived at my father’s house, was there, as well as my 21-year-old sister, who had lived in Indiana since she went there to attend a boarding school in high school, but who was visiting for the summer. And my mother and father.
I was not included.
I waited in my bedroom while my family had their meeting. And then they called me to the living room. They sat in a semi-circle, facing me, and I stood in the middle of the room, by myself, barefoot, sweating in the heat of the Plains summer. I was expecting some kind of “you’ve really hurt us” lecture, maybe, or thinking that they were going to make me go into therapy with all of them, or something. I didn’t know.
They started talking, and at first, I couldn’t understand what the hell they were saying. Slowly, it dawned on me that they were trying to tell me that I had to let my brother have the keys to my moped, my scooter, so he could ride it whenever he wanted to. They said that I was being unfair for not letting him ride my scooter. I explained that I didn’t want him to ride my scooter because he had access to it while I was in the hospital (giant elephant in the room right here), and he had ridden it for a few days with the choke open and the carburetor had gotten clogged and I had to get it fixed and I paid for it myself. My father said, “Well, you have no way of knowing that he was the one who did that. Maybe it was clogged before he rode it.” And I replied that it didn’t matter really, because it was my scooter, my work transportation, not a toy, and I had made my decision, and my decision was no. The entire family was pressuring me to let my brother ride my scooter. They had held a family meeting, not to discuss my recent suicide attempt, but to discuss how *I* was being unfair and not letting my brother ride my scooter. I just said, “no, no, no!” until my dad got up and came across the room with his arms open in what could have been a bear-hug gesture, but, rather was most certainly a gesture of intimidation. I screamed at him, “Fuck you, don’t you fucking touch me, get the fuck away from me!” and I ran, barefoot, out the front door into the blazing sun. I ran and ran, for about 5 blocks, on the hot sidewalk, my poor fingers getting puffier and puffier with my photo-sensitivity, thinking that my family was going to hop in the car and chase me down or something.
I went back to my mother’s house, back to my room. I had nowhere else to go. Later that evening, my sister came into my room and picked a verbal fight with me, berating me for about 15 minutes on the use of the word “fuck”, until I finally stood my ground with her, too, and then she beat me up. First shot went straight to my right cheek. Pulled my hair, kicked me, elbowed me in the stomach.
My parents bought my brother his own scooter.
No one in my family ever talked about my suicide attempt with me.

If I could ask for, and receive, an apology for ONE thing that has happened to me, I would ask each of my family members to apologize for putting more emphasis on my brother’s desire to ride my scooter than on my desire to kill myself.

How would my life change if I got that apology? (And this is where I ask: What is an apology, anyway? What does it do to the person issuing the apology? To the person receiving it?)

How would I feel if I got four apologies, one from each person.
I’m sorry I cared more about your scooter than I did about your life.--Brother.
I’m sorry that I was so used to mining your possessions and giving everything to your brother that I only saw you as a blockade to his ownership of your scooter, and I hardly noticed that you almost died.--Mother.
I’m sorry that I threatened you with violence when you calmly stated your reasoning for not wanting to share your scooter, and I never even considered that you nearly committed suicide.--Father
I’m sorry that I picked a fight with you and beat the crap out of you two weeks after you took handfuls of pills and were very nearly successful in killing yourself.--Sister

An apology from any of these people would take such an extreme amount of self-examination, of responsibility, of guts, of honesty, and of willingness to say it--not for their self-gratification, but because *I* need to hear it (and it’s pretty clear, I think, how much my needs ever came into play in my family) that if such an apology were issued 1) I probably wouldn’t fucking believe it and if I did 2) it would probably make me really angry
Like, oh, so y’all DID notice that I almost died? And you said nothing? So while I thought that I was sad and no-one saw it, while I thought that I was completely invisible, y’all were just being assholes and leaving me to suffer all by myself? And it was, what, easier to keep pigeon-holing me as the angry one, the bad guy, the out-of-control one than it was for any one of you to ponder “Why did she try to kill herself?” “What would have happened if she had died?”

In some ways, I did die…the day my family had a meeting about my scooter.

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius"--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

vkitty's picture
Submitted by vkitty on

Oh, wow, Shadeshaman. That is absolutely horrid. I think it would take far, far more than just an apology to repair that kind of damage.

"Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth." -Buddha

vkitty's picture
Submitted by vkitty on

What is an apology? I've had this conversation recently, actually. When I apologize, I mean it as a way to acknowledge to the other person that I did something to cause them some kind of pain or hurt feelings, and that I wish I hadn't. I also mean it as a promise to try not to cause that pain or those hurt feelings again in the future, since I actually do care about that person and have compassion for them. An apology can't go back in time. An apology can't fix the damage that was done. But it can at least offer a fresh start.

And I think that if your apology isn't sincere, if you're just using it to make yourself look better or to shut the other person up, don't do it. Don't say it if you don't mean it. I always mean it, and I don't expect anything less.

I'd like my mother to apologize to me for choosing drugs and alcohol over her children. I'd like her to apologize for leaving me before I could even speak, before I could tell her I loved her. I want her to say she's sorry for never sending a Christmas present, a birthday, or even a phone call to see how I'm doing without her in my life.

And if I did get that apology? I don't think I'd believe it, either. At least, I don't think it'd be sincere. I would wonder how much money she's about to ask me for, or how much information about my dad she's going to try to pump me for.

"Overcome the angry by non-anger; overcome the wicked by goodness; overcome the miser by generosity; overcome the liar by truth." -Buddha

shadeshaman's picture

Ok, so you, Maatkare, and I are in the same boat, in a way. The likelihood of a sincere apology ever occurring is astronomically slim, and it would take more than a single apology to set things to rights.
But.
Let's pretend (and everyone can join in on this) that there's a magic pill that somehow would make it so that the people who hurt us could and would sincerely apologize for ONE thing (because, like you, I have many, many options here. For the sake of this exercise, I'm saying ONE).

You and I are both creative, (let's not get hung up on what the apology would look like or how that would play out) let's imagine it's the day AFTER the sincere apology has been issued...

This is what I'm going to think about at Yoga Punx today. I'll let you know what I come up with.

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius"--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

shadeshaman's picture

So, I when I was at Yoga Punx today, I pretended that it was the day after I had gotten this apology, or series of apologies, from my family members. My fear about this, before approaching it, was that if I got an apology, I would have to stop thinking of them as assholes and I would have to have some "connection" with them (which is part of the apology process, I think. I do something dicky to someone, which de-humanizes them in my life. They call me on it. I apologize, which is creating a level of vulnerability--I willingly bring myself down to the level where I have put them--, the other person accepts, and we become closer. That's what seems to happen when such a scenario goes down with my kids;I could be deluding myself.) And I would also have to change how I see myself--I couldn't be the person who matters less than a fucking moped.
But, as I worked on dolphin pose(!) and considered that today/tomorrow is Maha Shivratri: The Night of Shiva (the god of birth/death/birth) I realized, as Mme. Filth predicted, that an apology wouldn't change much about me at all.
I almost died, but I did not die. I took a bunch of pills, and I knew death would come, but I decided not to die, and I asked a friend for a ride to the hospital. I made both decisions. My reasons for wanting to die were my own. My reasons for deciding not to die were my own. My scooter played no part in it. Neither did my brother, my mother, my father or my sister. They could apologize for being total fucking dicks to me, but that would not change the fact that I am alive, I chose to be alive, and I continue to be alive.

"Mediocrity knows nothing higher than itself; but talent instantly recognizes genius"--Sir Arthur Conan Doyle