I am a chronic apologizer.
My apologetic refrain, a lifelong expression of my need to never inconvenience and to always keep the peace.
I try so hard to teach young women to never apologize for their existence or their strength or their voice and yet I cannot seem to break my own apologetic cycle. So much so that apology seems to be a state of being rather than a momentary but necessary sincerity. And it is disappointing that my urge to please all the people pushes me to say “I’m sorry” when what I should be saying is “This truth is difficult and less than easy, but here it is anyway. Let’s work through it together.” That truth I find myself explaining away contritely could be some element of the chronic illness that is beyond my control but with which I deal daily or it could be some issue that felt necessary to speak up about. And I’d like to be able to say that much of the onus for my need to express apology falls on others for perpetuating an expectation that I should feel sorry. But the responsibility remains with me. It is up to me to own my power. It is up to me not to waver in the face of derision because of it. And I’d also like to be able to say that the writing that follows will be my version of a pithy list of all the things I will no longer apologize for and why.
But it won’t be.
Because here’s the thing…I know that list. I teach that list. I remind others to abide by that list. But my own complicated truth is that I struggle to uphold it in the moments when it matters. This impulse to apologize is composed of threads so intricately woven into the fabric of my being, that to unravel them takes more than a confident written assertion.
And so I will begin in a different place. One that makes sense after a difficult, well, exhausting, day of apologizing needlessly, making myself smaller, and then quieting the things I know to have been important.
That place is forgiveness.
Because, while I cannot undo this habit immediately, I can give myself some grace in the process of trying to. I can forgive myself for faltering.
Today, I forgive myself for questioning myself when I should have questioned others.
I forgive myself for forgetting the value of my work and my voice in that work and for allowing the noise of others to intrude into what I know to be my worth and my truth.
I forgive myself for saying I am sorry when it didn’t need to be spoken. For giving others the easy way out by sacrificing myself so they could have it.
I forgive myself for walking away instead of sticking it out…for lowering my voice instead of furthering it. For turning inward to hide instead of seeking new ways forward.
I forgive myself for adding conditionals into my language that dilute my purpose in order to placate others who shouldn’t really require anesthetizing wording.
I forgive my body for its complications and for the pain, fatigue and challenges it elicits. I forgive myself for not taking the time I need to be well in order to be more for others. I forgive others for not being able to see past the carefully crafted performance of my smile to understand that I am unwell and just scraping by.
I forgive myself for being a flawed human, and at the same time I love myself for being an empathic one.
I celebrate myself for allowing empathy to enter and steer my relationships and how I reach out to and speak up for others.
I celebrate my heart for recognizing hurt in the humans around me and for wanting to be a salve in the healing.
I celebrate who I was yesterday, who I am today, and who I will become tomorrow because as I continue to revise what I have been and who I want to be, I am grateful for the whole of it.
And this is how forgiveness works. Releasing the burden of hurt (whether it exists within or without) somehow (and rather unexpectedly) removes the scales from our eyes allowing us to see the good which, today, dug me out of a pretty deep hole. Love begins with forgiving the self because if we cannot forgive ourselves, how on earth will we be able to extend love and forgiveness to those around us. Writing this was a great reminder of that truth (especially since I had no idea where it was going when I began…I just needed to write). “Phase One” by Dilruba Ahmed is a great reminder as well…a beautiful one…and I unapologetically offer it to you to read.