Anxiety and Depression · Self Improvement

Hold On

[“Hold On” – Green Sky Bluegrass]

“I know everything for all that I know,
But there’s always two sides to the way both of the stories go.
Sometimes things better left unspoken,
Should be shouted, written down, and quoted.”

I am a superfluously apologetic person, I always have been. I apologize for things that don’t really require it, feelings I have that I am entirely entitled to, even the actions and hurts of others. I think it comes along with anxiety that, at a point, I feel like a burden on the world and so I have always been one to apologize if anything around me is going wrong because I take it on myself, I internalize it, and assume it is a reflection on me.

Someone is unhappy? Obviously I am not doing my job to make them happy.

Someone stubbed their toe? Why didn’t I have the forethought to move that box to a more convenient location? Even though the box was not mine to move.

Why can’t I tell the future and change the past?

I know I have heard the exasperation in the voices of family and friends when I say “I’m sorry” unnecessarily. To me, it was always been better to say it and have my bases covered should some small part of the inconvenience be from my general existence, than to assume no fault and move along my oblivious and merry way. I don’t want anyone harboring me ill will for some slight I wasn’t even aware that I inflicted. Ignorance is not bliss, people… It is an anxiety inducing hell-hole of self doubt.

But, this belt and suspenders approach to apologizing sort of cheapens the concept of admitting fault and seeking forgiveness, doesn’t it?

Sorry, Not Sorry…

It didn’t actually really register with me that this way of thinking really is a problem until recently. There is a difference between ownership of fault and really just expressing a defeatist type of self importance. By taking ownership of faults outside of my control, I was making an issue about me but in a way that expressed that all the bad things happening were somehow because of me. I was, essentially, apologizing for existing—thinking myself a burden in my entirety because there are things I struggle with and do wrong, therefore everything must be my fault. Flawed logic, to an enormous degree, and a type of escapism… It’s always been easier for me to be at fault than to be just a spectator. When someone admits ownership of a hurt, it makes it easier to deal with—it gives it a face, someone to blame. But why would I want to be the face of hurt and pain when my only real intention is to help? And in what way am I helping if I am not giving someone else the opportunity to recognize their fault?

The past few months have seen me apologizing for having feelings. I have always striven to be logical, independent, and strong… Many times to my detriment, but none so harmful as the most recent instances. When the world came crashing down, I took a week off of work and packed up the elements of my life worth keeping. I cleaned out what once was our home and sorted my things into a pile which I then packed into baskets and boxes that had to be schlepped down two flights of narrow stairs—only to do it again the next day. I refused the help and support of my friends and family, stating that this experience was cathartic. But really, I know now that I just didn’t want to inconvenience anyone. When it came to the items that were too big for me to carry myself, I had to shamefully ask my parents and brother to help me. As we stood, panting and sweating, in the un-air conditioned space, in the middle of July, I apologized profusely through my tears, for the inconvenience I had caused them. Believing myself to just be an undeserving pain-in-the-ass (or p.i.t.a. as I like to say) who was incapable of managing her own life. I felt like a failure.

Here I was, life having been completely upended, by someone who had held my heart in his hands and decided it was lacking, and I was apologizing to other people because I was trying to regain some semblance of normalcy in the turmoil. They knew that the reason behind the move was not on me, but I saw myself as the face of the inconvenience so I was mortified and obnoxiously apologetic rather than having the appropriate emotional response of being outright THANKFUL (which I was, but I was too messed up to properly articulate it at the time).

In the months that have followed, I have found myself growing tired of my own voice as I say, again and again, that I am sorry for struggling. I have apologized, ad nauseam, to friends and family for my regularly scheduled 30-second bouts of self doubt and sheer misery. If I am so strong and independent, why am I still struggling so much to come to grips with the drastic way in which my life and future have been altered? Why can’t I get over a decade of friendship, partnership, and love after three whole months? What is WRONG with me that I still have the need to talk about it bubble up within me at least once a week when I can’t clamp down the negative feelings anymore?

They say “true love means never having to say you’re sorry” but I don’t believe that’s true. At the very least, it’s way too simple a platitude to encompass the whole truth. Sometimes, you’re an asshole when you have yet to have your morning coffee. Sometimes, you accidentally whack your best friend in the nose when doing a dramatic retelling of a story. Sometimes, you get mad because everything has gone wrong in your day and you accidentally take it out on one of your favorite people. Love sometimes necessitates a “sorry” or two because it means you value and appreciate the other person enough to care about both their welfare and your impact on it. What true love does mean, when it’s mutually shared, is that you don’t have to excessively apologize or feel like a burden because the other person will continue to love you as long as you both foster and share the good feelings—valuing and remembering them over the bad.

On the Flip Side…

I have been recently asked to forgive… And I am struggling to do so. Having believed myself to be so in need of forgiveness in the past, I have also found myself to be one who easily forgives. I give people A LOT of chances, sometimes more than they deserve. Finally, from a more level headed vantage point, I can say that while I believe everyone does deserve to be forgiven at a point, if they show true remorse, forgiveness has to be earned through actions rather than words.

Getting over my “I’m Sorry Slut” phase, and working to discover the hidden depths of my self worth, has meant coming to an understanding of what those words actually mean and what impact they have for me when said on this scale. They are not a cure-all nor do they erase ills—only time and actions can do that. “I’m sorry” admits culpability but it doesn’t mean you are actively striving to not do it again. Major hurt requires major time spent in earning back trust and respect. This isn’t an “I accidentally let the door go in your face” or “I ate the last donut so you didn’t get one” kind of sorry… This is the big leagues.

Much like “I love you,” the phrase “I’m sorry” really can lose it’s meaning when abused. Yes, it’s important to say it but it’s more important to show. And, just because you say it, does not automatically mean you deserve forgiveness or even that it will be soon to come—nor does it mean, when that forgiveness comes, that it will be in the form you envision or desire.

I am not still enraged by the hurt, but I have yet to fully forgive. Despite that, I wish no ill on the injuring party.

I am Not Holding a Grudge…

But I also refuse to open myself for what can only, for now, be additional and unnecessary pain. Yes, there are two sides to the story and we have both expressed them. We are both dealing in what ways we can as a result of the offending action.

The hardest thing at this point is letting go and knowing I can’t change the past. What I can do, all I can do, is hold on and hope for the future.

Were you in front of me, I would likely still apologize…

Old habits die hard and I have poured my heart out onto this virtual page since September, when I finally found the guts to seek some kind of release from the thoughts that were plaguing my every waking moment. I’d apologize because I am, and always will be, imperfect and lessons are easier said than fully lived. I still struggle every day to not feel like something needs to be apologized for, or like someone’s hurt is my fault.

Writing here is my catharsis. In the past, I had been one to hold too much in, to my mental detriment. Here, I am speaking my truth as best I can and putting out there the words that, in the past, I would have left unspoken but in some ways should have been shouting from the roof tops so that others experiencing the same struggles would know they are not alone. Life is about shared experience, and much of that experience is hard but it’s what we tend to talk about least.

Please friends, know you are not alone. And please remember to value yourself. Don’t apologize for your existence, but remember to take ownership of your own mistakes. Don’t forgive too easily, but don’t hold grudges that will cause you pain. Be true to yourself and live your truth. Always remember you are allowed to struggle and feel so don’t apologize for it. Lastly, don’t let past hurts get in the way of your present.  Love is to be valued in all forms, even if you have lost it in the one you had held dearest (I have never felt more like Polonius than I do at this very moment, please don’t stab me if I hide behind a curtain… He meant his pompous advice with love and so do I).

“This above all: to thine ownself be true…”

Photo: E. Campbell (2017)
Dock Street Cannery, Philadelphia, PA

7 thoughts on “Hold On

  1. The end of my first marriage was, in many ways, similar to the end of yours. It was more protracted in time because I was struggling to protect my daughters from what had happened to me – a big family upset from my parents in my sophomore year at college which meant there was no support, emotional or financial coming from them. It was incredibly difficult , even at 1950’s prices, to raise tuition, books, room and board for Duke. I knew a few things about being a mother, before I was a mother, and prime among them was that I would never, ever abandon a child still in schooling. Because of that I put up with humiliating disrespect from my husband for years.
    All this is to frame what I have discovered about ‘forgiveness’. I can never say or think that it didn’t matter to me when one offense was added to another -one of the worst being how my daughters were treated by their father about college – and the multitude of other, more personal humiliations.
    There has never been a moment when some golden light came out of the clouds and illuminated purity into my heart and all the pain and anguish was lifted away and my spirit was filled with a strong sense of ‘it didn’t really matter’. That’s what some people seem to mean by ‘forgiving’. But it did, and does matter. I was betrayed, lied to, discounted as being of no value – and I am living human being, of value to myself and others, and those actions on his part really mattered in my life and in the lives of my children.
    Time has passed and I am no longer wandering around like a deer caught in headlights.I have found purposes and people who enrich my life in wonderful ways. I don’t have to mourn a loss which was costing me too much at the time, nor do I have to be angry. I choose not to discuss him or our life together. I can go to a family get-together and behave in a civil and cordial way.
    And I can remember what I learned from him and our marriage. I can’t ‘forget’ because that would obliterate 30 years of my life and those years had value. I can’t ‘forgive’ in the sense I tried to explain above – somehow or another, I keep hearing the voice of Roseanne Rosadanna chirruping “Never mind” and after all, she was a parody personality. I minded, and at the time, it was like being murdered and still being alive. I still mind because I had to reinvent myself. I still mind because my children were made to suffer and Mama Bear has long claws and strong teeth.
    I mind, but I can still maintain a level of behavior which I find acceptable. I believe that sometime, you will still mind because you matter as a human being, but you will be behaving in a way that you find acceptable. For me, that means that you will be dealing in ‘forgiveness.’
    I have observed that some of the people who have exalted ideas about ‘forgiveness’ as described above in an ethereal sense have led extraordinarily privileged lives. It’s like they are explaining how lovely it is to wash up and they have never been down in the ditch. Don’t talk MUD to me unless you know MUD.
    Spellcheck is winking red at me but this has gone on so long that I am just going to leave the grammatical errors and spelling boo-boos to amuse you on a rainy afternoon!


  2. Such a beautiful and inspiring post. I can completely relate to this. I also tend to apologize for things that aren’t my doing. I’ve been working to try to stop this behavior, as I think it enabled others to take advantage of me in the past. However, like you say, old habits die hard. It’s a process, but I agree that learning to value yourself is key. Proud of your for writing about this. Keep up the good work. Much love – speak766

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much. I’ve found it to help so much to get the words down and share them. So much more helpful than maintaining them internally. I am proud of you that you recognize this in yourself and are actively working to break your own habits. Though I think we are starting from a place of strength, being cognizant of our flaws. Rock on!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Another excellent post!

    Anxiety is such a booger of a bear, and it is so hard to explain to those who do not experience it. You do a lovely job of trying to pin down its smoky essence.

    There was a book that helped me through my divorce, so long ago that it feels like an unhappy dream. That book is Codependent No More. I gave it away ages ago, and perhaps it won’t have meaning for you. But.

    Forgiveness is not forgetting. Forgiveness is the gift you give to yourself, to let go and move on. Each moment you spend focused outward and on some other beautiful moment of your life, being absolutely present in that moment, is a step away from the pain, a step towards letting go and moving on.

    Rollercoasters. Exercise that makes you gasp for breath. Complicated recipes. Step into something that absorbs you completely and step out of the mental review.

    And always? Always know God is present and with you. You are never alone.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Mrs. O… I have definitely been wrapping g myself up in every project, event, movie, and book I can get my hands on. Every little bit helps. I’ll definitely look out for that book in particular! It’s amazing how helpful it can be for someone else to just say that they know your pain. Even outside of advice offered, it helps to know you’re not alone.


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