Not starting with “Sorry”

My mom and I are both cleaning out our closets right now.

She calls me to tell me that she got my letter and it made her weepy. That she’s going through all the papers in her house and has a hundred pounds of old bills to get rid of; how much lighter it feels, letting all that accumulation be swept away.

She tells me that she found a packet of old letters. They are letters she wrote to her grandmother when she was young; her grandmother kept them, and they were later found by my grandmother, who gave them back to my mom. One of those pieces of personal history… years later, we can look at things like this, old relics of our past selves, and see patterns we didn’t know we were carrying. She tells me that in every single one of these letters, she starts by saying “I’m sorry”.

I have a memory of the women of the family. My grandmother, my mother, and me, as a child. We have waded out into the ocean and are throwing a little football around. Every time we throw the ball and someone misses the catch, we say “Sorry!” Someone notices that this is happening, and we start laughing about it. It becomes a joke. Because even when we know we are doing it, and try to stop, that word keeps slipping out! So we say ‘sorry!’, making it a caricature and laughing at it, laughing at ourselves.

It acts so innocent, the word “sorry”. It masquerades as kindness, when it really stems from pain. I’m sorry, I’m not perfect. I’m sorry, I’m not enough. I’m sorry to be a burden to you. I’m sorry I’m here, because someone else would be doing it better.

I see this whole complex of “sorry”, of not-enough-ness. How heavy it has been. Help me see it… and then release it. For the person I am becoming, who is free of the weight. A woman who isn’t apologizing about existing anymore. Not by running away, but through the natural process of growing upwards. Just as a flower moves towards the sun. Slowly but surely. It can be peaceful. Breathtaking.

Little ways we can mark our progress through life, our progress on our personal path of healing. I didn’t start my letter to my mother with the word “Sorry”.

 

Thank you.

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