When I was eight or nine, my mother grievously injured my fragile soul.
She may have asked me to clean my room. Possibly she made me put down my Nancy Drew to wash dishes. In all likelihood, she gave me grief for sassing her.
[Note to self: there is a lesson here. This dynamic – my unrepentant, inevitable and perennial backtalk and my mother’s attempt to curb it – was the mainstay of our relationship, I believe, and a lesson in the frustration and futility of attempting to alter another’s temperament and inclination.
Her efforts to de-sassify me were for naught.
This is why parenting sucks. We’re supposed to shape and smooth and socialize small wild animals with pointy teeth and even more pointed wills and we’re supposed to enjoy it.]
[Note to self’s note: The sins you commit are the sins you will suffer. My mother endured snide comments and outright challenge from me from the time I spoke my first word to the the time I moved out. I now know her delicious pain. I’m three years into it. Her name is Lola.]
[Note to my dearerst of dear readers: If you really love me, you will babysit the little political one. The one who, when the choice to behave or not behave and the attendant consequences are outlined to her, tells me: “No, that’s YOUR choice. I’M taking the power.”]
Whatever happened, what ultimately happened was that I was banished to my room where I cried hot, insulted, evidently wholly unloved tears into my frilly pillow. I cried myself through the afternoon and into a sweaty sleep.
When I awoke, my questioning heart was heavy and needed answers and as every slighted child knows, the best replies are found in the heavens, or at least the ceiling, or if you’re the girliest of girls, in the ruffled canopy that arches over your bed. So I did that.
I contemplated the injustice inscribed in winding lines of flowering vines on the fabric of my bed’s canopy – the bed I had received for my birthday after earmarking years of editions of the Sears catalogue. I wanted a pink canopy bed but I received a burgandy one. Clearly That Woman hated me.
And I needed her to love me, more than ever, because she was mad at me. Because she hurt me. Because I knew then, and I know now, that the one who makes the cut should bind the wound.
If I am a nectarine – and I am – then this bit of knowledge is the pit that I carry. Hard, inedible, necessary, generative.
Je m’excuse. I am sorry. The words don’t matter but the hunger must be fed.
My children know this, too. When I have wounded them, and exiled them to their rooms to contemplate their ceilings – and they are even more oppressed than I was, as they lack canopied beds – their hearts break loudly open.
They protest. They protest me. They grieve their pain. They blame me for their wounds. And when the protesting and sobbing subsides, they need me to kiss them and their boo-boos better.
This is what I remembered, this weekend, when life was an archer and launched arrows of outraged misfortune at me and forced me to contemplate my own ceiling. Meditating on the intricacies of the fifth wall yielded these conclusions:
- The developer who built this house had the good sense not to spray texture on the ceilings of the first two levels of the house, but somehow that sense departed him on the third story. This is unfortunate. Textured ceilings are a crime against design.
- Life doesn’t have very good aim because no actual organs – including my heart – were irreparably harmed in the making of this misfortune. But pride has poor circulation and bruises vividly. It is almost satisfying to behold.
- Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is woefully incomplete and should be updated, preferably by me. I’ve mentioned this before.
- Aggrieved souls need apologies.
So, yes, dearest perceptive readers, someone hurt my feelings, and hurt my feelings in a way that was almost masterly: I endured – oh the agony, oh the woe, oh oh oh – a snub that was successful, effective, essential, repetitive, and, I think, remorseless.
Still, despite my suspicion that the villain in this story is not sorry and never will be, I crave a conversation, an explanation, an apology.
Apologies are magic. They are the play button when a relationship has been paused. Interrupted. Broken. An apology can bridge that distance, span that cleavage, heal that break, and start that song, again.
But only when they are real. And offered. And neither of these words captured the absence dancing across my ceiling.
So what to do with my truth, my stone fruit, that only the person who harms you can heal you?
this essay is part of The Sorry Series – How To Apologize, How NOT to Apologize, and the Power of Forgiveness:
*not really part of the series but I do make a wildly necessary apology in it