Eight years ago I made a mistake. I harmed someone. I broke a heart.
Some relationships are toxic and broken and present as steel boxes padlocked with kisses in size just-too-small. A key or a welding torch and a clean or jagged, skin-cutting break can be necessary.
So some break-ups are unavoidable. Some are required. But some – one – are just stupid, a product of youth and optimism and an odd conviction that you can come back later, when you’re ready.
A friend once told me “you can’t put people in the freezer like leftover brownies and come back to them later.”
People and relationships don’t wait for you to be ready. Maybe you grow through relationships. Maybe relationships provide the context for challenging you to become a person ready for a relationship. Maybe we’re all fixer-uppers.
Maybe I was older then and I’m younger now. Now, my caution and my fears evaporate daily. Now I subscribe to (and make up) theories of bounce and and resilience and faith. Now I allow for mistakes. Now I embrace mistakes. Now I don’t have to get it right OR I WILL SURELY DIE. I’ve gotten it wrong so many times that wrong is a friend. We cuddle.
So now I don’t worry about relationships failing. It will be okay. I will be okay. A string of brief and broken relationships doesn’t mean that I’m bad at relationships – it means that I’m really, really good at getting out of relationships that don’t and won’t fit. Or stretch.
But this relationship was not that. This was it.
So I was wrong. I harmed someone and that harm was my shadow.
I’m wary of our culture’s addiction to addiction. I marvel at the way even those of us who aren’t in programs twelve-step our thoughts and our explanations. I’m even more skeptical about the universe as Santa Claus who rewards good little girls and boys who’ve read The Secret. I’m suspicious of absent apologies and doubt the necessity of forgiveness.
And yet. I was haunted. I did wrong. Somehow I needed to make it right, even though I couldn’t make it right. I kept thinking about making amends. I thought the earth required it in order to keep turning but really the target was my spinning soul.
Recovering alcoholics make amends. It is Step Nine: housecleaning. Action. People in the program contacting those they’ve harmed and acknowledge the wrong and ask how to make it right. Step nine is a nag.
I tried. I called. I called. I called. I called once a month for ten months. I thought, maybe I should stop calling because I’m possibly re-victimizing this person when he is forced to hear my messages saying please call me when he clearly doesn’t want to call me.
And yet the goddamned universe is a tyrant. She made me do it.
I called one last time and left a rambly, unprepared voice mail about what I did and how wrong and undeserved it was and that I was sorry and in fact that I am so sorry that even eight years later, I’m still thinking about it.
Yet I was forgiven, lovingly, surprisingly, unreservedly.
And I am lightened.
_____________________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