“Laugh when you can, apologize when you should, and let go of what you can’t change. Life’s too short to be anything… but happy.”~ Anonymous
Nine years ago, I sat in a bar with “Allen,” catching up on old times. It was the first time we’d hung out since we abruptly and cruelly stopped being friends, one cool summer ten years before. A few beers in, I said, “Hey, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry for everything I said and did back then.” Allen laughed, wrapped his arms around me and rocked me. I thought I’d fall off the barstool.
“Oh…the things we do when we’re young!” he said.
Wait a minute….I thought. Where’s my apology?
It wasn’t the right time, I guess.
But then, last week brought out the #metoo campaign. And nine years can do a lot for a person. Allen and I started talking about the summer, nineteen years ago–the trusted adult who put us in a situation *just* this side of abuse. He remembered a few things about that weekend. He validated what I remembered and he apologized for his part in it. I did, too.
For years, I’d sat alone with my memories of that time–from the strangeness of the hotel room to the caustic argument we had later that summer, where I’d projected my anger at the “trusted adult” against him, and his teenaged boy bravado lashed back. I squirmed for years thinking about the hurtful things I said to Allen, who had once been once of my dearest friends and remembered the sting of what he said to me. Okay, so it took almost twenty decades, but we both offered apologies and forgiveness. There was no dismissing what had happened as “just high school and therefore, didn’t matter.” I used to say that there should be an automatic forgiveness swipe for (most) everything that a person does before the age of 18, like the Universe shakes a giant Etch-a-Sketch and erases all of our misdeeds and we are supposed to forget everything that happened to us.
First of all, I used an Etch-a-Sketch analogy, I am officially old.
Second, Etch-a-Sketches never truly do erase. You can shake and shake all you want, but there will always be a faint line in the screen where a mark was made. But I think I spent a lot of time pretending no one ever lined my screen, but also that every person I ever hurt was holding onto what I did as though it happened just moments ago. I didn’t leave room for me to acknowledge that a part of me still needed healing, or that that I was worthy of forgiveness for what I’d done. 17-year old me, in her corduroy pants and gauzy tank top, unkempt eyebrows and hat stolen from the Theater department, was acknowledged.
She isn’t someone from the past. She’s a part of me now, too.
Something about me moving back home has given me the opportunity to re-visit and heal some of the old things that hurt. A few months ago, a woman I’d attended elementary school with reached out to me after reading this blog. We shared some stories. Her experiences were similar to mine. Many of the kids who bullied me had also bullied her. We also talked about the kids we’d bullied, ourselves. In somehow acknowledging that to one another, we could forgive ourselves just a little bit. Twelve year old Courtney, in braces and thick glasses, desperately trying to be invisible and even more desperately trying to straighten her hair, was heard and validated.
This weekend I sat with my husband, still agonizing over mistakes I made as High Priestess of my Coven. He tried to remind me of what I’ve done right, but at the moment, it’s still beyond me to see much of the good things my work accomplished. Instead, I only see the disappointed faces of the people I left behind, the angry faces of the people who feel I let them down, the hateful faces of the people who, well, were just hateful. It can’t all be my fault. Can anything within the workings between people ever fully be one person’s fault and nothing belong to anyone else? Of course not. But I’ve always been an overachiever. I seem to think I can own all the guilt, too.
I’ll get there. I’ll get to compassion for myself. I’ll find the bottom of the confusion to see what I truly need to own up for. And if Allen and I can offer apologies nineteens years after one of the most painful exchanges I’ve ever had with another person, there’s hope that I’ll eventually receive some from those who hurt me, too. I don’t have to pretend that everything is okay, but I can move forward with the hope that resolution certainly can come with time.
No great words of wisdom in this! This is just me sharing my thoughts.
One more hope–that more of you have found similar comfort and resolution through the #metoo campaign.