Hello, reader! How are you? What’s growing in your inner garden? I’ve been thinking about what an apology is.
I had conflict with a friend. They apologized for not getting back to a text I sent when I really needed help. They explained why they didn’t reply, and I was like–ok, thanks for telling me. I acknowledged their apology, and got out of the kitchen as quickly as possible.
It was hurtful to me, that they had not replied to my text when I was losing my mind. I didn’t want to talk about it. I just knew–this person is not there for me. I’d chosen to let go of the friendship.
Then I changed my mind and decided to try talking about it. They apologized–maybe they cared. I could ask for something different.
So we talked about it. We walked to a little park by our house. I explained how I felt when they didn’t reply to my text. I sort of blamed myself, for needing assurance. They re-explained why they hadn’t replied to my text. I had heard the explanation the first time.
I asked for a different behavior: When I’m having a hard time, could you reply to my text? Just a “no, I can’t help you” or a “no, I’ll talk to you about it another day” would really help me feel like I’m not alone in my suffering.
They heard my request, there was a pause, and they mentioned that a car had just passed by that had a cute dog in it. I didn’t get a “yes, I can try that” or “no, I can’t reply to you” or “I’m not sure” or “that makes sense, but I’m not very reliable” or anything. Just something about a pupper.
Wow, it was familiar. The previous time I’d asked this person for something, they heard my request, there was a pause, and I didn’t get a yes or no. I thought they were considering it.
Now I saw this is a pattern. Something as small as a one sentence reply to a text was too much to ask for.
what an apology is
This whole experience makes me think about what an apology is. This person uses apology as a way to check in. They realized they might have hurt me, and they wanted to express care by apologizing. It was a small way to start a conversation, and make sure things were ok. Felt like damage control. They were caring for themself, so the relationship could be ok. They weren’t caring for me.
How I actually felt didn’t matter–they weren’t making sure I was ok and being there. My truth wasn’t pertinent. Their truth and their need mattered. When I asked for something different so I wouldn’t get hurt again, my request was not worth addressing. My need was dropped.
One time might be ok, but I noticed the pattern. Their feelings matter–mine don’t. Their need to check in and make sure the relationship was ok mattered. My need to feel not ignored didn’t matter. I was willing to engage them, ask for something, be direct, and communicate. That’s basic respect. They changed the subject.
Treating people like they don’t matter is not my values. I’m working on a world of actual care.
There was a whole other dimension of physical contact. They had given me long hugs that were a spiritual experience. I felt cared for, when this person touched me. The stark contrast between how I felt when this person touched me, vs the dropped feeling afterward confused me. They weren’t willing to help me feel safe when I’m at my lowest. The physical contact was entirely on their terms. No actual care was happening.
It was confusing and painful, and when I tried to talk about it more, in a fair and direct way, they had even less compassion. They said it was a red flag that I want to care and be cared for. They got angry with me, and I was scared. I’m still wincing about it weeks later.
Feeling ignored is an ouchie feeling for many–mine was not a bizarre pain. The whole experience teaches me what I want in relationship, and what an apology is and is not.
An apology is showing up for at least a few minutes for how another person feels and what they need. Not to dwell in how they feel and what they need, but at least giving it a few minutes. Showing up, taking it in–caring for at least those few moments.
Then if there’s a request for different behavior, a yes or no or maybe seems fair. Ignoring the question and changing the subject seems low. I made myself vulnerable by asking for something. If you just ignore that, you’re not a safe person to do relationship with. It wasn’t care–their apology was their self-centered attempt to be officially ok and preserve a relationship.
I don’t even like dogs. Sometimes I like a chill dog. But for the most part, they are fine doing their thing over there. I respect dogs as beings, but I don’t need to engage them or adore them.
Their projects are different from my projects. Rarely do I need to bark, dig a hole, or pee on something specific. They often make a lot of noise.
I adore snakes, corvids, horny toads, roadrunners, water, crystals, frogs and toads, flickers, the sky, big clouds, meadowlarks, sandhill cranes, starlings, bats, manatees, crayfish, bison, cows, goats, sheep, chickens, butterflies, ladybugs, fish, rabbits, dragons, mushrooms, lots of plants–almost all the plants.
Please show me a bat if you want to distract me. They are wild and free and beautiful. Or please don’t distract me–actually give a fuck about another person.