“Lisa,” Dave said as we sat at a long table in the dining hall, wasting as many hours as we could at dinner, “You say ‘I’m sorry’ too much.”
My reply? “I’m sorry.”
I thought of this the other day because my daughter apologized for something, again, that was totally not her fault or hers to apologize about. I stopped her and corrected her, pointing out that she had nothing to be sorry about. “You know I say ‘I’m sorry’ too much,” she answered. I thought of Dave.
I didn’t even realize I apologized endlessly when Dave first challenged me. I do know that I felt attacked (I now know he was not attacking me) and judged and wrong at the time – hence my apology for apologizing.
Was this my overdeveloped sense of responsibility and guilt? From growing up in the Church? From leaving the Church? From being told I had “original sin” and was tainted and shameful? Was I actually told these things, or did I hear them anyway? Did I translate doctrine to highlight my errors, or was I taught the painful messages I learned?
I guess it doesn’t matter. I don’t remember how Dave responded. (It was over thirty years ago – there I admitted it!) I’m guessing he rolled his eyes in exasperation. I know that I was driven to be as good and perfect as I could be through all my childhood, during college, and through most of my adulthood. I think, as I step away from my perfection, I sometimes try to step away perfectly as well. It’s a mantle I have draped around myself – as protection? as repentance? – for a long, long time. And it’s a tough mantle to put down. But I’m trying to do that, probably trying to do it perfectly at times. Ah well.
And if I don’t pull it off – if I don’t stop feeling guilty when I’m not perfect, whatever that means, or feeling over-responsible for things that are out of my control – well then you certainly know what I’ll say.