Sep 13, 2010

Sorry seems to be the hardest word

I screwed up, almost big time. Forgot to arrange for the school to be open so we could set up for the barn dance, resulting in several friends/volunteers waiting outside for an hour, my friend/neighbour/teacher leaving a party early to open up, and a very rushed set-up for what luckily turned out to be a good event.

Typical of the good people in my world (the world?), my apologies were quickly accepted and put aside as we got right to work setting up for yet another fabulous school party. No one held a grudge, and we all went home feeling great (albeit exhausted). No big deal in the end.

But for me it is a big deal. I let down the group, inconveniencing friends who were already putting out more than should be expected. So I sent a follow-up apology email to let them know that it meant something to me. That when I flop I don't just shrug it off and rely on the kindness of strangers to pick up the pieces for me. That I truly appreciate their goodness of spirit, not just take it for granted.

Sometimes that second apology, later when things have cooled, is the most important one. After it's over and we've all recovered, when it would be easy to just move on and forgive & forget, it means that much more to let them know that I'm still carrying it - in a healthy, learning and appreciative way. Not heavy and self-flagellating, just an acknowledgment that in the morning after it still means something.

I see it in my children that when the (genuine) apology comes too soon, before the tears and the hurt have been kissed away, that it doesn't register, doesn't make it better. A few minutes later, there's space to come back and say it again. The hurt one is ready to listen, and the hurter shows that he's still feeling it, hasn't just blurted out a rote "sorry" and moved on.

Way back in grad school I inadvertently put a friend in a very difficult situation that would take weeks to unravel. I apologized immediately and profusely, and she could see that it was an honest and unintentional mistake. But the next day in a quiet moment I said to her, "I just want you to know I'm not taking this lightly." The healing we both felt at this connection far surpassed any S-word protocol.

So thank you, dear friends, for holding the space for human error and for having the positive spirit to keep the focus on how to make a big ol' Right out of my wrong.

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