I have been sick for two days; throwing up until I can barely move sick. I have repeatedly apologized to my husband for being ill and for him having to care for me and because we had to go to the hospital and because I make horrible sounds when I am puking and because I needed his help showering and so on and so on. In the interim of this avalanche of apology, he has said one thing, “It’s not your fault that you’re sick. You don’t have to apologize.”
It’s a foreign concept to me, to not continuously apologize for every single thing I’m doing; for illness, for tears, for saying, “No.” I was raised in a household where if you were sick, it was an inconvenience and you’d better be dying, otherwise you’re going to school damn it!
I remember one time when I was in fifth grade; we had our state tests and I was terribly nervous. Another standard in our household was that you pass, period. I was always a very stressed test taker, there was an immense amount of pressure and it always made me queasy. So, there I am, finished with my testing and I really feel like I’m going to be sick. I ask to use the restroom and just before I enter, I throw up all down the front of myself; my clothes are covered. I was fortunate enough that my mom lived close to the school and she was unemployed at the time so I knew she’d be available. I walked to the nurses office, still soaked in puke and called her to come to my rescue.
“Mom, I threw up and I really need to come home.”
“Are you finished with all your tests?”
“I think so but, I’m covered in throw up. Can you come get me?”
“Why did you throw up on yourself? Why didn’t you go to the bathroom?”
“I did, I just didn’t make it in time.”
“Well, that’s ridiculous Roxanne. Let me talk to the secretary or nurse.”
I passed the phone on while I went to the bathroom and when I returned the nurse was there to hand it back, “She wants to speak with you again sweetie.”
I took the phone, “Listen to me right now. Get back in that class and finish your tests! You’re fucking lying and you still have more tests.”
“I told you I thought they were over. I’m covered in vomit, I smell, and I need some clean clothes.”
“Too fucking bad Roxanne.”
“Can Grandma come get me?” (She also lived very close and was at home).
“Absolutely not. Go back to class.”
Then she hung up.
I put down the phone, thanked the nurse, then left her office. I held the sobs in my throat so tight it felt like it was going to turn inside out (another standard, no crying). I walked to the cafeteria, got my lunch, then sat all alone as my classmates looked and laughed.
This didn’t bother me at all. You must understand, for me, it was less shameful to be thought of as disgusting or gross than it was for anyone to know that I had the type of mother who wasn’t there for me; that hurt more. Not many people knew how Mommy Dearest (one of the names I eventually called her) behaved but, my guidance counselor did. She came, sat across from me, and eventually persuaded me to come back other office. She gave me clean clothes from the lost and found and the moment she handed them to me, I fell apart. I apologized profusely as I sobbed uncontrollably. My heart was breaking because here a stranger (ish) was showing me more love than my mother did.
“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I’m really very sorry. I can go back to the cafeteria now because I stink. I’m sorry I made it your office smell. I’m sorry you had to come get me. I’ll be fine now,” I said as I grabbed my greasy school lunch.
“Stay here, let me get you something better to eat, that food is going to make you even sicker,” and she did.
My mom never came to get me, she never allowed my Grandma to come get me. This wasn’t the first or last time that my mom wasn’t there for me. This was just the first time I realized that she never would be.
Today as an adult, whenever I am performing less than what I was taught perfect is, I say, “I’m sorry.” The little girl in me is so afraid to lose love, so afraid to disappoint that she has been apologizing for 30 years, for everything.
I even taught my daughters to be overly apologetic and that was a harsh realization. I watch as my Toddler walks in the mall or gym and says, “Sorry,” to people who bump into her. Why is it her responsibility to apologize when they are knocking her down?!
We as a society apologize too much. People say, “Well it’s polite,” or, “It’s good manners.”
No, it’s not. It’s submissive. If you haven’t done anything intentionally harmful then you’re over apologizing. You are NEVER going to say the right thing for everyone. You’re NEVER going to make everyone happy. AND sometimes illness just happens.
We should really focus on clarification rather than apologizing; a majority of the time it’s all a miscommunication or misunderstanding anyway. I truly believe that most of are not malicious, we just can’t find the right words in the right moment sometimes.
The people who genuinely love and care for us don’t want an apology. Their care is an act of LOVE. Love they feel you would give in turn and so apologies and often gratitude are unnecessary.
Today, I want you stop apologizing for bullshit. We all get to do that. No more blanket apologies for fucking nonsense. No more saying sorry just because. You are loved without your apologies and so am I.