Unlearning Apologies

I want to say I’m sorry
for saying I’m sorry
so goddamned much
for being a nuisance
with my insistence
that I’m too insistent
too needy
too much

I want to apologize
for apologizing
when I shouldn’t
when I’ve done nothing
wrong
when I’m simply feeling
like the burden
you assure me I’m not

I get frustrated
with myself
with my fears
with the crushing weight
of not knowing
how much need
is too much need

I get angry
with myself
because I know
better
I know
that you know
I get angry
because I am
saying I’m sorry
for existing
as I am
for being me

I see your face
puzzlement and proxy-pain
when you tell me
“No, baby
No sorries.”

And then I get angry
with them
all over again
for teaching me
that I am too much
that my need
is too much

Angry with me
for letting that stick
where other
better
knowledge has failed
for being afraid
to ask

Angry with a world
where being sick
or being young
or needing help
has always equaled
being too much

Then, you smile
and stroke my face
remind me that
it’s not a one-way street
remind me that
the things I give
balance with
the things I need

So I say again
I’m sorry
for saying I’m sorrry
so goddamned much


This kind of just happened. I wasn’t planning this. I was just sitting here, being grateful for what I have, feeling unworthy.

I had a seizure today. I hurt, and I’m tired. I’m not up to much, and going out, anywhere, is much. There are just days when the getting ready, the getting dressed and being presentable in public is too much. It’s daunting, like facing a mountain you never wanted to climb in the first place, and knowing you have to, anyway.

We had been, I think, planning to go get Chinese takeout at that place that lets you get the buffet to go. He’d been wanting it for a while.

And I just… can’t. And I knew he wouldn’t, as much as he’s been craving it, if I couldn’t. I asked him, if I gave him a list of the things I wanted off the buffet, would he be willing to do that? And I felt shitty, asking. I felt like an imposition, a burden, a drag. To ask him to go to so much extra effort, just because I’m all fucked up.

And off he goes, with a list and a smile, thanking me for coming up with a way for us to still have Chinese. And all this just kind of… erupted.

This thing has played out more than a time or two in my life, both before and after the illness, with romantic partners and parents and friends. The me being too much thing.

Most of the time, I’m okay. Most of the time, I hear him when he says that’s bullshit, that it was always bullshit. Most of the time, I believe him.

Standing in one of those mountain-facing days, though, and asking him to climb it for me, no matter how small it seems to him, sometimes I get scared. This is one of those days that life has taught me I have to be sorry for being me.

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Don’t kid yourself; it’s ALL conditional.

Unconditional love. It’s the much-hyped, much lauded, Utopian emotional ideal.

The idea that there’s someone for everyone, someone who will love us no matter what, accept us just as we are, warts and all. Someone who will continue to give us that love, regardless of circumstance or change, action or inaction. Blanket absolution for every flaw, every misdeed.

Friendship? The same ideals seem to apply. Respect? Admiration? Also the same.

The thing is, none of those things are unconditional. And I don’t think they should be.

There are conditions on every single type of relationship, on every human interaction. Those conditions are mostly unspoken, silently understood. Tacit social agreements. The clerk at the convenience store won’t charge you for things you don’t buy. If he does, he risks losing the employment through which your interaction with him takes place. The teller at the bank won’t pocket part of your deposit, or she risks the same thing. The trucker behind you on the highway won’t ram into you and push you into oncoming traffic, or he risks losing his job, his license, and his freedom.

Your friends won’t steal from you. They won’t trash your things, or take undue advantage of you. They will listen when you speak. They won’t decide that they know, better than you, what your motivations or experiences are. They won’t form their opinions about you without coming straight to the source, and giving you the chance to clear up any misconceptions they might have. If they do, they risk losing the friendship.

Your romantic partners won’t intentionally harm you. They won’t lie to you about important things. If you’ve agreed to be monogamous, they won’t cheat. If they do, they risk losing the relationship.

All of these things are conditions, set on relationships from the outset. Most of the time, they aren’t explicitly stated, but they exist just the same. No relationship is unconditional. Love is conditional. Admiration is conditional. Professional relationships are conditional. Friendships are conditional. Romantic relationships are conditional.

Frankly, it would be unhealthy, otherwise.

Unconditional love, unless it’s the kind given to minor children by parents, leads to some pretty busted shit. It’s at least a part of the reason, in many cases, that domestic abuse victims stay with their abusers. It’s the reason why people allow themselves to be beaten down, repeatedly, in unhealthy relationships with relatives.

Without these conditions, you’re basically saying, “You can treat me however you like, do whatever you want to me, and I’ll still take it, still allow you to have influence in my life, still continue to make you a priority.” You’re devaluing yourself, your emotions, your safety, your own experience, and the relationships, themselves.

Our relationships, whether romantic, friendship, professional or otherwise, exist for a reason. There’s a commonality between you and the other person, between your interests, ethics, goals and/or ideals. If this weren’t the case, then the person with whom you have the relationship wouldn’t matter. You could replace them with any warm body, any other person, no matter their personality or commonality with you, and it would make no difference.

The conditions are what make the relationships valuable, at their core.

Unconditional love is a sweet and reassuring concept, on the surface, much like “…and they lived happily ever after.”

But only children believe in fairy tales.