I still remember the first time someone brought to my attention
the fact that I often use the phrase “I’m sorry.”
I was in the car on my way to high school with a neighbor, her father behind the wheel.
In conversation, Sandra interrupted me to instruct me.
“You need to stop saying ‘I’m sorry.’ You say that all the time.”
But, after she pointed it out, I realized … she was right.
That was over thirty years ago.
Through the years, I’ve THOUGHT about how often I still say it,
but I’ve never really been able to figure out what motivates me to say it
or how to stop.
These days, it is my daughters who tell me.
“Mom. You said it again!”
“Don’t apologize for that! It’s not your fault.”
“Mom, WHY are did you say, ‘I’m sorry’?”
Yes, my girls … wise and fierce, they are.
I apologize for all sorts of things ;
when I forget to stir the sauce which causes it to curdle or become lumpy,
I will sit down at the table, sauce boat in hand, and begin dinner with an
“I’m sorry ….” that spills into an explanation.
When I cut someone off in traffic,
I offer a wave and an “I’m sorry” … though they can’t hear my words.
If I’m running late for school carpool pick up,
I take time to offer an apology to each child.
When I create something …. give a gift … I begin with an “I’m sorry”
for the things I see in the gift/artwork that are flawed.
When I say something that is truth, but could possibly hurt feelings …..
when I bump into someone …..
when I sneeze …….
As I watched Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday episode the other week, I heard Mariel Hemmingway do it. Oprah, Mariel and Bobby (Mariel’s boyfriend) were talking about what it means to love yourself. Bobby shared an observation that Mariel used to thank people when it was not warranted. And Mariel chimed in adding that she a used to say “I’m sorry” all.the.time. . . . I leaned the ear of my heart in to listen more closely. . . . They briefly discussed WHY someone would find themselves beholden to the “I’m sorry” habit … as Oprah appeared completely unable to relate to this habit, asking “WHY do people do that!?” and wearing completely-dumbfounded face-mask. She didn’t understand the motivation at.all. The words and phrases Mariel used to describe the “why” included feeling less than, feeling insecure, not liking yourself, trying to make yourself small. She may as well have been trying to explain to Oprah how to use her wings to fly. Oprah knew she didn’t have wings and she couldn’t relate at all. It was an interesting part of the conversation for me.
Two new verbal habits that I am working on include choosing to use the phrase, “I don’t care” and also refraining from explaining myself. When it comes up in conversation or I see someone who says, “I just don’t care,” I say out loud, “I need a little more of that!” Because, if truth be told, I care too much …
and for many wrong reasons.
I think p.a.r.t of my apologizing and explaining is that I don’t want people to feel “left out.” I don’t want them to feel rejected because we don’t see eye to eye. I don’t want them to think that I think they are wrong. I want to be inclusionary.
But, this gives the illusion of being vanilla
when I am not.
In some ways, I am hiding … making myself “small,” as Mariel called it.
I want to begin to use a new phrase. I want to incorporate it in to my life. I know there will be times that I will need to preface the with the words, “with all due respect” …. like when I’m talking to my daddy or someone in authority over me…
But, for the most part, I want to be brave and begin to say
“I don’t care.” I have been practicing. It feels good. I want to become proficient in using the phrase
often, with courage and in a timely manner (not later … when I am explaining!).
I admire the woman who holds her head high … her chin points further away from her body than it does towards her chest. She has a look in her eye … that really isn’t a twinkle
because a twinkle is just too pretty. The look …. is more like a metal-against-flint-born-sParK.
She has a steeliness about her. She wants to hear your thoughts,
but she doesn’t care if you agree with hers. She can say “I really don’t care if you agree with me”
and you know she means it. She has an opinion and she isn’t afraid to have it.
She.does.not.apologize for being herself or for owning her opinions.
I’m wondering if this idea … this focus should be part of my “Word for the Year” for 2014.
Do you choose a word for the year? I have for about five years now. I haven’t written about the last two years … but I’m looking forward to sharing those stories.
Yes, maybe just maybe, this could be the year that I learn not to care.