This is going is going to be a different kind of post. A very personal and open one. I’m not at liberty to talk about details, but I need to somehow express my confusion and sadness and disappointment in myself. I do this because sometimes it’s better to clear the air in a public way than to continue to stew in my own doubts. I don’t do this because I need validation or words of comfort. I am not looking for sympathy; I simply think it’s important to acknowledge my flaws and face them head on.
Recently I did something wrong. It was a mistake. A big mistake. I did something that I never even imagined I could be capable of. I hurt someone, and I didn’t even know I did it at the time. They had to tell me, and I felt not only shame and guilt, I couldn’t fathom how I had managed to so royally fuck up. I thought that all that time I had been careful. I thought I was being sensitive, and gentle, and kind.
But in that moment I was only thinking of myself. I didn’t think about what was happening outside of myself. And that sucks. That super duper sucks. Especially because of what it meant to someone else.
And then things fell apart. I’m still not really sure why. I thought we had talked about it. I thought my tears and apologies showed that I acknowledged what I had done and I thought we had been moving forward, or at least moving along. I did focus on how it affected me. I got defensive, and while there were many complicated elements to this narrative, I had a very difficult time reconciling what had happened with my character. I would like to believe it wasn’t all my fault. I would like to be able to say there were other factors involved, that it was a fluke. But I can’t decide how others react. I can’t decide when someone else forgives me. I don’t get to choose if someone feels pain or anger because of what I did. I can only do what I can to make up for it.
The thing that is so difficult for me to let go of is my sense of self. I know I am a good person. I know I have a good heart, and that I am compassionate and empathetic. I know that. But it is difficult to have someone who you love and trust tell you otherwise. And even though it was a mistake, even though I know it is something I can learn from and someday forgive myself for, it still keeps me up at night, the feeling that I am fundamentally different than who I thought I was.
This is something everyone has to contend with at one point or another. They make a mistake, they choose to do something wrong, they confront their privilege. As a white person, I am living in a time where I am continually facing my bias and the things I’ve taken for granted in a white supremacist culture and society. And that is uncomfortable. It is natural to feel defensive, and to want to seek blame elsewhere. But I have to confront the reality of my bias. I have to own up to my mistakes, no matter how uncomfortable. I am beginning to be used to being uncomfortable. And that is necessary for growth.
But for all that, for all the rationale I can immerse myself in, for all that my logical brain is telling me that while I may make mistakes and I may be unintentionally racist or agist or ableist but that it is all part of the learning process, the rest of me, my heart, my soul, is crushed that I didn’t see this sooner. That I didn’t know myself well enough to realize that what I was doing and saying was hurting someone else.
And of course into the mix comes depression, anxiety, insomnia. Human beings have a tendency to remember either the good or the bad, not the complex composition of both. And we focus on the bad. We have all lain awake at night, remembering that time we said something idiotic in front of someone we were trying to impress, someone who probably forgot that it happened by the end of the night. We remember every time we cut someone off in traffic. We remember all the times we did something mean or insensitive, convincing ourselves that we are garbage humans, that we are the sum of our mistakes. It doesn’t matter if you are actually a good person. Depression and anxiety have a way of making you feel that you at your lowest is who you really are.
I am sorry for what happened. I am sorry for what I did, and for what I didn’t do. I know that it is my responsibility to be accountable for what I did, to learn from my mistakes, and to be better in the future. I can do all I can do mend my mistakes but I can’t wait for others’ forgiveness to be better. They may never forgive me, but that’s no excuse for failing to learn and improve.
It doesn’t mean I don’t still feel like crap though.