Thursday, July 14, 2016

Radical apology: an open letter to my step and maternal family

I'm writing to take responsibility for hurting the family and individuals within the family. In terms of motive and anticipated outcomes, I hope what I'm about to do is right. Mark is supporting me in this decision. I have little, if anything, to lose in accepting to participate in this act of vulnerability. But if, over the course of my forty-one years on this planet, my choices and actions have caused the amount of pain that can be the only explanation for your choice to completely withdraw from me in the last fifteen months, I must accept responsibility and speak my acknowledgement of wrongdoing, whether intentional or not. As far as what might be gained from this act: peace, healing, and a safe place of closure for all of us.

I am sorry for my social awkwardness. I realize how ill-socialized I can sometimes be—loud, obnoxious, outspoken, crass, ill-mannered, confrontational, giddy, light-minded, contrary. It must be very hard to know how to respond when I have said or done things in your presence that go against what must seem like common sensibility. It must seem as though I don't respect or care about you. I have hurt you in these ways, and I am sorry.

I am sorry for the quirks in my personality that seem like attention-seeking character flaws: my choice of odd/eccentric clothing, my political opinions, my risk-taking behaviors. I must seem volatile and out of control, and that must be quite unsettling or even a little frightening. It must have seemed like I thought I should be the center of attention. I must have appeared very selfish and like I disregarded the importance of everyone else. I am sorry my behavior caused these feelings in you. I am sorry.

I am sorry for my personal behavior that embarrassed the family. My poor grades in high school, my promiscuity, my drug and alcohol use in my late teens and early 20s, my divorces, my out-of-wedlock pregnancy with Emma, my years of reliance on public assistance, my delayed college graduation, my excommunication, my single-motherhood, and the content of some of my publications. The choices I made must have been cause for shame, and I realize that shame is very uncomfortable. It makes us feel out of control and small and insignificant. You must have felt like your lack of control over my poor choices left you vulnerable to criticism from those who knew both you and me. You didn't deserve criticism or to feel shame. I am sorry.

I am sorry for my unpredictable nature. I have experienced difficulty controlling my moods, and I know it must have been difficult to maintain patience with my resulting behaviors. It must have seemed like I didn't want to behave or be controlled, or that I was blatantly rebellious. This must have been so frustrating, when I'm certain if I hadn't had this difficulty you had open arms and love to offer me. I am sorry that my mood disorder and resulting behaviors made knowing how to love me so hard. You must have wanted to just give up.

I am sorry that in addressing and writing about my childhood/adolescence I've hurt you. My narrative of these events must be hurtful because my rendition isn't what you saw in your contact with me and my parents. Perhaps you feel that I should not write about personal things at all, in which case I apologize for the pain this letter causes you as well. I am sorry for hurting you by trying to deal with my problems in this way. I am sorry for how awkwardly I have handled healing from the trauma I've experienced. I am sorry for hurting you because I don't know a better or more personally effective way to go about it. I am sorry for expressing my need for validation. I am sorry for pressing for validation in ways that must seem as though I was trying to cause a rift in existing relationships. I am sorry for the pain I cause my mother in being unresolved about these issues and for not knowing how to live quietly, or how to heal quickly.

I am sorry that my personality is so different from the rest of the family. I've tried in unsuccessful ways to try and find a niche of belonging here, and I'm sorry that it would take a great deal of acting to keep from hurting other family members or ruffling feelings. I'm sorry that I can't do that and also feel healthy, because I do love you—all of you. I am so sorry for my failures in this regard that must have taken patience, tolerance, long-suffering, and endless reserves of kindness just to put up with for the limited interactions we've all had over the years.

I am sorry for my own impatience, for my lack of tolerance, and for the perceived unkindnesses on my part. I am sorry for the hurt I have felt that translated to behavior that hurt you in turn. I am sorry for the discomfort I've caused when I've been present and for what must have seemed like lack of desire to participate when I was not present.

I am sorry that what I wrote in my last contribution to the Bingham Blab was hurtful. I have hurt you. You have a right to be angry, because I could have said, "I want to thank Melissa and Desiree for reaching out. It meant the world to me. I feel very alone and scared, and it's so good to know that you care." But I didn't, and I am sorry. I hope you can forgive me. If you are able I don't expect forgiveness to happen anywhere except in your heart. I don't know how to make amends or how to stitch myself back into the family web. In caring for Mark I am restricted in where I can go and what I can do. But I'm sorry for that too, and I love you. I do. I love you all. I have wanted to belong and to have close relationships with you all. I just don't know how. I am terribly flawed, painfully human. I am deeply sorry for hurting you. I'm sorry.

Be well. Best wishes,

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