Genealogical Healing and Transformation
I feel compelled to apologize to my children all of the time. I most often do not. I do not apologize. I think a good part of my withholding of the acknowledgements of harm they have experienced at my hands and by my life choices is because: A) I was raised, both in my personal and professional life, that if you tell a child something is wrong they will act accordingly. They will live a life of victimhood. They will be weak. They will not thrive. Somehow, I have arrived at the understanding and practice that apology or apologizing signals to something BEING wrong as opposed to someone having experienced trauma and harm that needs to be acknowledged and healed. And B) I imagine that I have done enough harm to my children to find myself apologizing without end and the fear of that and the potential - end of me - in that is overwhelming and feels life ending. So, most of the time, I do not apologize.
The compulsion, however, does not decrease with that withholding of apology. The agony of knowing an apology is due grows, and each time I think of something I need to heal in my children - and thus apologize for - the list has only grown. The harms do not diminish in my silence. The need for healing is unmet. There is no transformation. There is only repetition in our relationship and across generations. And, I so deeply want - while wanting to persist as a human which the apology feels a threat to - my children to be "okay". Thus, I have learned to only apologize about the things that my children bring up to me.
With a level of fairly regular ease, when my children - especially the older ones - bring up harm I apologize. But, I realize that this puts them in the position of activating the possibility of healing. On some levels this has worked. But, I know that this is still very upside down and potentially a harm of its own. But I am at the ready to receive my son's "you never fulfilled the IOUs from Christmases and Birthdays..." with "you are right and I am so sorry". The sweet relief of the look on their faces when I apologize has not resulted in the healing and/or transformation I have imagined as this particular harm never coming up again. In fact, the same harms come up over and over again with them bringing it up and me apologizing. We never move to healing just temporary reprieve.
At one point, I sent my son money ... it wasn't a lot but more than I had ever sent him before. More important, he had not asked for money on this occassion. It was father's day and I sent him the money thinking it was a way to acknowledge a harm in the direct context of said harm - unpaid IOUs received from a broke as and irresponsible mother. He was confused. He said, "I will pay you back" as he often did when he asked for money. I told him it was a gift and that I didn't want him to pay me back. The next time I sent him money that he didn't request, I commented on the payment "to pay back some of the IOUs". And he said, "thank you". I have not heard about the IOUs since. I will forever carry the shadow of those times and actions. I will always feel the ache of having to write my boys IOUs to fill in the missing birthday or Christmas presents. I don't currently feel the guilt of those IOUs in the same way. It feels somehow resolving if not resolved. I feel closer to my son. I feel like I can look him in the eye. I feel like I can mother him without that guilt being a mitigating factor. I feel like we are healing around this one matter.
That said, WHY can't I tell my daughter that I am sorry. I am sorry that she is hurting because I chose to move us to Maine. Why can't I acknowledge the pain she is feeling having chosen to support my career in the way that she has. I don't even think I have said thank you. I just feel guilty when she is depressed. I have myself convinced that if I apologize, she will KNOW that she is hurting. Like she might not be certain that my decisions as a mother are what is causing her pain. Material things are piling up around her that are not apologies and are not moving her toward healing. The material things are barely distracting her. Why do I feel compelled to acknowledge, to apologize, for the reality that she has followed me to two jobs now in far away from home places in four years without even a whimper and that she is suffering from it. but am completely unable to do so. There are no words. But the compulsion grows until it become guilt. No apologize appears... not even a card. Nothing.
Maybe writing it here is a beginning... of a conversation that I must start with her. But I have to admit that as I am writing, and listening to her empty the dishwasher without being asked or told (who does that - she is trying to kill me with my own guilt, maybe), that I am so very relieved that she doesn't read a single fucking thing I write. I know she will never see this and I will never show it to her. I am relieved that my children find my social media posts that lean in this direction loathsome and embarassing. They have asked me to stop. I am safe in my revelations because they will NEVER read my blog (not even if you send it to them so don't bother).
I know that there is not healing in my relationship with my adoptive mother because she will never apologize, I have no way to know if she feels the same tug and pull... whether she feels compelled to apologize in the same ways I do. This renders both of us, in so many ways, safe. She never has to say what she did and I never have to hear it. We don't have to do the hard work of healing and transformation. We don't ever have to own the harm and trauma in our relationship, in our family and in that house. I cannot really access any memory of someone who hurt me, in an intimate relationship, apologizing. And I promise you I have never apologized to anyone I have hurt either. Most certainly, I have not apologized to my children. To be clear, I have never initiated apology that was not connected to something already in the room... already called for... I have never apologized for something that was perhaps forgotten or at least buried so deeply that the receiver of the apology might be caught by surprise. "What made you think of that?" To which I would think, I never stop thinking about that. Ever.
All the ways I have harmed you live in my skin and those harms drive us further apart every day. The apologies never spoken are the greatest of inheritances and disruptions between us. These apologies keep us bound and broken from day to day and from generation to generation. This silence, that keeps us from looking at the worst of us keeps us from forever getting to the best. Here our ugliest realities - the abuse, the beatings, the abandonments - the ways we let each other down - stay protected and secreted and they are left to fester. We cannot heal, transform, move on. We cannot warn each other, our children, about the ways we can harm our children - the ways they can harm their children. That harm gets passed on.
Just so you know. I am still sitting here. My child has joined me in the living room. Me blogging, her instagramming ... and I am saying nothing.
There will be no apologies... not today.
Baby girl (of the baby girl, and the mother of a baby girl - all waiting for apologies)