August 29, 2011

When Someone Is Mad At You

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What is the issue?

You messed up. You really, really messed up.

It was all your fault. You weren’t trying to be malicious and you’re not a bad person. You were drunk or maybe you were sober. You didn’t know it would hurt them — or maybe you knew and for a moment, long enough to just do it, you did not care.

You screwed up like everyone does. But this time, you really stepped in some shit. And that shit went flying. And it hit another person in the face.

Someone you care about is mad at you.

Because you’re a good person, you apologize. They rightfully tell you to fuck off. Okay. You apologize again. It takes courage after the first less-than-ideal reaction, but you do it. You really want to work this out. They come back at you with even more deserved vitriol — harsh words, additional accusations, tearful yelling. “I was wrong,” you say again and again. It’s your new mantra: “I am sorry. I was wrong.”

You think back to something you heard in Sunday school as a kid. According to the Jewish faith, if someone is angry with you, you are required to apologize three times. If they reject your apology each time, then God will absolve you in their place. Heaven forgives you. It’s religion’s way of saying, “You’ve done all you can do.”

If that’s supposed to make you feel better, it doesn’t.

God wasn’t a friend you spent Friday nights splitting cheese fries with at the bowling alley. God didn’t get you Weezer tickets on your birthday. God didn’t kiss your forehead while you cried.

Someone you care about is mad at you.

It’s been days, weeks, months. There’s a tightening in your chest that won’t go away. Just thinking about that person makes you anxious.

Because when someone is mad at you, it’s like they’ve seen the ugliest part of you that you know exists, but no one else was ever meant to see. It’s your darkness and your capacity to hurt that you take such care to hide. And now someone knows that you’re ugly. They know that terrible, small part of you that makes you hate yourself in your most alone moments. It’s humiliating.

You spend countless hours wondering how you can make this better. You long for time-travel. You wonder if it’s really possible to cry a river of Justin Timberlake proportions. You design a tattoo for your forehead in Comic Sans font reading, “I am stupid and careless.” You want to buy the person donuts and a speedboat and a ruby necklace and a year’s supply of Oreo cookies and a signed Indiana Jones fedora on which Harrison Ford has written, “Please forgive the person giving you this fedora. They are so, so sorry! Xoxo, Han Solo.”

The pain of this lost relationship will dull but it will never go away. It was your fault. You apologize one last time, the third time, the time before God can supposedly swoop in and absolve you.

Maybe the person you wronged will actually forgive you and your relationship can evolve past the underlying damage, like when scar tissue grows over a bloody wound. Maybe the person you wronged will never forgive you and the hole in your chest will stay gaping and howling. It’ll be a big neon arrow directing traffic right to your internal ugliness. Come one, come all: see the self-sabotaging jerk in the flesh!

Someone you care about is mad at you.

And you’ll each keep on living. Days will go by. You’ll be miserable and helpless as they harden the part of themselves that once loved you. You’ll be depressed whenever you see their name in your phone. You won’t delete it, but they will delete you.

You don’t like feeling this way, you realize. It’s horrible. In the time you spend apart, you learn to be less like the person you were when you hurt them. You grow up. You change how you interact with new friends who don’t know each and every time you’ve screwed up in the past. You understand what you did wrong.

And more importantly, you evolve and you never do it again. TC mark

image – Guyon Morée
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