Stories for Lent: #14 Sit Down

“I’ve been struggling lately, to be honest.”
Those were some of the hardest words I have said, in a very long time.
Pop culture tells us that when someone confesses to something, it is the form to forgive them as fast as we can and move on. This is why, sometimes, designated forgiveness days can feel a bit hollow – you never know if people really mean it or not. And then, there’s the pressure to forgive even when you don’t feel it. For some people, that can be really hard.
The truly difficult part, though, comes when forgiveness is just not enough.
*
I said the words in the debrief before a shift. I didn’t plan on doing it, but I thought I might as well – it’s a safe space, and we all understand each other. I assured my colleagues I could leave my feelings at the door and focus on the work. And I did – for the next 4 hours, I became so absorbed in my work, I only stopped to get more coffee and go to the bathroom.
And then my supervisor pulled me aside to follow up on what I’d said.
Suddenly, I wasn’t just sharing something to a room full of people eager to get to work. I was being asked to talk about my feelings, and there was no time limit to it. And I realized, faced with those feelings, that I wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay at all.
I hated it. It felt like I was being called to task, like I’d done something wrong and now I had to explain myself. Not by my supervisor – he was gentle and forgiving and unflinching, even when I started to cry so hard I couldn’t speak. We are not in the habit of sweeping things under the rug at my job…
But I’d confessed to something that couldn’t be fixed with a quick chat and a cry. I wasn’t just struggling. I was burning out, and I had to take a break.
And though my supervisor stressed that it wasn’t punitive, to me, that’s exactly what it felt like. I felt like I’d failed everyone, and I’d failed myself.
*
Forgiveness – it’s not easy, not to others, not to yourself. You can say the words – it’s hard, but you can do it – but to feel it? I’m not sure. I’ve tried to forgive other people when I still resented them, and it was impossible. I’ve tried forgiving myself, and it was devastating.
I’m sitting here, writing this, and feeling down that because I’d missed the mark so horribly, I wouldn’t be able to help others. I’m sitting here, beating myself up because I spoke up, when clearly, I would have been okay. I’m beating myself up because I’m expecting someone to come along and reassure me, when I know that no matter what they say, it won’t reach me until I accept it, too.
How do I even begin to accept it?
Sugar’s column, “Write Like A Motherfucker”, springs to mind. I think about what she said, that underneath the sadness and depression there lies tremendous arrogance. That while you might forgive someone for being human and fallible (and not be able to write on demand), you are not willing to forgive yourself. You hold yourself to a higher standard because you believe you are somehow better. You think you should be able to carry the world on your shoulders, because somehow, that is the kind of person you believe yourself to be. Superior.
Where does forgiveness start? If you follow Sugar (and I don’t see why not), it’s with humility. It’s accepting that you struggle and that you need a chance to catch your breath. It’s saying that about yourself without shame, without expecting someone to come in and pat you on the back and reassure you that you are still a superior human. Without sugar-coating it. Without acting, or cracking jokes, or trying to entertain.
Self, you need to sit down now. Sit down. That’s all you need to do. Sit down.

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