Category Archives: apology

To Gaffe is Human, To Hiss is Reptilian: When PC People are Just as Offensive.

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While I consider myself somewhat deft with words, I can be “awkward” with them, not malevolent, nor an idiot, but well, ignorant. I’m one of the first people to point and laugh at myself. I take great pride in being able to condemn myself for being a complete buffoon at times.

‘nough said.

I was asked once to facilitate (pro bono — which is my pleasure) a meditation experience for a group of individuals associated with a suburban PFLAG community. I was honored to be asked and I considered it a privilege to serve. All I knew at the invitation was that I would be serving an arm of the organization which supports the family members of PFLAG members or otherwise activist.

I decided a yoga nidra would be best, for our first time together. Yoga nidra is “yoga sleep,” where you’re not actually asleep, but are in somewhat of a twilight state as the practitioner talks you through various states of internal physical awareness via muscle release and tiered outward cues such as the *awareness* of the sensation of the clothes on the body, the ticking of a clock or birds outside the room, etc..

So I arrived on time.

I went to the correct room.

I asked for the person I was supposed to meet. The liaison, if you will. I was taken to the liaison.

We shook hands and I was not introduced to the group, which I found a little confusing.

So I rolled out my mat (not expecting that I would be setting up in front of people, which is really sort of an awkward moment, because part of the cache of meditation — at least in my realm — is that you “encounter” it; you “discover” it — all ready and waiting for you. You don’t watch the practitioner set up, unroll its mat and arrange its chimes and then introduce itself. Almost every encounter I’ve had, the person is already there, in its pre-Zen state and waiting to facilitate. The exception was with Tara Brach, where the room was so big, and there were so many people (220+) that she came in when everyone was settled. (Sorta like Mass. But it wasn’t Mass. I’m shutting up.)

BUT THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. >breathe<

So I enter the room, put down my bag, seek the room for somewhere to place my coat. No one said anything. So … I take off my coat and place it on a chair. I wasn’t offered a hanger or assistance or anything. (And I’m a newbie! A GUEST! — The room started to take on a surly tone to me…)

So I gear up and just take it all in stride. After asking for consent, I spray a light mist of lavender and rosemary oil / water to help induce calm. I turn on my music (chanting monks) turn down the lights and do my thing, starting the nidra / awareness with a guided breathing exercise and then visualized relaxation from the top of the head to the tips of the toes and back up.

It lasted about 30 minutes.

Usually, people in a nidra go OUT in less than 10 minutes. That doesn’t matter because my constant chatter in a low tone helps them come in and out of the “zone” without any major disruptions. My voice is like a sound in the background.

At the end, I rang my chimes but kept the lights off.

I talked them through a gentle transition “back to the room” while reminding them to keep their eyes closed because I was going to turn on the light. I prompted everyone to cover their eyes so the light could slowly filter through their lids and that would be gentler for them. I prompted them to sit up for a final quote and closure.

I read a brief quote and we did our Namaste thing and told them to keep their eyes downward to reduce light shock. I packed up and left with the lights all the way up. (They were fluorescent which didn’t dim.) People were rubbing their eyes and exiting their various meditative states as I was slinging my bags over my shoulders, etc..

AS I WAS WALKING OUT THE DOOR, I said to the group, “Goodnight Ladies, thank you very much for letting me serve.”

The liaison whipped around, looked up at me, rushed me at the door and hissed, “YOU MEAN ‘GOODNIGHT PEOPLE OF ALL GENDERS‘ !!!”

I…

You could have bruised me with a breath….

I was stunned. Speechless. Searching, frantically, in my mind for the reason for my error –surely this was my fault!– seeking preparation documents I read in my head for data that disclosed the details. None. None anywhere. I had absolutely NO idea I was working with a “gender identity” group; I was told I was serving an arm of family members of persons in the PFLAG community… I was NOT AT ALL AWARE I would be serving a Gender In Transition group. That’s when introductions and liaisons with an ounce of tact and who know what the hell they are doing come in handy.

What if I’d said ‘Guys!’ — would I have been cheered? Would I have been stoned? People say ‘guys’ all the time and mean no offense at all. The next time someone says, “Goodnight, Guys!” I’ll be waiting outside her car the next morning.

I’m a YOGA teacher. I’m all “about” peace love and kumbaya; I screw up but I … hell, I have close friends …no. I’m not going to say, “SOME OF MY FRIENDS ARE _____.” Because that doesn’t matter. That’s NOT … this isn’t about ME. This, to me, is about humanity. That we all need to give each other a freaking break… No malice aforethought, then no malice whateverthought.

I may have screamed at my kids’ soccer ref, but I am NOT an asshole INTENTIONALLY. I’m very open-minded.

I was so horrified and mortified by my gaffe. Of course I said, “Yes! Absolutely! ‘Persons of all genders,’ of course!” But at that point, I felt as though I seemed insincere and just like a jerk (some of my best friends …’).

One of the other “leaders” in the group looked at me sympathetically. She It seemed to convey that she it knew I was so sorry. I began to feel sorry for her it that person because it had to work / see / breathe with the liaison.

I started to say, “I apologize. I had no idea that … of … I… I’m so sorry…”

But the damage was done — the liaison, who was 20something, hissed at me while smiling, “YESSSSSSSS” and closed the door.

IN. MY. FACE.

Liaison: 1

Suburban housewife: 0

To them, at that point I’m sure I seemed like some assholic suburban hater who was about to go home and pray for their souls and for God to cure them.

I can tell you this: the sense of contempt I felt with when I entered that room at first to serve was directed at ME, prejudicially. I was discarded. I was not at all included. I was the “outsider.”

And that sucked. And that was ironic. Because if the whole philosophy of the energy of the world I’d like to say I inhabit is the one that does its best to see all things and appreciate all things and not be haters and be inclusive and all that… then … like … what the what?

There is no way, ever, to prepare yourself for the possible unintentional offense you are about to slew onto someone else and for which you will dearly pay JUST by being ignorant — not biased, not prejudicial — just unaware.

I forgot to add, that to me, all the participants in the room were clearly “female” in what I would consider gender cues: heels, lipstick, jewelry, and affect.

How was I to know:

a) that I was speaking to a gender-identity-in-transition group when it was never disclosed and
b) that saying “ladies” (based on nondisclosure) was the wrong thing??

This is where I’m awkward, but HUMAN:

If you have a person who is transitioning into “female” gender, and it “fooled” (irony, but get me a better word and I’ll take it) a presbyopic suburban mother like me, then wouldn’t that be a good thing, a goal? (Shoot me now?) How am I to know of any discomfort on the side of the person who is in transition? When does just being a person who serves out of kindness and for the greater good and says something apparently totally inappropriate turn into being a hater? When does my gaffe transition into NON-PC? Fodder for the angry rhetoric of people who just want to fight?

Because I was serving a meditation practice I felt I could sail with some assurance that the odds of offending the practitioners would be pretty high, given especially that I was not lecturing or reading… or singing… egads.

By the way, this whole post is based on a Facebook thread where some brave friends and I debated the use of “they” as a singular pronoun in common parlance per an article in the Wall Street Journal

One of my friends said to me that nothing I said was offensive and I answered,

Well, it was to them. Or her. Or … fuck. You know. That person. My friend who hooked me up with the group was disgusted by their behavior. She said their treatment of me was EXACTLY the opposite of their entire charter. I am sure I was not of their “ilk” which clearly offended — but how the eff do they know? It was boggling. The sad part is that I am reluctant to do anything like that going forward. Shit… if we can’t be who we are, warts and all, screw them.

Then we summarized with the simple Occam’s Razor: that some people are just ready to fight and that’s that. As another friend said, if we spent more time thinking about how we are alike rather than different, we’d probably get a lot more work done and have more peace.

The subject of diversity and inclusion and race and gender and personhood has often made me confused: if we see race / gender / sexuality / creed / ability and celebrate diversity then racism / division isn’t so far-off a call. On the other hand, if we include and endeavor color / race / ability / creed / gender / sexuality -blindness, then we risk being considered insensitive.

Everyone is unique.

Which means no one is.

But some people just want to fight and divide.
Thank you.

postscript:

I wrote this on my Facebook wall:

this reminds me of a moment at the end of Jerry Seinfeld’s “I’ve Told You For The Last Time” when he returned to stand-up after the end of Seinfeld the TV show. 

After the monologue, Jerry came back out to the stage and said he’d be happy to take questions from the audience, and “entertain your curiosities.”

someone in the audience, a woman, shouted out “It’s my birthday!” and Jerry said, “It’s your birthday! Happy birthday… … what birthday is it?” 

the woman shouted back something unintelligible, but it was along the lines of privacy. she didn’t want to say how old she was. 

Jerry waits …. maybe a second or two and says, “Oh. So you want attention, but not *too much* attention…”

and to me, that is where we are at times. we want relevance, but not too much relevance. we want inclusion, but not too much inclusion. we want exposure, but not too much exposure. we want freedom, but not too much freedom. 

i am always grateful for the discourse on my wall. i have always thought that i have some of the smartest friends on the internet. (sometimes that’s not saying a lot…. HAHAH! that was a joke!) and there are plenty of people on my wall, lurking, watching the action, wondering how pear-shaped this conversation will go: will we start insulting each other? will we use ALL CAPS… will we take things personally? 

and i have to say, so far, the answer is that we’re all sharing. sharing our humanity, our experiences, our biases, our concerns. i think we’d all like to live in a world full of peace, where conflicts are resolved over rounds of rock-paper-scissors. but we don’t. and it’s unlikely we ever will. 

i adore all youse guys, gals, kids, babes, doofuses, brainiacs, dudes, geezers and peeps.

you all help me learn how to be a better me.

Ps — if you’re going to be a troll, buh-bye. I’m open for a sensible, respectful and rational dialogue.

Soccer Mom — red card…

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I am not sure how to start this. I debated whether titling this post “one for the eulogy” or “red card.” I dabbled over the former, not because I’m macabre and depressing, but because I’m quite aware of the fact that we all die one day.

Yesterday started out gloriously. I was sitting in the sun, awaiting one of my sons’ games. They lost soundly, it was a 5-0 defeat.  At halftime, my son was crushed and was asking for advice. I had none other than to say that when he’s off the field, watch the other team’s players and see what they do and then try to do it too.

This particular son is more of a hair-twirler and bouncy runner. He’s young, emotionally, still soft, without that “killer” instinct for the sport, but he LOVES being part of a team and putting on a uniform, cleats and shin guards, arriving on time and doing his best. When he’s focused, he’s a good little defender. My shouts from the sidelines to remind him to “win it, Thing 3! DEEEEEFENNNNNSSSE!” seem to perk him up. I don’t do it very often, so I think that’s why it tends to win out over his dedicated coach’s tips and directions which start to sound like a droning after a while. He woke up in the second half, being more of a gnat to the other team’s approach for our goal, thwarting a couple advances and that made him feel better. As we walked to the car, he said, “Did you see when I stopped that big kid from his drive? I was afraid, because he is huge, but I kicked the ball off track to one of our guys…” and he did. He cleared it a good 20 or 30 feet, with some help from the patch grass bumps in the field, from the goal.

My other son’s game was happening at the same time. I could not attend that one, for obvious reasons, but they lost as well, 8-2. I learned from my husband that our Thing 2 (who is now 14) played quite well and he made a gorgeous penalty kick which he fired with such ferocity that the goalie simply couldn’t stop it. Despite the loss, my son was proud that he had played his best. That’s all we can ask for, isn’t it? That they feel proud of their efforts that they did their best.

Several hours, a spin on the ergometer, a meditation session and 40 minutes in our hot tub later, was the first game of our oldest son’s team. These guys are what’s called “U19” and they comprise all ages from 16-19 in a defined window of available athletes who didn’t make or can’t afford the high school teams and are possibly attending college locally but don’t play on those teams either. These guys are competitive, aggressive and some of them are wildly talented and a pure pleasure to watch. You can see how they’ve acquired thunderous legs and powerful chests, fearlessly advancing the field with a passion you read about. They are not nincompoops. They know the sport, they try to get away with a little here and there, but by and large, these athletes have been playing since they could walk. I imagine some of them slept with a soccer ball as they were children, or young men. It’s as though the ball is an appendage of their form. They are thugs who play like gentlemen… (read on.)

My oldest used to be awkward, afraid, timid. He’s got a coach now who reminds me of the sheriff in “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this coach intentionally plays up his image a little, creating a pastiche of the character for the amusement of the spectators and the team.)

credit: the owners of this image, a massive movie studio owned by a global conglomerate somewhere on our planet.

credit: the owners of this image, a massive movie studio owned by a global conglomerate somewhere on our planet.

He has those sunglasses. He wears a sport jacket to games after 6:00pm. Last season when “we” went to all-region, he wore a dark fedora and a long black wool coat to the games. He’s pretty quiet on the sidelines. He’s intense and he saves his commentary for when the players come off the field or for half-time pep talks. I recall him quoting a German philosopher or naval officer at the end of one of their early games last season in which they were simply outplayed in every possibly fashion and lost by a score of 11-2 or something. He started to play my son less and less as the season went on.

We don’t engage, as parents. My husband and I have a tacit understanding that interceding on our children’s behalf for their supposed betterment or advancement says more about us and simply hinders any growth in our kids. If it’s the kids’ coach, teacher, friend, parent of friend, mentor, counselor … we just don’t really get involved. They have to learn to navigate these waters. (I’m not saying it’s EASY… sometimes I have to literally bite my tongue, step away and close my eyes… read on…) So my son was understandably frustrated by the continual lessening of his play time. We encouraged him to talk to the coach. To be upfront, sincere, mature and above all diplomatic about his plight. He was and the response he got back was some of the best advice — the same thing his father and I have whispered to one another in the stands — he could have received, but he ASKED to hear it: “You’ve got to be fearless. Get physical. Play some rugby in the off season. Don’t take anyone out, but really, get in there. I’ve said many times, ‘It’s a gentlemen’s game played by thugs.’ Be a thug, but play like a gentleman.”

So Thing 1 came away grateful, a little intimidated, but very clear about what the coach wanted. You can count on Thing 1 for that: he will absolutely follow direction, and he’s a reliable self-starter, but this U19 team was all new to him, he’d never played against and alongside MEN. I knew this coach was going to help turn my son into a man. He’s tough though… and regardless of our scrap-up yesterday (read on…), I still respect the hell out of him.

So this third game was at scheduled for 6pm on a turf field at a park. The center ref is an old man. He reminded me of the “old timer” in the Brady Bunch’s Jesse James episode:

Screen Shot 2015-04-12 at 11.01.38 AM

credit: the Brady Bunch. I shit you not – they are twins. All that’s missing is the black ref’s cap.

I’m not an ageist. I saw this ref and I thought, They might be really lucky, they’ve got a guy who really knows his game.

No. (read on.)

This ref wanted to start the game early, shorten the halves to 40 minutes each and gave up without any pressure his utter lack of knowledge of the rules. He’s usually a linesman, my husband tells me.

My husband, who is a very patient man (you really don’t know how patient he is…) sighed when our coach shared this information. Apparently we agreed to start five minutes early at 5:55 but keep the halves at 45 minutes (which is the COACH’s discretion).

My son’s team was playing beautifully. They were winning, elegantly. My son scored a nice shot, his first of the season, in the first game, in the first half. He was really proud of himself. I was excited for him. The other team was good, but they seem disorganized and loose. They were out-skilled, but not by much. Due to the low number of available teams in the area, I’m certain we will play them again later on and it will be good to see how they’ve improved. At the half it was 2-1, we were in the lead.

But it was the ref. His calls were inconsistent and beginning to favor the other team, blindly. Clearly legal plays, a slide tackle where the ball was touched first (something I recently understood as the linchpin for that maneuver) was ruled “dangerous” and one of our guys got a yellow card. Even the opposing coach was beginning to be surprised by his team’s inexplicable good fortune.

In the midst, my son’s team managed to get a nice shot in, making it 3-1. My son’s team has increased its chatter on the field and it’s paying off. The other team seemed again to be a little demoralized by “our” fluidity.

Nonetheless, everyone trudges on. Keep playing keep playing keep playing. The un-choreographed dance of 20 or so young athletes was hard for me to keep track of. Plus it was cold, about 55˚ now and the sun was going down. I began to feel sorry for the ref. The spectator heckling was apparent. He likely couldn’t hear it. A couple times, he got hit by the ball with such intensity many of us in the stands were impressed he was still standing. I think those hits started to do something to his brain… he made calls from one end of the field about actions happening 40 yards away. His line refs were exasperated by the randomness of it all. Our team made another shot on their goal, 4-1, which everyone agreed was legal, but from the other end of the field, this ref must’ve used his bionic vision and Big Blue processing chips to recall the goal.

No matter, we were still ahead. Back to 3-1. Then somehow the whistle. No one understood. The other team made a successful penalty kick on our goal, 3-2. We were still ahead though, so … you know, just keep on…

Then the other team made a gorgeous goal during the second half, tying the game. It was hard to ignore the majesty in the drive which began all the way at the opposite end of the field. The ball was passed without much interruption from one player to another in an advance to the goal and then one player just went for it. Without hesitation, and he nailed it. It was a pleasure to witness even though it was now 3-3.

Somewhere in the next few moments, we made an answering goal, 4-3. We were all running out of time, it was close to 7:25. The game, by all rights, due to the -5 minute start time should have been over. Competitive players that they are, our team started to hog the ball, take its time retrieving it, kick it off the field. That got a corner kick which was unsuccessful.

It was 7:27 now… you know, the time in the universe when all in-progress U19 soccer games are supposed to go pear-shaped and the refs are programmed to go batshit crazy. People are starting to question how much time.

All along the course of the game, this ref never explained his calls. He never answered requests for the charges. I know there’s something in the US Constitution about the absolute requirement by an arresting officer to name the charge against a suspect… Doesn’t that commute to FIFA or US Soccer or whatever the governing body is of this sport? My husband says, “Sort of. The ref is supposed to explain each charge, especially if questioned…”

Well apparently we were now playing “kick the ball, run around, and blow the whistle just because” not soccer. This ref allowed player subs at all the wrong times, disallowing subs when they were legal… it was crazy. When you have a six-year-old player still in his uniform from another game putting his head in his hands and running his fingers through his dried, sweaty hair because the calls don’t make any sense, you’re witnessing a travesty of justice.

He gave the other team two inexplicable successive penalty kicks. This one was a free kick. He mumbled something to our players and they lined up, placing their hands in front of the family jewels and waiting for the shot, which went over everyone’s heads and was denied. Still 4-3.

The next penalty, which even I questioned (and that means a lot because I don’t understand this game at all, so I keep my trap shut) because the whistle was blown during a throw-in from the sidelines (on a ball my son had let go…) deep into our territory. While the ball was still airborne, heading toward the goal. Nothing had happened … the ball hadn’t even made contact on the ground. I thought, Did one of the feet come up during the throw? Was it the wrong KIND of throw, not evenly over the head? Was it slung from the hips? But I knew enough, after 11 years, that a bad throw necessitates a re-THROW. And that was not happening. This was a line up for a penalty kick — no interference from other players, just the kicker and the goalie. I questioned the validity by thrice shouting, CLEARLY, from the stands because he’s ancient, it’s windy and cold and the game should’ve been over by then anyway, “WHAT? IS? THE? CALL?” (which our own coach didn’t even demand the answer).

The ref heard me. He looked up at me and waved me off. I’m sure it was the old “he threw the ball too hard” call we hear so little about. Turns out when the throw-in was made, one of the other team’s taller players leaped up to head the ball (legal) but our player who was shorter, yet quite powerful, but right beneath / behind him (on the other player’s descent), crossed his arms upon his chest like a pharaoh in his sarcophagus and that was considered pushing when the other player inevitably, because gravity always wins, landed on him.

The other team’s coach was astonished. His own player ran up to him and said, “you know that’s not a penalty, right?” and the coach nodded and said, “Yeah! …”

Nonetheless, the whistle and ignorant, half-present octogenarians reign.

It was 7:33 now. Eight minutes PLUS the end of the game’s official time. The player placed the ball and took the shot. In the corner. Done. 4-4.

IMMEDIATELY UPON THAT BALL’S SLING INTO THE NET, HE BLEW. THE. WHISTLE.

Not ten seconds later, not another play later, not even when the ball was … stopped from the thrust.

That’s when I lost my mind. I’m not proud of this. I am embarrassed and I immediately sent an apology to our coach when I got home. (read on…).

I stepped down from my seat in the stands and shouted, with my hands cupping either side of my mouth, directly aimed at the ref clearly, emphatically, passionately and intentionally:

YOU SUCK!

.pause. is he looking at me? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. has he followed the voice? can he see me? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. can he find me yet? no.

YOU SUCK!

.pause. is he looking at me? yes. one more for clarity…

YOU SUCK!

I waited each time I said it, a nanosecond to some, but a lifetime to me, to see if he had made the connection. That he had disgusted a yoga teacher who usually just sits in the stands and cheers everyone — no matter how humiliating the loss — if I see a great play, I’m gonna clap.

My son’s coach, the Sheriff, whipped around like the snake in “Beetlejuice”:

credit Beetlejuice and a big fancy movie studio.

credit Beetlejuice and a big fancy movie studio.

He tried to shut me down. “THAT’S ENOUGH!” — to me, I was just getting started.

Woe, the little man who tries to shut me down.

“NO IT’S NOT!” I growled back. “THIS IS BULLSHIT. HE DIDN’T EXPLAIN EITHER OF THOSE CALLS….” and I hadn’t said, “The game was eight minutes over time! That call was for spite. He’s teaching these kids that rules, decorum and tradition don’t matter and personal pettiness does. AND YOU DIDN’T QUESTION ANY OF IT!”

“YES IT IS. DO YOU WANT ME TO GET A RED CARD FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON???”

>oh. time to stop.<

“NO! I DON’T! BUT THIS IS CRAZY, FUCKED UP…” and I grabbed my bag, told my other son who was ashen and enraged (NO ONE YELLS AT MY MOM LIKE THAT!) that I was leaving and he needed to ride home with his dad, and I stomped away. I’m sure I left a haze of brown smoke behind me.

I didn’t look back. I’m sure all the grandparents were just … “Well, I never” -ing, patting off their sweat with their doilies and reaching for their smelling salts.

I was still seeing red. I put even more of an ugly face on my face intentionally. The face that said, “If you think you’re going to make an impact on me, if you think you’re going to change my attitude, think twice because while I’m unhinged and disgusted, I’m about to get into an SUV and I need to calm my shit down and I don’t need a lecture from you… ” because the shame was starting to sink in. The embarrassment… and oh… the gut-churning shame.

A proud woman in a crimson WISCONSIN hoodie looked at me. She stood up in the space between her open driver’s door of her blue Prius as I was advancing toward my gas guzzling Earth destroyer.

“I agree with you,” she said.

I cooled to a simmer.

“Thanks.” I said and started to continue my retreat.

I stopped and turned back. She was almost in her car. I was defeated and exasperated and so ashamed.

“I’m just so sad.” I said. “That ref didn’t know what he was doing. He started the game early. He wanted to shorten the halves. He knew he was ignorant of the rules, he told both the coaches. He ruined a really good experience and he showed everyone, not just the spectators, but the players and the other refs, that bad calls and not adhering to the rules is just fine and that playing hard and honestly doesn’t count…”

She nodded as she said “He tore apart the integrity of the game right there…”

I thanked her for her kindness. I apologized for my rant. She said, “Nope. You were right. You just said what a lot of us are afraid to say…”

I rage for the many, I thought to myself, sighing and walking to my car, feeling the benefits of my earlier meditation, hot tub soak, writing, and grueling 6k workout on our rowing machine sift through my consciousness. I had negated all that good.

I got home. Didn’t kill anyone on the road, I checked the front of my car later to make sure.

My oldest son called me from his father’s car. I answered. I wanted to hide.

“Hey honey…” I said, faking cheerfulness.

“You ok? I am calling to check on you. I know that took a lot out of you,” he said.

“I’m as good as can be expected. This isn’t your job to fix me, hon…” I said. “I’m so sorry… It’s not at all like me…”

“I’m not trying to fix you, Mom. I apologized to everyone for you. They told me not to bother. They think you rock, Mom. They said they were amazed by you. You said everything they couldn’t say. That our coaches couldn’t say. You let it all rip. No one thinks you suck, Mom.”

My heart softened, toward myself, a little. I brightened. My ego stepped in… “They did? What did they say?” I cringed.

“Just that. That you were the voice for us all.”

I shared with him my points of my argument; that my rage was not personal, and that I was afraid of my rapture. But I also maintained that my reaction is about the principle and the integrity of the game and that no matter HOW HARD ONE WORKS TO TOE THE LINE, there’s always gonna be some asshole who thinks it should be the other way around. I told him that the blowing of the whistle, eight minutes over, as the ball slammed into the net, before it even hit the tensile apex of the net, smacked to me of self-righteousness. That he got to have the last word.

Well, I wasn’t about to let that happen. When it comes to kids, we need to be on our best, most sterling behavior. That includes the ref. I blew it. I sank to his level of stupidity.

I am not a horrible person. I am not a mean-spirited person. But I am a passionate person. I sent an apology immediately to the coaches when I got home:

Coaches Sheriff and Deputy,

I want to express my sincere apology for my outburst on the referee at the end of today’s game versus Saturn. It was a pleasure to see everyone play so well.

I am a passionate person, yes, but one not normally driven to such excess. I exhibited poor behavior and I regret that. I was not a good role model for spectatorship. Next time I’ll spare everyone the drama, leave the game in disbelief, and offer up a silent prayer for my own tolerance.

Please know that the last thing I would want to do is injure the team by causing your absence on the sidelines. The boys are lucky to have you.

Sincerely,

Molly

PS — you’d never know from today that I’m a yoga teacher…

My husband said it was the perfect apology. I owned my side and I didn’t blame it on anyone else. My son told me his friends on Twitter said I was awesome. (I still don’t know how to feel about that…)

Later that night, after I started to calm down, I turned on my Kindle and started reading Steven Pressfield again. He wrote about “our last days” or the attitude changes which occur (for good or for bad) in patients diagnosed with terminal illness. He said many of them shed the trivialities, and turn toward their passions, fearlessly. They discern, within minutes of the pronouncement of their illness, what matters most and they act upon it. Some people do crazy stuff, others do good.

Earlier in the day, I had picked up random pieces of an episode of The Simpsons my son was watching. It was the one when Homer was told he had 22 hours to live; it would have been 24, but the having to sit in the waiting room took up two hours… Homer did lots of things to make amends for his behavior to his kids, father and others in his life.

Earlier this week, I had read Oliver Sacks’ powerful op-ed in the NY Times disclosing his final days of his life due to terminal brain cancer. He wrote that he was going to stop watching and reading the news; that he was not going to worry about the Middle East as much as he had (he clarified that he was going still care, but that worry served him no purpose) and a change a few other things in his life to bring more meaning to it. The comments on that pre-obit were extraordinary. Treat yourself to them and read them. Not coincidentally, I’ve begun listening to his book The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat while I “row” on our ergometer. It’s a great book. Sacks has a way of deeply humanizing the misfortunes of his patients and reminding us that our right hemisphere, the one so often discounted by Freud et al., is really the one which gives our lives meaning; the one which matters most.

I reflected on all that data I’d consumed — those pieces of reminders that our days are limited here. I reflected on lots of things, and I determined last night, before I ended my day, that I was not going to feel ashamed for my outburst: I had apologized to the coaches, to my sons, and to the brave and compassionate woman who spoke with me and I asked for forgiveness from God. My shame was pointless, what good did it serve me to hang on to it?

If it were my last day on this earth, and I did know it, I wouldn’t have done anything less. I would have gone to his game, I would have been as passionate about the travesties and I would have had no regrets. I may have been shot out of a canon last night, but I cried out most of all for the all kids. To me, their coach had let too much slide.

Carl Jung writes famously something along the lines of what irritates us about others gives us a better understanding of ourselves. I used to take this to mean that what irks us about Bipsy means we suck too. Well, that can be the case, but I’ve decided to really lean into the words, “a better understanding” — it doesn’t mean we suck; it’s an insight into ourselves. Sometimes it sucks, sometimes it shows us what matters to us … sometimes it shows us we need to change, or that we have a set of principles about things that we weren’t quite sure were really there, and that thanks to the engagement of another person or series of events with other people, we come to see what matters to us. Kids matter to me. Ethics matter to me. If that game were played by adults, I really wouldn’t have freaked out. I might’ve been incredulous, it would’ve ended there. But it was about kids. 

So I say this to you, if you’re still here… Live passionately and fully, and own it when you screw up because we all make mistakes. It’s ok.

Thank you.

Words: A Perfect Apology: its Intention, its Motivation and its Two Sides

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The subject of this post is something I’ve been intending to write about for a while.  


I have a brother who is part of a pastor team of a church.  He and I had a disagreement one day.  I was not in the wrong.  A few days of silence passed between us.  When the moment came for his apology he made it and it was full and complementary. 


By “full and complementary” I mean that if the incident were over breaking something dear to me, it would have been like this: “I am sorry I broke your little trinket that means so much to you.”  But it was about something else entirely (because my children have broken  all my meaningful trinkets) and the matter between me and my brother escapes me but it was a matter of the heart, my most precious trinket. 


While his apology was sincere, it came with a “; but,” and was followed by a string of words that denuded the power of the actual apology which brought us back to square 1.25.


That “but” can be huge.  Using “but” is the equivalent of an apology no-fly zone. “But” in an apology is three letters that immediately put the brakes on a meaningful moment and put the blame on the offended for being, what, a human for having a reaction.  Using “but” puts a condition on the Intention as well as a flashing neon question mark on the Motivation for the apology.  


Indulge me as I digress into a little visual etymology: the “U” in “but” reminds me of the valley of discord and isolation that using the “but” in an apology creates.  I love both my brothers deeply and while I sensed where things were going again with this brother, I blew it off.  We are all flawed human beings, “sinners,” as his vocation plainly and searingly puts it.  People jump to “but” in times like these as a default word, to explain themselves and that’s perfectly understandable.  However, it’s easy to handle that part, simply say: “I’m sorry I did XYZ and I’d like to explain myself.” 


Several hours later, he reached out to me and said, “That wasn’t a perfect apology.”


I said, “Huh? We’re good; you apologized.” I didn’t want to go into it again.  He disagreed.  But in a good way this time.  


So we talked about Intention: he went on to say that the inclusion of “but” in his apology took away the power of his apology from a 10 to a 5.  I thought more of a 2.  He joked that including “but” is passive aggressive and is akin to saying, “I’m sorry you’re so sensitive.”  We laughed and agreed; it was true.  We laugh about behaviors like that, peoples’ defense mechanisms, all the time; mostly with the irony of full-on reflective personal experience after the joke to say, “ha ha ha… yeah… wow… so um… you thirsty?”  


Because we are sibling word nerds we discussed the Motivation for this particular apology and while we were at it, for all apologies.  What are the Motivations: to make the “vic” (the offended) feel better or to make the “perp” (the offender) feel better?  If the Motivation is to honor the vic and is pure and sincere by truly expressing regret for what happened, there is no need or room (for that matter) for “but.”  If the Motivation is to make the perp feel better, that “but” is a natural by-product, a condition on the apology and so the damage is somewhat doubled and the vic is hosed.  The vic has two choices at that point, turn the other cheek as Jesus suggested or start another disagreement out of … pride. (Eeww.)  At that point, who’s the bigger, y’know: jerk?


We joked about the other trap: being the pride-less gracious acceptor.  Can we be gracious enough in the spirit of a perfect apology to say, “Apology accepted.  Thank you.  Would you like some chocolate?”  Without (brace yourself) saying, “you should’na XYZ …” Rrrrr.


We discussed the matter from a linguistic point of view — something we often get deeply into because we love to write and because we’re Irish words come naturally to us (and to my cousins and some dear friends as well, blah blah, get on with it).  I said the use of the actual word “sorry” to me is a sore point and here’s why: I would usually associate the internal meaning of “sorry” into the second use referenced below: 


sorry |ˈsärē; ˈsô-|
adjective ( -rier -riest )
[ predic. ] feeling distress, esp. through sympathy with someone else’s misfortune : I was sorry to hear about what happened to your family.
• ( sorry for) filled with compassion for : he couldn’t help feeling sorry for her when he heard how she’d been treated.
• feeling regret or penitence : he said he was sorry he had upset me | I’m sorry if I was a bit brusque.
• used as an expression of apology : sorry—I was trying not to make a noise.
• used as a polite request that someone should repeat something that one has failed to hear or understand : Sorry? In case I what?



adjective ( -rier , -riest) [ attrib. ] in a poor or pitiful state or condition : he looks a sorry sight with his broken jaw.
p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px Baskerville} span.s1 {font: 13.0px ‘Lucida Grande’} unpleasant and regrettable, esp. on account of incompetence or misbehavior : we feel so ashamed that we keep quiet about the whole sorry business. 


I literally would take the meaning of “I’m sorry” to mean that I *AM* -personally- in a poor or pitiful condition: IN MY ENTIRETY; not just at that moment.  Heavy, I know.  So I have issues with the word.  


If you know me in the real world, you will know that when people say that phrase around me — even perfect strangers! — I will appreciably say, “Oh, don’t say ‘sorry’; say ‘excuse me’ or ‘I made a mistake.'” And some people if the time warrants will look at me quizzically and I’ll say, “because you’re not in a pitiful condition, you just made a mistake. I like to say ‘I apologize’ instead.” And then they run away and call security because the crazy lady won’t go away. Sorry… (see?)

The reasons for my association with the word is a subject of another post. But suffice it to say, I didn’t come up with it on my own; I wasn’t born sorry.  I learned it from my therapist (yeah, that guy who created that messed up group therapy  [which I’ve recently come to appreciate, thanks to an insightful friend, as a massive ego stroke for himself: poor guy had to drive 5 hours in each direction four times a year to feel needed]). We agreed that while there are two definitions of “sorry,” my internal baggage with it required that I use another word altogether, “apologize”:  

p.p1 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px ‘Hiragino Mincho Pro’} p.p2 {margin: 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px 0.0px; font: 16.0px Baskerville} span.s1 {font: 24.0px Baskerville} span.s2 {font: 14.0px Baskerville}

apologize |əˈpäləˌjīz|
verb [ intrans. ]
express regret for something that one has done wrong : I must apologize for disturbing you like this | we apologize to him for our error.
ORIGIN late 16th cent. (in the sense [make a defensive argument, offer a justification] ): from Greek apologizesthai ‘give an account,’ from apologos (see apologue ). In English the verb has always been used as if it were a direct derivative of apology. 

I like “apologize” much better.  Three reasons: a) because I’m a word freak; b) the inclusion of  ‘express’; and c) it’s a verb. It’s an actual action, thus it resonated.  It was and is perfect.


I realize now, after all that therapy that I’m not in a poor state or pitiful condition.  And so when I say “I’m sorry,” I’m cool with it. 


The point of all this is that when you apologize, don’t say ‘but.’  If you have to say ‘but’ you need time. It’s perfectly acceptable to say “I regret the direction this has taken and I’m almost ready to apologize perfectly for it but I need some time.” Which then creates:   


An examination into the second side of an apology. 


When we apologize we mean to regret, to take back what we did that hurt the other person.  


This is convoluted, so take your time: 


But in my examinations (most recently as 12 hours ago after an extremely ironic turn of events between myself and a  dear friend), I have come to realize that in order to apologize fully I must appreciate and examine that pain that spurred my doing or saying something I regret that deserves an apology.  (I don’t want to spend all day examining my navel, so these things can happen relatively quickly because I’m such a pro now.)


Here ’tis: People don’t just lash out for no reason. We’d like to think we do, but no, we don’t.  Almost always, the lashing is a defense mechanism to protect something so deep, so feral and primitive we likely don’t understand it. It’s why that dad shot his kid’s laptop.  This dad, and me last night, and likely my brother, felt intense pain that represented something else.  The dear friend who offended me last night had no clue.  Until I lashed out.  I was eloquent, I was concise, I was deliberate and defensive and I said stuff that wasn’t germane but nasty.  I was all those things my English major pedigree engendered.  And I was wrong.  Not wrong to feel the way I did, because judging our feelings is another peace deathtrap, but wrong to lash out.  Wrong to not sit and examine why I felt the way I did at the comment that created the feelings.  


That’s the second side of a perfect apology and I have to thank that dear friend because if she hadn’t said what she did, this post would not be as robust nor would I have a full appreciation of The Work I still have yet to perform on myself.  I’m cool with it; in fact I think I’ve performed most of The Work, but now the hard part: self-awareness.  Self awareness to me is like applying your knowledge, that dreaded “Show Your Work!” edict in math class.  That “oh yeah? prove it” when you say you can do 30 military style push-ups in less than a minute without stopping. 


Thank you dear friend.  


The reason for the discourse on second side of apologies in this post (you’re probably saying, “Ugh! you mean there’s MORE?!” but this is where you come in, dear reader) is my dear friend’s innocent suggestion that I use the capitalized form of the pronoun ‘i’ in my blog posts.  


Amazingly, this suggestion was made on the heels of her recant of an imperfect apology to which I replied “thank you” and that I planned on writing about perfect apologies. Her suggestion had nothing to do with her apology, so it felt like a slap. And it riled in me a constrained fury of depth from a primitive place inside me that if I hadn’t recently done a grueling workout, I would’ve either elected to do it or had gone deeply inside with that anger and turned it into a micro depression.  Instead, I was highly agitated and distracted by the incident. 


Her suggestion is warranted under the aegis that if I decide to parlay this blog into something professional One Day (emphasis mine) that it would behoove me, in that regard, to y’know… dress it up (mine too).  Proper punctuation is easier to read and it allows the words to flow as readers are familiar with it.  She’s absolutely right in that argument.  


But that’s not the intention of this “Grass Oil” blog.  It’s named after a phrase Thing 3 made when he was 5.  So to me, that means it isn’t supposed to be professional; it’s more of a chronicle for my kids as they grow up, to know how things were in our family when they were younger and a playground-slide trip into their mom’s head.  I suggested to her that anyone who turns to their personal blog as something to showcase their writing skills for a potential career in writing would be akin to pissing into a headwind. I stand by that as these personal blogs are often rife with errors, personal observations and seeming inside jokes. 


Another motivation for writing this blog is that I also have a morbid fear that I could be taken from My 3 Things’ lives early and so I wanted to leave something personal for them (lessons, observations that can help shed a little light on their own behaviors) rather than, say, a scarf.  I did knit blankets for them. Or that the language part of my brain will deteriorate from a flesh-eating virus and my ability to write will be . . . um, disabled.  (That was not eloquent.)


But maybe my dear friend is correct? I’d actually considered it a while ago and I don’t wince when saying so.


Maybe I would like someone with influence and money bags to see my writing.  Maybe I would like to be asked to represent someone professionally.  It would be nice for that person to know I can adhere to Chicago or AP style and basic grammar rules and that I’m not some defiant and militant ee cummings adherent.  But then there’s the little kid in me that says, “up yours. this is my zone, my place. my rules. go find your own. i don’t tell you how to write.”   


So then it comes back to me as a matter of motivation. I have to think about whether or not I’m afraid of success and its ugly twin: fear of failure.      


So here I am: using proper case with the letter ‘i’ as pronoun. I am using proper sentence and punctuation structure. I am double-spacing after periods. I am writing tight cohesive sentences (no more meaty run-ons).  I am not abusing m-dashes or ellipses.  (i am bored to tears.)


Snidely Whiplash moment: Maybe this post would be my sample writing for a prospective employer, book or literary agent.  ‘Cause Lawd knows, I gots The Gift.  But do I have the confidence?  Am I ready? If you’ve been following me since last January, you may recall that my Creating This Blog was and is a huge step for me. 


So I ask of you, dear reader, what say you about the capital ‘i’ as pronoun?  Would consistent and proper use make it easier for you?  If enough of you say it does, say the word and I’ll change it.  (Instead of “change it” I was going to say “be healed”  — from a refrain at Mass, which also seems apropos, it being Sunday an’ all …) 


btw, something’s wacky with the fonts and formatting today, I apologize. 


thank you.