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But First the Amends

“I dreamed  I had a child, and even in the dream  I saw it was my life, and it was an idiot,  and I ran away. But it always crept on to my lap again, clutched  at my clothes. Until  I thought, if I could kiss it, whatever  in it was my own,  perhaps I  could  sleep.  And  I  bent to  its  broken face, and  it  was horrible…but I kissed  it.  I think one must finally take one’s life in one’s arms, Quentin.” —Arthur Miller

WHEN I  FIRST  heard  people  talk  about  amends  to  those  we  had harmed,  especially our ex-spouses, I thought they must be crazy. Erroneously,  I  believed  that if  my  tormentors’  transgressions  outweighed mine, my “sin” was  somehow diminished, even canceled. For example, I thought if people  knew how cruel my ex-husband  had been  toward  me and our children,  they would see how righteous I had been. That should exempt  me  from  making  amends  to  him,  right? But—au contraire—I had to take responsibility  for my own sins of omission  and commission without  defenses or excuses. Grudgingly  at first, I began to think about who I was and  what  I was like when  Bill and  I married. What exactly did I—a frightened, needy,  nearly  delirious  young  girl—  bring  to the marriage?  The  answer  was nothing. Absolutely  nothing! I realized that while he was marrying  me for his own reasons,  I had married him to escape my love for and rage at Joey. I used what many would consider  a sacred  act—the sacrament of marriage—to arrest my descent  into booze and promiscuity.

Driven by self-destructive beliefs, alcohol  was my comfort, my only defense—my  fortress  against the ghosts and monsters  of my “sins.” But my  liquid  comfort would  eventually  turn on  me,  causing  me  to  lose my dream job  as a stewardess, much the way drugs and  alcohol played a  major  role   in  the  demise  of  Marilyn.  Under  its  influence  I  could forget that I was not  supposed  to  want  too  much  out  of life or expect too  little.  But  in  its  clutches   of  insanity,   I  wanted  everything   and nothing all at once.  I had  married  Bill and  brought my nineteen-year- old self—an empty satchel stuffed with pain—to  my second marriage.  I appropriated  him   to   escape my internal barbarians  and  shameful acting-out  behaviors.

So I wrote  Bill  a  letter  of  apology.  In  the  letter  I  revealed  my shameful  secrets  to him. I told  him  how my choices culminated in the brutal rape  and  suicide  attempt just months prior to  our  marriage. I apologized for having nothing to contribute  to our years together except fear  and  emptiness.   I  asked his forgiveness.  I  had  to  let  go  of  any concern  about how  he  would  respond.  The release  that came to me after mailing that letter  was like a huge stone melting  away.

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Comments


  1. But Dawn, I feel that in hindsight you owed him no apology. While you may not have felt you brought anything, you did bring a motherhood, a housekeeper, a companion, a trophy, and (unfortunately) a possession. That may well be what he wanted most–to have complete domination over someone–to own them.

    Remember, you ESCAPED from him, he didn’t just release you of good will.

    Ron

    • Hi Ron,

      Thanks for your comments.

      When we re-experience the darkness of unhealed wounds (what others have done to us), our attention has a way of creating our next life experience. We bring these old wounds into our next encounter and/or relationships. Wounds can seem like small tears or even gaping holes in the fabric of our being. Most of us want to find a way to repair these wounds—and forgiveness/amends can be a powerful part of that process.

      The act of forgiveness and/or making amends are healing gifts to our self, having nothing to do with the offender. It does not require that the other person accept responsibility for their part in the wound. Forgiveness/amends do not require that we have a meeting of the minds as does the process of reconciliation. I want to be clear that forgiveness/amends are not condoning behavior that has been harmful. And it does not mean forgetting.

      I’ve experienced profound internal healings by owning my own mistakes. Actually, it’s not the mistakes that matter so much but rather the underlying defects that caused such actions. This process is difficult because it requires that I keep my eyes on my own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, choices, actions, consequences, etc. and not look at what the ‘offender’ did to me whether preceivecd or in actuallity.

      I grew leaps and bounds from this one act of making amends. I hope this helps to clarify the self-inventory to which I refer.

      Warmly, dawn

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