Saturday, July 17, 2010

Sitting with ambiguity

 Last Saturday I had a falling out with an old friend. She felt hurt that I hadn't paid close enough attention to a group newsletter she sent out and accused me of lying that I'd read it all. That so annoyed me that I got sarcastic and she misinterpreted that and it all snowballed from there. After cooling off for a few hours, I wrote another email apologizing for my part in any misunderstanding. More than 20 years of 12-step work has trained me to look for my part in any disagreement, sort that out, and make amends for what's mine.

Unfortunately, she has never responded. And that leaves me in ambiguity, a place I hate. I know this is a product of decades of black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. I like to know where I stand, even if it's awful. Not knowing what's going on with the other person makes me really uncomfortable.

My mother was a great grudge holder and well-practiced in the silent treatment. I don't remember her ever apologizing to me for her part, or even acknowledging a disagreement. The best she would do is pretend it hadn't happened. Terrified as a child by the cold shoulder, I learned to apologize even when I wasn't at fault. That led me later into very dicey areas with abusive boyfriends and manipulative roommates.

Today, I recognize these patterns and on good days, I can see one of them coming and make other choices. A part of me wants to email my friend, tell her to get over herself, and be done with it. Another part of me sees that I've done what I can, done my footwork, as we say in the program, and need to let go of the rest.

When I discussed this with my spiritual director, she wanted me to see how little my friend's responses have to do with me or anything I've done or said, how they have to do with her and that I can't control or maybe even influence.

And I see today that I don't have to sit in ambiguity. I've been definitive in making my amend, seeing my part. That's where my clarity lies.

No comments: