Friday, August 19, 2005

Are you really sorry?

I live in a house which is divided into four flats. Up until recently a couple lived in the flat above mine but I’ve only seen him lately, I haven’t seen her. So yesterday I commented to him when he was telling me something “I haven’t seen [his partner] lately, how is she?” and he told me that she has moved out.

Yeah, I really put my foot in it. I made some inane comment in response to that news, he wandered off and I went back inside my flat. But just what do you say to that?

My mum said that I should have said “Oh I’m sorry.”

To me, sorry is something you should say when it’s “sorry” for something you’ve done. If I knock someone with my wheelchair I’ll say sorry, if I’m rude to someone I’ll (probably) say sorry. I say sorry to my colleagues at citizens advice (where I work) for having to pass me things and do extra stuff for me because of my CP so much that I think it drives them crazy. But I think that you shouldn’t say sorry to soemone when what you’re apologising for is something which happened to them but has nothing to do with you is silly and annoying.

I once read a caringbridge page where the mother of a terminally ill baby wrote (I’m paraphrasing here) that her and her husband find knowing what to say when people ask “how are you” hard. She said though that they know that what “how are you” really means is they are saying what is expected of them after they’ve said hello. I think the same is true of the way “sorry” is used.

People will ask me “why are you in that wheelchair” and I’ll explain… they’ll be “sorry” People who treat my CP will ask if I have other medical conditions and I’ll say that I’m on medication for depression. They’ll be “sorry”.

But I don’t think they are really sorry, I think they say it because they don’t understand.

I have CP, I’ve always had CP and I always will. All it is, is a part of me. I’ve never known any different and it’s not something I’m sorry about. And I also have depression which at times sucks so much. The thing is though, depression too has shaped who I am and the experiences I’ve had which make me the girl I am. Yes I could probably have done without it but what I realise now is that if I hadn’t of developed depression a few years ago my life since then wouldn’t have been the same. I love the flat where I’m living, I have good carers and good friends, I’ve really got back into my writing and I adore my job. If I didn’t have depression or CP my life wouldn’t be what it is now. And I wouldn’t give my job up for anything.

So if we talk about my medical problems and you don’t know what to say, don’t be sorry. Admit that you don’t understand and ask sensible questions. Because you’re not really sorry, I know that. Anyway, I don’t need your pity, all I need is your friendship.

10 Comments:

Blogger trisha said...

I always find that people saying something, as opposed to nothing, is kind. There are so many situations that leave people unsure of what to say, scared to say anything at all, lest it be wrong.

Sorry, to me, is kind.

4:55 PM  
Anonymous Dani said...

I have thought about these "expresions". And I think that most of the times we say one of those we do not really mean it. This is sad. I also do not know what to say in uncomfortable situations, but it would be nice if we put meaning in our words .I think everyone will apreciate if we make the effort and say something real.

11:15 AM  
Anonymous Beanie Baby said...

I do know that every time I've said I'm sorry to someone in difficult circumstances, I've meant it. It hasn't been rote or insincere; I didn't say it to mean "I pity you" or "I feel sorry for you." Sometimes it means I'm sorry for asking an awkward questions, or bringing something up that might be difficult to talk about; more often, if I sense someone is genuinely in pain, it's because I'm sorry they're in pain. I just want to acknowledge the pain or difficulty they may be facing and say that I care.

And you know what, I'm going to keep doing it. Because I AM sorry.

"Sorry" doesn't just mean an apology. Sometimes it means that you are sharing their sadness or pain, or trying to, because you care; sometimes it is a sign of compassion.

2:32 PM  
Blogger Moreena said...

Oh, yes. The difficulty of words, and Emma's running into the fact that they can mean different things to different people. I bet if you grew up being told "I'm sorry" all the time because you were in a wheelchair or born with a certain disease, those words would start to feel a bit meaningless and even perhaps a bit cruel (as if they were implying that your life was something that should inspire compassion, instead of awe and wonder). I don't blame Emma one little bit for feeling like "sorry" is overused and meaningless and sometimes not even the nicest thing to say at the moment. But do know, Emma, that some of us run up into the wall of not knowing what to say. If the person seems genuinely upset when they tell you something, I don't think "sorry" is out of line. If they're speaking matter-of-factly, such as you might be when you're explaining about your CP, then perhaps it's best to assume that compassion is not what they're needing at the moment...

I'm glad to read you're back into writing. As I've mentioned before, I do enjoy reading your point of view.

1:53 PM  
Blogger Trista said...

People say "I'm sorry" when they don't know exactly what to say, or feel uncomfortable. I find myself saying this sometimes because it’s the only way I can express how I feel. Whenever I would say this, my mom would always tell me, "Don't say sorry if its not your fault." I'm not apologizing for something I've done, I'm just trying to convey to another person that I am trying to feel, to empathize what they are going through. I still think that you have a very valid point.

Also, reading through your blog, I think that you are very wise in how you see the world. Thank you for stumbling across my blog so that I was able to find yours. I have really enjoyed reading what you have to say.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Belovedlife said...

Sometimes, when I say i'm sorry like that, it's more because I'm sorry i don't know what to say to you. not that i have pity or feel bad about your situation, I just wish I cold be helpful. In the future I will be more cuatious about how and what I say to people...as I never realized it might hurt someones feelings.
This is the first time I am visiting your blog, and am really glad that you are blogging. I am truly enjoying reading and seeing the world through your eyes. Very refreshing and thought invoking, Thanks!

7:42 PM  
Blogger Rob said...

I guess it's just me, but I find that the world has plenty of people whose reactions to my daughter's condition are insensitive and shitty that I can take an "I'm sorry" in the sympathetic spirit in which it is extended.

11:36 AM  
Blogger F said...

Sometiems I say sorry as well and it pisses me off that I say it because I wish I could say something more productive. I just don't know what that something is. I normally say it when I'm sorry that ____ happened to you, or that I don't know how to be there for you in a better way, or that you're going through this particular trauma or whatever. I do sometimes say nothing and just nod or something, but again it's because I don't know what to say and I wish I did. One of my closest and dearest friends has a disability and suffers through unfathomable pain and while I try to talk about it with her I never know what to say - I don't say sorry interestingly -usually I just want to scream and shout that she has to go through this pain and that it's not bloody fair and that overrides any capacity I might have to say something meaningful.

So yes, sometimes I say sorry, but usually when I wish I knew how to say more.

3:56 AM  
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