Zeke’s an improv buddy of mine I treasure for his weirdness, a quality which somehow manages to be both relentless and endearing. He’s someone who always comes at an issue from an unexpected angle, which makes him both an excellent improviser and someone whose opinion I seek and respect.
We were sharing a giant bowl of kimjji jjigae in a Korea town restaurant before class when the talk turned to love. He and I are both avid online daters and we shared our stories of good dates and bad, as well as some analysis of former serious relationships. I shared my normal spiel of how my romantic bad luck is probably due to my being attracted to funny men, who are famously known for being on the immature end of the adult spectrum.
Zeke listened as we both angled for the best vegetables in our stew. I finally finished my chronological narrative, ending with someone melodramatic like “and that’s why I’m doomed to be treated badly.”
He gave it a second, sipping at some rice wine. “That’s interesting,” he finally said. “What do you think they’d say about you?”
For the hours I’d spent crying about exes, for the blogs I’d written, for the letters I’d penned, I don’t think I’d ever asked myself this question. I’d certainly never been called upon to talk it through over banchan and rice cakes.
I said something that I hope was thoughtful but which was probably glib and the conversation moved forward. I didn’t stop thinking about it, though. What would my exes say about me? What sins have I committed that this or that ex might, in a moment of reflection, share with a friend?
I’m certainly not innocent of wrongdoing.
Maybe part of why I and so many women dwell on the sins of our lovers is that true regret and forgiveness are in short supply during a breakup. There are plenty of accusations, and some desperate promises to change, but by the time the parties are ready to do serious reflection, the opportunity to make peace is generally over.
I hate unfinished business. I want every ending to be stamped closed and every goodbye to be satisfying. If I were world dictator, I’d force everyone I’ve ever had conflict with to sit with me in an arbitrated court where I could expose wrongdoings, apologize where necessary, and distribute and accept forgiveness like a benevolent queen exchanging favors of state.
This is obviously never going to happen. For one thing, it would be incredibly boring to everyone but me. For another, I am not yet world dictator. The men and women in my past that I’m no longer speaking to aren’t going to come to my doorstep so we can chat inner peace.
So. What can I do? I can try to forgive them, as best as I can, though I haven’t been very good at that so far. I can forgive myself, though… eh, I think I’m still too busy with the active self-abuse to seek forgiveness (a post for another day.)
Perhaps the reason I haven’t been so great at forgiving is that forgiveness is a hollow act in isolation. It makes me a victim and puts the burden of sainthood upon me, requiring a gentle benediction that still leaves me feeling wronged. YOU hurt me. YOU misled me. Oh God, it’s gonna happen again.
Alright. Here’s what I’m going to try. I’m going to confess my relationship sins here, in a sort of data dump, and just hope that the universe forgives.
If you’re part of the Coyle 2016 World Dictator Lobbying Campaign, have fun parsing through these and figuring out who I’m talking about.
To someone: I’m sorry that I wasn’t more supportive of you. You needed a pal and I showed up with judgement. I miss you. I hope you’re happy.
To someone: I’m sorry that I’ve been distant. I don’t make enough of an effort. Being busy is a shitty excuse.
To someone: I’m sorry that I put my inexperience on you. You wanted to have fun, I wanted to be in love, and I wasn’t strong enough to walk away. (Repeat this one many times.)
To someone: I’m sorry I wrote about you in a blog without enough obfuscation.
To someone: I’m sorry I let my jealousy affect my actions.
To someone: I’m sorry I lashed out. Gosh, I can be nasty. Thanks for not making a big deal about it. You’re amazing.
To someone: I’m sorry.
Apologizing is good for us. Mayo Clinic replies that there are numerous benefits to forgiveness. In what seems like a rather un-doctorlike plea to the spirit, the Clinic advises that “whatever the outcome, commit to treating others with compassion, empathy and respect.”
I’m sorry. I forgive you.