Updated on January 25, 2017
I’m sorry… but sorry isn’t enough.
This isn’t the first time this has happened…and even though I’d like to deny it, it probably won’t be the last.
I didn’t show up.
Trust me…I had planned to. In fact, in my head, I already had: we were sitting in that little coffee shop, right in the middle of wealth and big business. Our initial embrace was a bit awkward (you know that with me, it always is), but after I politely turned down coffee (in favor of taking what I thought were hidden sips from my Nalgene), we were back to our old “rhythm.” We talked and laughed and even cried about life…about how it didn’t turn out at all like we planned…how although we were unsure of what our next steps would look like, it was going be okay because at least we knew we weren’t alone.
But my dear friend, I’m learning that dreams and reality are two very different things.
While I did put a great deal of effort into accounting for the steps I would need to take to physically get to you (even factoring in potential monkey-wrenches along the way—you know: detours, traffic jams, train delays and even my inability to effectively use a map), I forgot to accurately account for the one thing that proved to be (once again) my downfall: my mental state and my anxiety.
See—having lived for so long in a world of my own making, I tend to over-estimate my own inner strength and abilities, particularly when it comes to intensely stressful situations…situations with factors outside my control (i.e. navigating planes, trains, and automobiles [okay, maybe not planes]). And unfortunately, included in this “intensely stressful” category and even more nerve-wracking than the aforementioned transportation issues, is meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in months. Did I say nerve-wracking? Perhaps paralyzing is a more accurate description.
Yes, I knew my anxiety would surely spike right before I needed to leave to meet up with you, but I truly thought I had been proactive in taking the necessary precautions to control it. After a lifetime of both talk and behavioral therapy, I knew better than to allow my extremely negative thoughts to have power over me. I knew that ruminating was my “kryptonite” and I would need to just turn my attention to something else…something like cloudy skies, green pine trees ala Bob Ross, and the raging ocean smacking up against the rocky shore—all signposts of my “happy place.”
Not surprisingly however, despite the vivid images I was able to conjure up in my mind, my anxiety still emerged the victor, taking me down in the process. The morning of our meeting, I intentionally ignored ALL 15 alarms I had set on my phone—each with a different sound (no, I’m not exaggerating), as I pushed away the intense sense of guilt that coursed through me each time I attempted to return to my anything-but-peaceful slumber. At least if I was able to fall back to sleep, I would be able to offer you a legitimate excuse as to why I didn’t show up.
No, I am not proud of this. I am completely aware that “I didn’t wake up to my alarm” or “I’ve been so busy, I’m so sorry, I completely forgot” are tired excuses. And when I remove my layers of rationalization, I’m able to see that they are also lies.
Nevertheless, for me (and for so many others who suffer with debilitating anxiety), it’s so much more complicated than simply a decision to “show up” or “not show up.” From all external appearances, I know you can’t possibly see that. You can’t possibly know the way that, even being presented with an invitation to “catch up” (even if it’s just over the phone), my brain goes into overdrive, frantically searching for answers to questions that have not yet been asked (and in all likelihood, may never be asked)…the way my heart beats faster and faster until it feels like it might actually burst from exhaustion.
However, there’s another layer to this story. This isn’t an isolated incident. I’m not sure if you are aware that this sequence of events has been my normal for as long as I can remember—from Kindergarten Fashion Polly play-dates to high school graduation parties – this is the “dance” I perform…the game I play…on repeat, time and time again.
See, although I usually don’t enjoy playing games, I am the not-so-proud owner of a “Get Out of Jail Free” card.
Let me explain. I was first handed this “card” in preschool—when as the result of my parent’s intervention, accommodations were made for me in class. While those accommodations were necessary and allowed me to lead some semblance of a “normal” life, over time, they became a crutch to lean on. Despite the absence of broken bones, sprained ankles or even any trace of an intellectual deficiency, I was treated differently than other students and I began to see myself as an outsider…an “other.”
Eventually, these feelings of otherness propagated and I began to expect special treatment. Call it a self-fulfilling prophecy, but soon everyone who knew me began to handle me with kid gloves. Even today, I get away with far more than I should and feelings of guilt don’t typically rise to the surface until much later.
I have since learned another name for this card: “enablement.”
I’ve become far too comfortable enabling myself and have allowed (dare I say, even encouraged) others to enable me in the process. All these years, I’ve allowed my anxiety to wreck havoc in my head and I’ve expected you (and everyone else) to simply respond with a crooked smile, a pat on the back, and a reassuring “it’s okay.”
But it’s not okay. Because I lied. Because I didn’t show up.
No matter how intense my feelings or how paralyzing my fear, I treated you poorly. I wasn’t honest with you about my situation. I didn’t trust that you would understand. But that’s not fair. Because you have also experienced the depths of life and witnessed your fair share of fear, pain, and heartbreak. Because you have also tried to cross the ravine and build that bridge between will and action. Because you have also struggled to get by in this game of life, with or without being in possession of Park Place or Boardwalk properties.
So dear friend, I’m sorry. I know it’s not enough, but I pray you give me another chance. I also ask for a favor. In this letter, I’ve enclosed my beloved, highly-overused “Get Out of Jail for Free” card. I’ve been tempted to use it now more than ever, and I do not trust myself when it is in my possession. Please, destroy it.
And a word of advice: please pass on the opportunity (when it comes, for it surely will) to possess your very own card; instead, try to roll those doubles. It may take a bit longer to get out of jail…and you may have to jump a few more hurdles along the way…but I promise the lessons learned along the journey are priceless.
Peace + Blessings,