Warning: This poem contains some touchy topics. Highlight to see the detailed warnings, some of which are spoilers. It includes guilt, emotional dysphoria, reluctance, self-blame, fumbling apologies, painfully awkward social dynamics, touch aversion, worry, parting of ways, and other angst. If these are sensitive issues for you, please consider your tastes and headspace before reading onward.
"The Courage to Admit Them"
[Sunday, March 22, 2015]
Shiv slunk through the Gene Leahy Mall,
looking for the orange Serenity bench where
he had agreed to meet Stan and Lawrence.
He didn't want to apologize for his share
of yesterday's clusterfuck, but neither did he
want to keep stewing in borrowed guilt.
When he got there, Stan and Lawrence
were already waiting by the bench.
Shiv lifted his chin, expecting to get
scolded for being late, not like he cared.
"Right on time," Stan said instead.
"You said two o'clock," Shiv said coolly.
He sidled to the bench but didn't sit down.
"Okay, you asked for a meeting,"
Lawrence said. "What do you want?"
"Came to apologize for yesterday,"
Shiv said through his teeth.
"What for?" Lawrence said.
Shiv glanced at the notes
on his vidwatch. "I picked
a fight with Stan. It was
wrong. I apologize."
"Well ... you seemed
to be enjoying yourself
yesterday," Stan said.
"I was," Shiv said.
"Then it went to shit."
"That's one thing we
agree on," Lawrence said.
Shiv sighed. "I just feel
like crap, okay? And I
shouldn't, because I'm
a supervillain, and I like
doing things like that."
"Damn," Lawrence said. "I
thought you'd gotten away with it,
but that sounds like it could be
some kind of energy mixup after all.
What have you tried to fix it?"
"This," Shiv said, waving a hand
at them. "I know a guy, told him what
happened -- well, some of it -- and
asked what to do. He told me
to apologize, so here I am."
"How is that working
for you?" Lawrence said.
"How do you feel now?"
"Stupid," said Shiv. "I don't
know what's going wrong with it,
something just feels off about it --
on top of this whole shitshow
not feeling like me at all."
"Thank you," Stan said.
"It means a lot to me that
you tried to put things right,
even if you're still kind of
groping your way through it."
Shiv flinched. "I know I'm
fucked up, okay? You don't
gotta rub it in like that!" he said.
"Careful, Stan doesn't really
know his own strength yet,"
Lawrence warned. "Sometimes
he hits harder than he means to."
"Hey," Stan said. "I worked hard
to gain control of my abilities!"
"Your superpowers, sure,"
said Lawrence. "You still have
no idea how much social weight
you have, so you swing it around like
a log, and sometimes that's scary."
"I'm sorry," Stan said. "I didn't know."
"Yeah, we didn't know a lot of shit, or
we wouldn't be in this mess," Shiv said.
"I know," Stan said. "If apologizing
isn't making you feel any better ..."
"Okay, let's try a different angle,"
Lawrence said. "Stan, when you
have a disagreement with someone,
what makes it feel settled to you?"
"When the other person isn't
upset with me anymore,
of course," Stan said.
"And if it ain't forgivable?"
Shiv said, narrowing his eyes.
That had been his experience.
Most people wouldn't let it go.
"Mistakes are always forgivable
if one has the courage to admit
them," Stan said earnestly.
"Are we far enough along
for that to apply here?"
Lawrence asked him.
"I think so." Stan turned
to face Shiv. "I forgive you."
Then he held out his hand.
"Shake," Lawrence murmured.
"Like hell," Shiv said as
he took a step back.
"That's okay, guys, I know
another version," Stan said.
He wrapped a hand over
his fist and bowed a little.
Shiv returned it out of habit,
he'd spent so much time in prison
using the Rock-and-Water salute.
A little of the tension eased.
"Shiv? Do you feel any better
now?" Lawrence asked him.
Shiv rolled his shoulders.
"Yeah, maybe some."
Stan grinned at him.
"Whew, that's a relief.
We may not agree on ...
well, much of anything, but
I don't want to see you get hurt."
"Wasn't your dumbass idea,"
Shiv pointed out. He'd gotten
himself into the mess, and them too.
"I'm still sorry if I hurt you," Stan said.
"It's one thing to have a street fight,
but you falling over really scared me."
"Iforgiveyou," Shiv blurted to get it
over with and maybe shut him up.
"Then we're square," Stan said.
"Square," Shiv agreed, in hopes
of getting the hell out of there.
"See you around," Lawrence said,
and tugged Stan away from the bench.
Shiv watched them go. He maybe
kinda missed Lawrence, sometimes,
but Lawrence would rather be with Stan ...
and Shiv had his own people too.
Differences, like mistakes,
weren't as prone to trip you up
if you had the courage to admit them.
And maybe that was okay.
* * *
"Mistakes are always forgivable if one has the courage to admit them."
-- Bruce Lee
Here is the Gene Leahy Mall in spring. It includes a number of sculptural benches, which make great landmarks for meeting people. The Serenity Bench is orange with two square white rails.
Self-blame is a form of internalized emotional abuse, common among survivors of abuse or other trauma. Shiv's crappy childhood has left him with a tendency to blame himself. Follow the steps to let go of self-blame.
A meaningful apology consists of several parts. Understand how to apologize. Teaching kids to apologize is a part of parenting, but not everyone learns it. Forcing people to apologize just teaches lying and manipulation; instead, encourage them to express their feelings and offer practical recompense. A reduced penalty is another incentive for sincere apology.
Forgiveness is a virtue that is distinct from other related concepts. It is impossible to avoid all mishaps, so what matters is how you handle it when things go wrong. Know how to forgive someone for hurting you and how to forgive yourself for making mistakes.
Terramagne-America encourages people to make their own plans, with help if wanted or needed. Variations of "How is that working for you?" are used to gauge progress. Here's an example from Brief Action Planning with a flow chart. This concept applies to most problem-solving situations, and it's something that anyone can learn to use.
Stan has worked diligently to master his superpowers, but in the social sphere he doesn't know his own strength. He is popular, successful, and just doesn't grasp how much impact he can have on people who aren't.
The Rock and Water program teaches a variety of useful skills. See handouts for the salute, self-worth, compliments vs. insults, and sportsmanship.