Saturday, November 14, 2009

Sorry is the hardest word

Last weekend I went to a wonderful workshop on 'Creativity and Shadow' run by my friend, the sculptor Vivien Whitaker, at Woodbrooke in Birmingham. A small group of women, based in the Art Room away from the main conference centre, worked on the subject using our hands and hearts and for all of us it was an intense experience. As some of us said afterwards, questions like 'Did you enjoy it?' and 'Did you have a good time?' were not really relevant!

In order to approach and understand our shadow-side we looked at our strengths and how these might tip over into 'over-strengths'. For me this involved taking responsibility. I know that I can do this but I also know that I have reached the stage of over-strength, when I try to take responsibility for everything and cannot let go and allow other people (and especially my family) to take responsibility themselves. All my children are grown-up people but I am having problems letting go of my 'mother' role, especially the mother who tries to make everything all right.

For me this is encapsulated in the word 'sorry'. Whenever anything goes wrong I say sorry. Sometimes I just mean that I am sorry a bad thing has happened but that is not how my family hear it. They hear me taking everything on myself - again! My elder son got very annoyed with me over the phone a couple of weeks ago when I was saying sorry for his car failing its MOT. 'It's not your fault. It's nothing to do with you, it's my problem.' he said. 'I wish I could take the word Sorry out of the dictionary!'

So it is not surprising that when Vivien gave each of us a plain white paper fan and asked us to depict our shadow on one side and our dream of the future on the other I immediately started on the shadow side and produced this. I wrote the word Sorry everywhere I could and outlined the whole thing in black, like a Victorian mourning letter

I wanted to acknowledge this shadow side of myself, partly so I could try to change it but also because I really am sorry for a lot of my failings and weaknesses. I am also still carrying around a lot of guilt for things done, undone or not done well enough in the past which will take time to work through.

The shadow is part of me and my task is to integrate it so that it becomes part of my wholeness instead of threatening to overwhelm me with depression and feelings of worthlessness. The weekend helped me to realise the effect that my shadow has had and is sometimes still having on my family and I am really putting some effort into working on that. I have displayed the shadow side of my fan in my study where it can act as a constant reminder and I am trying to remove that word from my personal dictionary

The last piece we made at the weekend was an expression of our hope for the future. I made a shape in clay based on a seedcase I had picked up in Kew Gardens with two halves, one open and gold and one closed in and black, although with a few bits of glitter even there. The 'seed', made with a shell, combined both colours, dark and light. I placed it on a piece of printed velvet and wrapped the whole thing in card and tissue paper, black and dull on the outside, gold and shiny within, all tied together with a multicoloured thread.

The whole group explained their pieces to the others and as I did this I unwrapped the parcel. When I got home I took all the outer casings off and put the clay on a low shelf where I can see it every day

The song says that 'Sorry is the hardest word to say'. For me it is the hardest word to stop saying but I am resolved to try. One way in which I am going to do this is not to say sorry when I don't write this blog. I am going to stop imposing 'once a week' or 'once a month' rules on myself which set me up to fail. I will write when I have something to say and I will not apologise for that.


Anonymous said...

I know just what you mean, and have similar issues trying not to fix everything for eveyone. Especailly when they let me!

I really hope your creations help you keep on your desired path - I'm going to keep a link here to remind me too. Thank you for posting about it.

Heather said...

Wow, it sounds like an extraordinary experience. I completely understand what you mean about 'sorry' - I'm trying to give it up too...

Lightly said...

Thanks for this - sounds a great workshop. I wish I weren't so terrified of anything with the word 'creativity' in the title.

Maybe the difference between 'sorry for ..' and 'sorry about...' is being lost in British English, partly from too much listening to US TV shows where 'Sorry for your loss' seems to crop up regularly - I find it still grates.

I'm working on over-responsibility in another way - by not taking things on, almost as a reflex, just because I can. It's vital to feel my way to what seems right.

mindfulbeader said...

Your honesty is very empowering, Gil. Thankyou.

Jan Lyn said...

Sounds like a wonderful experience. Thanks so much for being transparent enough to share it. I empathize with your "sorry" word as many in my inner circle of people say that it is my middle name I say it so much. I need to work on that one are not alone.

Gil S said...

Thanks so much for your comments, friends. It's so great to get a response and to know I'm not alone!

Lightly, I would have had a problem with a workshop with 'creativity' in the title too if it hadn't been run by Vivien. The workshop of hers I went to before was on self-portraits and was another great experience so I knew I could trust her with this.

Jane and Paddy said...

My first visit to your blog and good to hear your reflections. I am seeking a way through to a joyful journey to New Zealand to a nephew's wedding where I have no control and no responsibility but almost resent going as it will be our last visit to NZ and I wouldn't have gone at this time and I wouldn't have wanted to go for such a short visit. I feel wrong-footed most of the time with my inlaws and have little insight into what is wrong. Therefore I don't even know what I might apologise for! And they don't apologise!Perhaps they sense that I don't care enough about them to mind very much - at least your family get the message that you mind about them!
Sorry isn't quite what I want to be. With things like the MOT failure I usually say "That's a bugger!" Keep sorry for your actual major foul-ups!