Curbing your Attitude of Apology

A few weeks back I received an email from my yoga teacher offering a 5-minute practice while she was away. It revolved around the mantra “I’m allowed to take up space.”

This affirmation immediately brought to mind how I often act with an attitude of apology, that is, not actually saying I’m sorry, but feeling like I’m imposing on others by requesting to have my needs met.

Ouch.

How many times have I clammed up because I might upset someone or be an inconvenience to them?

It’s not just me. I don’t even think it’s just us overly-polite Canadians. How many women do you know who apologize at every turn?

  • I bump into a lady at the grocery story, and she says sorry.
  • Delayed email replies come in with the story that defends or hopes to excuse its tardiness.
  • A colleague who just finished the flu apologizes for needing to cough.
  • I decline the salad filled with nuts at a neighbour’s house and she apologizes profusely for not knowing about my allergy – how could she have known when I didn’t tell her? (There was no way I was going to starve without it, either.)
  • Women all over the internet are offering and taking courses about how to request the fees that reflect their goods’ & services’ value, or how to be visible for the sake of their business.

Some days it feels like the women around me are apologizing for their very existence. Double ouch.

At the same time, there’s a huge paradigm shift happening, with women standing up and speaking the truth despite the risk of backlash and shame.

The very energies make that kind of shift at this time every year, as the sap begins to flow and buds prepare to appear. Nature is burgeoning out of its winter shell. Seeds are decaying in the warming ground so that new life can feed on the remains.

To paraphrase Leonard Cohen, cracks are appearing in everything so that the light can get in.

In fact, I’ve come to learn that shame doesn’t happen when the truth is let out into the light. Shame is the stagnant stew that keeps the thing festering in the dark. Shame is what makes us want to apologize for just being here.

Which gets me back to the idea of taking up space.

In the dance of emotion, anger’s purpose is to take up space. It’s the sweeping arms and roar of a mama bear protecting her den. It’s the kicking and punching that fend off an attacker. It’s the premenstrual fury that makes everyone else take a step back from you, giving you the space you need at that vulnerable time.

Anger is the energy that pushes you out of the stagnating funk or disappointment or fear and makes you take that first step forward.

 

In a couple of weeks, we’ll be making the transition into spring – the season of wood, according to Chinese energetics – a time of blossoming green and all of life pushing out into new growth.

Spring is the time of the liver, what many people now know as the seat of anger. It is, however, also the seat of creativity. Just think how frustration leads to new ideas when you back off with a little patience. That creativity is what gets expressed when you step out of your shell and into the light of day.

The wood element also looks after your tendons. The sinew that, like the reawakening limbs of trees, are ready to be lubricated for movement, as you uncurl from the cold.

Spring is the time to throw off the detritus of winter, when your energy returns with the growing light, when you want to be outside more and be more active and start new projects.

The big trend at this time of year is to detox: clean that liver of all the junk and too much “comfort food” through the winter. This is a great practice, though for anyone who’s not used to it, I caution you to go gently; start simply in your first go-round. Overdoing it can deplete rather than recharge you, if you’re doing too much too soon (i.e. before winter is fully over) and it can also be like poking that mama bear when she’s been brewing over old slights for years.

Think of your liver like a pressure cooker: you want to let the steam off gently and gradually so it won’t explode in your face.

 

Other than cutting out the sugar etc., and eating more greens (if it grows naturally at this time of year, eat it!), there are other practices that can support your liver and your rejuvenation as you sprout into the next iteration of the wholly healthy vision of who you’re becoming.

 

  • Hydrate well: get all the juices flowing to keep you limber and flexible (physically and otherwise).
  • Get outside and move (walk, run, skate if it’s still cold enough, bike if it’s dry enough, play street hockey with your kids).
  • Look up to the clear blue sky; let it recharge your energy (your pineal gland loves that particular colour!).
  • Until the trees pop in the coming weeks, notice the patterns and shapes in their lacework of possibility.
  • Put on your favourite music and sing your heart out. Dance too!
  • Write out what pisses you off, cry about it – let those tears wash you clean – then take the steps to change what you can and release what you can’t.
  • When you hit frustration or irritation or any other brick wall that makes you want to rage or give up in despair, take a step back into the buffer zone of patience.

These gestures don’t need to be large or earth-shattering (that’s part of the patience piece again).

The day I got that email, I consciously made a couple of clear requests of those around me. No one was offended by my call for help – I was home with a very sick boy and needed a few groceries – or by my asking to reorganize schedules to better suit my priorities. The next day, I got up the gumption to quit something that wasn’t working for me, rather than stick with it out of obligation.

In staying present to what I needed that day, I opened my capacity to be present for myself and others…I gave myself the room to grow into that new space.

In opening the door to who you are, even just a tiny crack, allows the tiniest tendril of your being to peak out; to gather some sunlight, to feel the kiss of a few raindrops and grow that much more.

Which door are you ready to crack open; where does your being need a little more light? When you share in the comments, you open the possibilities for others.

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