45. All apologies

What else should I be

As a Canadian it is my birthright to be sorry for things.

Canadians often say they’re sorry, because Canadians are often sorry. We are sorry for standing in your way. We are sorry for opening a door for you. We are sorry if the elevator closes before you can get on. We’re sorry when you have to pay for the product you’re purchasing.

When I moved to London this somehow increased. British people apologise at a rate even this Canadian thinks a little much. I found myself saying sorry in hitherto unexplored situations; I was the Lewis and Clark of apologies. Sometimes I said sorry before I was even conscious another person was around me.

Apologising is built into a certain expectation of how people should interact with each other. It’s a social dance that, at its best, allows us to occupy the same space at the same time. But at its worst, it can tell people they’re dancing the wrong way, to the wrong music, in the wrong clothes, with the wrong intensity. Sometimes, it tells them they shouldn’t be dancing at all.

As a reader of this newsletter, there’s a non-zero chance you’re a professional apologiser. We just radiate Big Apologising Energy. For some of us it borders on, or straight up occupies, apologising for our mere existence.

Some day I may dive into that disputed territory, but for now here are 3 things we no longer need to be sorry about.

Things you don’t have to be sorry about anymore (and never did)

1. How clean your home is

Having lived most of my life with other people (parents until I was 27, two marriages, London rent costs) I wasn’t prepared for how hard it is to keep a place clean when it’s just you, a few walls, and infinite space for stuff.

My apartment in Haarlem is basically a long hallway, and I have filled every inch of it with things. Did you know that things have surfaces, and the more surfaces you have the more dust there is? I didn’t know that. Or I just forget to remember to know. Because there’s a lot of dust in my apartment.

Dust is like a cleanliness gateway drug, because once you notice dust you notice everything else. The limescale on the shower divider. The marks on the kitchen backsplash. Cleanliness is, of course, next to tidyness. The more untidy my place becomes, the less clean it seems. Things I put somewhere for just a moment end up living there permanently like a particularly invasive species of materialism.

When people come over, it’s my instinct to tell them that… something is happening, so sorry for the mess. What is happening is I live here, and so it looks like someone lives here. Even in a world where I invite people over who would care what my home looks like I wouldn’t need to apologise for what my home looks like. Luckily in this world, only good people, the kind who don’t judge others by the condition of their home, are allowed into my home.

Stop apologising for how clean your home is.

2. The energy you have to be around other people

I noticed something weird over the last few months. People say things like, “Man, we’ve been doing this pandemic stuff for a long time.” And then other people agree, something like, “Yeah, this is too long to be living like this.” And then… everyone just goes back to doing what they’re doing.

If the pandemic was like breaking both your legs, people would have said, “Oh man that must be hard having two broken legs”. And this time right now would be like the same people saying, “But we’re still running that 10k on Saturday right?”

Here’s the thing—even before the pandemic (this was a real time, there are pictures and everything) different people had different capacities for doing things. But even people with the exact same capacity for a thing don’t have to do those things at the same rate, or at all.

We’re all grown ass people. (I assume we are. If any children are reading this, I’m sorry for the intense topics but not for any swearing.) So we shouldn’t have to say things about how we’d love to do X on Friday but Y and Z, where Y and Z are anything other than a meteorite just fell into my sitting room.

Stop apologising for the energy you have to be around other people.

3. Wanting things

Perspective is a good thing. It’s good to place your situation in the context of other people’s situations, to build empathy, self-reflection, and thought resilience. It’s good to understand we live on a planet with other people, some of whom are having a much worse time of it than us.

That’s good.

What’s not good is insisting someone else have perspective. Insisting someone else have perspective is as gross as insisting they love you. We should manage our own perspectives and if someone needs to gain one, trust the universe to provide it through a conduit more encompassing than us.

It must be from fear of a perspective rebuttal that so often we’ll express a desire by enveloping it in the world’s largest SORRY, lest we be seen to lack basic human compassion. I’m sorry (WINK) but that sorry is meaningless, and worse than if we simply said, hey we should have all the things and no one else should have anything!

Here’s a thing that’s true: you wanting something doesn’t preclude anyone else from having anything. It just doesn’t. Now maybe it’s a good practice to want less, given the state of the world and the sheer lunacy of late-stage capitalism. But so much has been taken from us the last two years—health, safety, routine, membership in the European union—that we can perhaps be forgiven for wanting a few things right now.

So want what you want. Want it unabashedly.

Stop apologising for wanting things.

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