Saying ‘I’m sorry’ a hundred different ways

Saying ‘I’m sorry’ a hundred different ways

I learned when I was little to tell people I’m sorry when I’ve done something to hurt them. I was usually stubborn about it, but what I didn’t learn is there are 100 different ways to show you’re sorry. I should’ve been more aware of this because actions really do speak louder than words. I wish I could reel in decades and do them over.

George came back tanned and relaxed from Mexico. I picked him up in Cleveland on a Wednesday evening and sort of melted into his arms, having learned how long evenings and Sundays can be. We had talked every day, several times a day, allowing the distance to separate yet bring us together over the crackly lines. He told me before he left that he wanted to miss me while I was gone, and that maybe I would miss him too.

“At one point I was just thinking I’m tired. I felt like everything was chaos. I was trying to adjust to my heart pills and to the anxiety that was growing. I didn’t have answers to questions I needed answered,” George said, talking about post-heart attack days. “I was impatient with my recovery and wanted to be spontaneous again.

“I needed a break from my heart. I was fighting myself and you. But I also needed to learn to be self-sufficient. I went on this trip so I could understand myself.”

Over the three weeks he was gone, I looked at pictures he sent me of him and his family and could see the softening of the lines around his eyes that had gotten worse over his recovery. Each day he was there he began to soak in the slower rhythm of Mexican time, the one where breakfasts blend into late morning. Family would arrive and pull up a chair as eggs were scrambled and spicy salsas appeared in deep molcajetes made of black volcanic rock. Laughter and ease spread over him.

He took daily trips into town and walked around the market gathering things for supper. He bonded with his mom and dad in ways that couldn’t have been possible if I was with him. I wanted this for him; I needed it for him. They talked of old and new things, as well as important tasks they’d put off for years and years. Pieces of the puzzle of his life fell into place through the time spent just sitting, and I knew this is what he had been missing all along.

“I wanted to stick my toes in the sand and order a cold beer and a plate of juicy papayas,” he said, talking about the few days he spent in Zipolite, Oaxaca. The waves crashed outside his window, and he took in the hot, humid air as he waded into the edge of the violent surf that swirls there.

But each morning and each night ended with us talking to each other, hashing out the day he had spent and what I had done here. We couldn’t quite stay away from each other. I’ve been working on book proposals and different projects, but I gave myself time to simply sit inside my head for as long as I needed. I let my body dictate my days — would I work at home or go thrifting? The minutes were mine. We both wanted to give ourselves the space to navigate without each other and to see if it’s what we wanted. And if we didn’t.

“I loved my time away from you. I learned to be more independent and not rely on you for everything. I learned I didn’t need to depend on you,” he said. And as I heard this, all the co-dependent strings inside myself strummed a joyful beat. A pause, if you will, is needed sometimes — an absolute reset of the sameness of days, without anything to break it up.

“I’m 100% a new man. I see the possibilities in front of me with a new lease on life, a new beginning,” George said. “It’s us against the world.”

So we begin again after facing the crud we let build up in our marriage. I’m glad I have the chance, that he didn’t die of four blocked arteries. I dove inside myself and learned that while I’m very good at doing a lot of things, I don’t have to do all the things. And that fact alone can help me to function better.

Everyone says “I’m sorry” in different ways too. I just needed to learn that for every word I say that means “I’m sorry,” he is saying it to me with an action. And that’s how you begin again.

Melissa Herrera is a columnist, published author and drinker of too many coffees based in Holmes County. You can find her book, “TOÑO LIVES,” at or buy one from her in person (because all authors have boxes of their own novel). For inquiries or to purchase, email her at

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