Lady Sylvia Ashley & Clark Gable on their Hawaiian honeymoon, 1949
I have done a few things in my lifetime that I’m not proud of. Haven’t we all? It’s how we set it right that seems to matter most. Several years ago, I learned a powerful tool. It originates, or at least I heard about it through the twelve-step program. Its called making amends.
There have been a few occasions where I had the good sense and good fortune to admit my errors and apologize to those whom I had wronged. It’s not easy and it takes a level of bravery but I was lucky that the parties involved were receptive to my restitutions. Each time I experienced profound healing.
Recently I was given the gift of an apology I was not expecting. After my most recent break up, I had begun to question my part in the failure and wondered how I had sabotaged the relationship. Two years had passed since the person hurt me and I had found forgiveness for him on my own in order to heal and move on. But what a surprise it was to receive atonement for that person’s disrespectful and confusing behavior. It was a potent antidote for the pain and self-doubt he had caused me.
This weekend I did a final read-through of Silky after the yearlong edit Ruth and I accomplished. In one of the chapters I’d traveled to the Bahamas for research and had the opportunity to interview someone who’d chatted with Sylvia at a party. The two women were waiting in line for the restroom and for some reason, Syl opened up to this woman, sharing how all the lovely young girls made her feel insecure. It must’ve been Christmas 1950, a year after her marriage to Clark Gable, when things were starting to unravel between them. The woman found it odd that someone as beautiful and celebrated as Sylvia was capable of feeling inadequate. But I imagine Clark’s coldness and disapproval was eating away at her confidence. I experienced that same type of self-doubt myself with my last relationship and know how someone’s words and actions can negatively affect one’s self-esteem.
Being on the receiving end of emotional recompense was altogether different than giving it. Yes, the acknowledgement gave closure and felt wonderful to me, restoring my faith in my ability to be a good partner. What I didn’t expect to feel was jubilation for the other person. My joy at his personal growth was as significant as my own relief. I felt so proud of him and how far he’s come.
I can only hope that Gable was able to heal some of the hurt and damage he did to Sylvia. I doubt he made amends in quite the way my friend did. But by all accounts I’ve read they did part friends in the end. I suppose when a romantic relationship ends, that’s about the best one can hope for.