I’ve been thinking a lot about mistakes and accidents lately. These unexpected events that happen all of our lives, wild cards of chance or fate or karma or just one moment of our own inattention or thoughtlessness. Ugh. They’ll just keep happening to us, like change, until we’re dead. I’ve had my share.
In those moments, just after the thing occurs, there’s the shock of it: “Hold on! Wait! Time out!!! Just seconds ago, I was going about my life! I had plans for this day that were not about calling insurance agencies! Or sweeping up the pile of spilled salt in the hectic middle of the making a stir-fry!”
But these are the easy ones, right? The mistakes and accidents remedied with phone calls or a dustpan are the ones that are inconvenient, but fixable with time and patience for banalities. (For the phone calls, pro-tip: have your knitting handy for all that time spent on hold.)But the ones that are the hardest are when I know that my mistake has hurt another person. There’s shame and embarrassment, disappointment in myself, and the physical response for me is sort of a clenching in my heart. It literally takes my breath away. As a person who prides myself on attending to details, thinking of others, anticipating what will be needed, and sometimes verging into perfectionism, it can be hard to forgive myself. Because it would be one thing if I was mostly oblivious all the time, but I try very hard to pay attention.
But not always. In that awful moment when we are feeling the clenching heart and the waves of shame, we have an opportunity to be present with our own darkness (like Brené Brown describes in her new book Rising Strong), a choice to be there for ourselves at our worst, even before we get back into our head and figure out what to do next. Brown suggests articulating your inner monologue, prefacing it with the story I’m telling myself right now, for example: “The story I’m telling myself right now is that everyone will be disappointed in me.” Because if I frame it like that, I have the option to consider that it might not be totally the truth. Sometimes the stories we tell ourselves sound really silly/crazy/ridiculous when we speak them out loud.Family portraits will be coming in the mailbox soon for the holidays. I treasure them! I love looking at the babies growing up, the teenagers trying out their new noses for 2015, the choice of outfits (matching? not?), the way the resemblances to parents and siblings come and go. But look at some of these holiday photo outtakes in this post. They’re not polished perfection for a postcard (ugh, orange shirt), instead they are a portrait of the 99% of who these brothers are with each other: silly, goofy, teasing, enduring, annoying, annoyed, and yes, finally, and always, loving.