I fucked up.
Okay, so this isn’t much of a newsflash, but I’m putting it out there anyway. After all, everyone screws up, right? And, they say, without mistakes there is no growth. So, I’m going to seize this moment to challenge my feelings of embarrassment and shame.
The background of the situation truly is not relevant, so I’ll forego the details. It just doesn’t matters in the context of my musing. Let’s just say, though, that I used poor enough judgment that one person’s interpretation of my actions could have ended me up in the clink. Alas, I was spared – as have you the risk of needing to testify against me – but it hasn’t been without having to eat a large piece of humble pie.
I hate fucking up.
Objectively speaking, it happens all the time, but that doesn’t make it any easier. I have to work hard at ignoring the allure of all the reasons it wasn’t my fault and other people’s being assholes, but the truth is that I did, in fact, do something bad. Argh. And the result? I feel worthless. And ashamed. And embarrassed. My mind has been non-stop swirling, and I’m obsessing about my reputation, other people’s grudges, and the elusiveness of restitution. What a vortex this thought trifecta creates.
Then again, in a world where people who kill people get second (and third and fourth) chances, I should be able to make up for my mistake, right? Sure doesn’t feel like it though. Maybe it’s because of the fact that even when we have moved on from a troubling situation, the event itself never really goes away. Try as we might to let it go, it comes back when we least expect it in the form of a reputation. And those dastardly reputations are hard to overcome; they have no freaking shelf life.
Case in point, comments about my needing my mother to wipe me when I was a toddler still find their way into family conversation, as if there remains some underlying concern that my 51-year-old-self needs help with my morning constitutional. Seriously??
Thus the other issue with reputations; other people define them for us (thank you, Peter). This means that not only have we had to adjust our originating errant ways, but we also have to allow whatever time it takes for anyone and everyone that has participated in the perception to let it go. Literally, the memory of every single person has to be erased of the event. And because we all know that in order for that to happen, those people have to want it to happen, permanently moving on seems virtually impossible.
How does that expression go? It takes one minute to earn a reputation and a lifetime to lose one?
Today, let’s defy that idiom in the spirit of encouragement and growth! Let’s bury the myth once and for all! You know you want to let it go anyway, so consider yourself having received my permission to know my truth…. I am fully independent in the bathroom (at least for now).
Feel better? Yeah, me, too.
Try as I might to believe that what people think about me is irrelevant and that my intentions are rationale enough, I do want others’ perceptions of me to match what I consider to be my truth. And I really do assume that it’s the same for everyone. So, why is it so challenging to find as much pleasure in the potential for personal evolution as it is to find comfort in pigeon-holing someone, sometimes for life?
If you think about it, proliferating someone’s reputation is, in effect, holding a grudge, and I, for one, don’t like holding grudges. I’m a bit of a Pollyanna that way; I think there’s hope in every situation. But what about everyone else?
Therein lies the problem: I worry that other people don’t see hope for me.
Okay, even I’ll admit that that sounds pathetic and ungracious. Every day I am reminded in countless ways how much I am cared for, so why the pervasive self-doubt? Why lump everyone together in the lowest common category? It really is time to cut that shit out and practice what I preach: give people the benefit of the doubt.
The good news is that I am actually starting to feel what those inspirational posters have been offering for decades. Believe in yourself. Don’t waste energy on those who don’t reciprocate. You are enough. You love me; you really love me! Along with this increasing clarity, I find that I actually derive pleasure from considering how I might have done things differently. I certainly never felt pleasure from staunchly defending my actions or protecting myself. If I make my way past the wincing and the shaking my head to clear an embarrassing memory, I really am able to see beyond the shame.
Philosophically, I don’t really believe in regret. After all, we are who we are today because of everything that came before, right? That said, I would like to have a few do-overs. Imagine how different my life would have been if I had avoided that fateful wiping episode so many decades ago? I can only imagine.
Which brings me back to my latest fuck up.
I wish I could rewind the tape. Honestly, I thought we were friends with our neighbor here in Condoville and that we shared an unspoken respect for and trust in one another. It never would have occurred to me that by catching some elusive sun rays on his lanai I would receive a threat of trespassing charges. Well, I completely misjudged the situation, and now I am THAT neighbor: the one that doesn’t know boundaries and ignores all the rules (and laws). I am, alas, deserving of all-cap emails copied to everyone and Jesus, and my reputation of being dishonest and entitled has taken hold.
Ugh, ugh, UGH!
And I brought this on myself. I did trespass on his property. Period. It’s against the law.
Could he have seen my lapse of judgment for what it was? That I meant no harm? That when I left him a voicemail to tell him I had meandered over there, that he could have replied with a “Thanks for letting me know. I’m not comfortable with that?” Sure he could have, but he didn’t. And that’s okay. I get it. It’s not for me to determine how he should have reacted.
Whenever I think about reputation-despite-intention, I think of the Seinfeld episode when Elaine’s nipple was exposed in her Christmas Card. “You know your whole life you go through painstaking efforts to hide your nipple and then BOOM, suddenly hundreds of people get their own personal shot of it.” Freaking awesome.
It’s true that my fuck up wasn’t captured in print for generations to whip out during Thanksgiving meals, but that’s definitely the level of angst I have been feeling. A lifetime of painstaking efforts to live honestly and with integrity, and in one thoughtless moment, I am exposed as a fraud.
I have no one to blame but myself.
My father used to say, “Live your life like you’re running for public office.” Surely, he was referring to a time when sleaze and manipulation weren’t pervasive and acceptable, but his point remains a good one. You never know how people will interpret your actions.
Apparently I needed a reminder.
And so it goes. I have to face my fuck up and its consequences. I will continue to resist my instinct to think our neighbor is a total asshole for not giving me the benefit of the doubt, and I will flog myself until the time that his memory fades. Maybe even longer. In the very least until he moves.
Anyone want to buy a condo at Mauna Lani? The neighbors are awesome.
To read more about our Tiny House #1, view a gallery of that completed project’s progress photos, and join me in my musings, take a wander around my website.