“The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blind side you at 4 PM on some idle Tuesday”. Mary Schmich, Chicago Tribune.
I’ve known this quote for several years. I can recite it word for word. I experienced the true nature of what this quote means this past week at work. I made a mistake, and yes it blind sided me Thursday morning.
I’m a perfectionist…call it my personality, call it the fact I’m a Virgo, but its something I’ve always been. I also care a great deal of what others think of me. I worry about how I portray myself to others. My reputation means everything to me. I want to be the best Mom, the best wife, the best lawyer. Because of my insatiable need to please others and do everything perfect, I get sidelined by mistakes in my life. When I make a mistake, I internalize it, beat myself up about it, worry about it. You know those people that make a mistake and blow it off like nothing happened?? Yeah that’s not me…not even close. I’m the one that will be thinking about my mistake for years to come.
The facts of this particular mistake are not important so I won’t spend this blog telling you the long drawn out story of what happened. Frankly, I’m tired of hearing myself talk about it and you want to read a blog, not a novel. Let’s just say I made a bad judgment call and this was brought to the attention of the partners at my firm. My poor judgment, my mistake, was made known to the people I fully respect and admire in my profession. When this happened, I felt horrible. Imagine a perfectionist people pleaser having to deal with making a stupid mistake in front of people she most wants to please! Yeah....not good at all.
I apologized for my mistake, cried, became angry with myself, felt embarrassed, hopeless, alone, and misunderstood. I went over the week’s events in my mind constantly. I worried about my job and my future at the firm. I dreaded going to work and when I did , I hid out in my office and buried myself in work. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that I am also a notorious drama queen (although I’m sure you can guess it from reading this so far). Trust me, give a Drama Queen actual drama to deal with in her life…and it is never pretty!
My mistake carried over into my home life. I came home stressed out, teary, and just plain worn out. I couldn’t sleep. I could hardly eat. My husband did the best he could to keep my spirits up, make me laugh, and give me pep talks. And I did the best I could to keep my same sunny personality in front of my kids. But, with all the stress I was under it is no wonder that my mood caught the attention of my daughter.
J: “Mommy, what’s wrong? Why are you sad?”
Me: “Oh honey, Mommy made a mistake at work and I’m just sad about it”
J cocked her head to the side as if she was analyzing my situation. Then without skipping a beat my little Diva dispensed her advice:
J: “Don’t worry Mommy, just say you’re sorry.”
I sighed and smiled through my tears. Even though I had asked my most trusted friends for advice about how to handle my mistake…I never knew the best advice I would get would come from my 4 year old!
It’s funny but when we’re 4 we’re allowed to make mistakes over and over. And as long as we say the magic words “I’m sorry”…our mistakes are instantly erased like chalk on a chalkboard. Presto – the mistake vanishes without a trace!! Mistakes don’t haunt kids…they never play the shoulda-woulda-coulda game. Nope they forget about their mistake before their apology even hits your ear.
But somehow as we grow “I’m sorry” loses its magic. Sure it helps…but unlike the “chalk” that our mistakes are when we are younger…our mistakes somehow turn into “permanent marker” as we grow. Although an apology might fade the mistake it still never seems to go away.
I realized that maybe I need to take the advice of my daughter. I need to move on and stop letting my mistake consume my life. I made my mistake. I had apologized numerous times. Now, I just needed to forget about it.
And just like that I started to turn my “permanent marker mistake” back into a “chalk mistake”. I took the weekend to think about my mistake and vent with friends...now it was over...I erased my mistake and put it behind me.
Maybe I should listen to my 4 year old more often!