If I’m avoiding or fearing something, it’s often because of a memory I have.
Lately, I’ve been realizing that I can avoid or fear something that has happened very few times before. Or even, just once.
For example, almost every time I write a blog post, I fear that I’m going to have the wrong numbered day in the title. For example, I might write Day 266 today, instead of Day 265.
Why do I fear that? Because I did that once, people.
When I made that mistake, it was actually pretty easy to correct.
But when that happened the first time, I felt the Dreaded Thud of Shame.
So even though I’ve made that mistake only once, I usually feel some dread and fear about that, before I press the “Publish Post” button.
Now, there IS something to be said for being careful, because of past mistakes.
But, at this point in this blog post, I would like to calculate the time I’ve spent, so far this year, feeling fear about that easily-rectified-and-not-so-terrible mistake happening again,
In other words ….
How much time have I spent on fear about this particular mistake, this year?
I think I first made that mistake somewhere around Day 25. (My memory is that it happened within the first month of this Year of Living Non-Judgmentally.)
Before that day, I didn’t have dread about repeating the mistake, because I hadn’t made it yet. And, I haven’t had the fear yet today, because it happens right before I press the “Publish Post” button.
So, according to my calculations, I’ve had that particular fear/dread response on (approximately)…
264 – 25 = 239 days.
Now, I’m going to adjust that number down. Why? Because there have been some days where the fear/dread has been negligible — either because I have enough confidence that I can easily rectify the mistake and/or I recognize that the mistake, even if not corrected, would Not Be A Big Deal.
I think those days of negligible fear have happened, say …..10% of the time.
10% of 239 is about 24. So ….
239 – 24 = 215.
Therefore, I’ve had a measurable amount of fear/dread — about repeating that particular mistake — for 215 days.
( I just checked the math, so far, with a calculator. It’s all good.)
Now, let’s calculate how much time I’ve spent, this year, having that particular fear/dread response.
To figure that out, I would need to know how long the fear/dread typically lasts, before I push the “Publish Post”button.
The length of time is pretty short (although it CAN feel intense, at times). Hold on, let me figure out an estimate of that, by consulting a time-keeping device.
(For those of you who care, I’m doing all the fact-checking in this blog post with the calculator and stopwatch on my iPhone, with its brand new Operating System IOS 7!!
Where was I, before that unpaid, unsolicited testimonial?
Oh, yes. According to my calculations, the fear/dread — about making this particular mistake — lasts about 10 seconds.
So the amount of time I’ve spent feeling that particular piece of fear/dread, so far this year is (approximately)
215 x 10 seconds = 2,150 seconds.
You know, I never really grasp time in seconds, so let’s convert that to minutes.
2,150/60 = 35.83333333 minutes.
So let’s say that the final answer is
In other words, I’ve spent 36 minutes, so far this year, on dread and fear about a mistake that I’ve made once, that’s easily fixed, if it does recur.
36 minutes may not seem like a lot, but when you add in all the other times I’ve been spending, feeling dread/fear about mistakes that are easily fixed, THAT’S PRETTY SCARY.
(Now, I’m trying to decide whether to use scary movie music (which I first alluded to on Day 45: Mistakes, where art thou sting?) or another SCARY sound-bite . Heck, let’s go with something simple:
which I used, although in a more disguised way, on Day 256: Worst Nightmares.)
Anyway, where was I, before the shameless promotions of my previous blog posts?
Oh, yes. I hope I’ve proved, today, beyond a reasonable doubt, the following:
I’ve been spending way too much time feeling fear and dread about repeating past mistakes, that — even if I did make — could most likely be rectified without too much trouble.
Now, believe it or not, this post, so far, focusing on dread and fear, is just an INTRODUCTION to a story I wanted to tell you today.
The Story I Wanted to Tell Today
This happened in high school, when I was a senior. I was either 16 or 17 years old.
I was the assistant editor of the school newspaper and the editor of the newspaper graciously allowed me, for one edition, to be in charge of the newspaper.
I can’t remember how often the newspaper came out. It may have been weekly, twice a month, or monthly. I’m guessing it was weekly.
Now, this was the 1960’s, and people were questioning conventions. And so was I. So I decided to make the paper really different, for that one edition.
These are some of the decisions I remember.
I didn’t include much about school sports, in that edition.
I think I also included a piece of fiction written by somebody who felt like an outsider, specifically regarding athletic competition.
I remember these particular facts, because one of the football players sought me out, after this edition was published, and told me that he disliked it. I remember him telling me that he found that issue demoralizing. He thought it showed a lack of support for the high school teams.
I remember listening to him and acknowledging his experience, but not feeling too bad about that, since it was only one week out of many, and I knew that the newspaper would return immediately to giving the athletes in my high school a lot of recognition.
So that’s not the part of the story that looms large for me, in terms of a Dreaded Thud of Shame.
This is the part the story that does:
Another regular feature of the newspaper was called
(I found this image here.)
That’s “censored,” backwards.
DEROSNEC was the “gossip column” for our school newspaper. And it focused on the usual things that gossip columns, across time, have focused on: Who likes whom. Who’s getting into trouble.
This was pretty mild stuff, I have to say, in retrospect.
I always liked reading DEROSNEC, because it gave me more of a picture of what was going on with the people in my high school. (And I wasn’t dating or getting into trouble, so it was particularly interesting to me.)
And I thought that the writing was fun. The tone seemed snarky, but not really mean.
And it was written by two people I really liked, who were sisters.
The norm for DEROSNEC was that it was written by “anonymous.” But for my edition of the newspaper, I decided to give these sisters, who I liked so much, some credit.
So I included their first names. Like so:
by Susan and Sarah
And, as I heard from the football player after my edition of the school newspaper was published, I also heard from Susan and Sarah.
And this I remember, very well.
I remember the looks on Susan and Sarah’s faces as they told me how upset they were with me. They said, “Don’t you realize there’s a reason why that column is anonymous?? Now everybody we wrote about is going to be mad at us.”
And I felt AWFUL.
You know what? I still feel awful about that, sometimes.
As a matter of fact, I’ve been avoiding, for several weeks, writing this blog post.
Because I sometimes ask myself some of the same questions I did, back then, in high school:
What was the matter with you?
Why didn’t you ask them, first, if that would be okay with them?
Why did you make assumptions, based on your own experience and feelings? Yes, YOU like to get credit for what you create, but that doesn’t mean that everybody has the same reactions!
How could you be so naive?
Those are the judgmental, critical thoughts that come up for me.
The feelings that come up are these:
Shame. Sadness that I hurt people I really liked. And fear about being so wrong, when I had gone with “my gut.”
And that was a mistake that I COULD NOT take back. The newspapers were out there, in the hands of every person in my high school.
Now, in retrospect, maybe that wasn’t so awful. Maybe Susan and Sarah’s worst fears didn’t come true. Maybe they weren’t shunned by everybody they mentioned in that edition of DEROSNEC.
But at this point, I don’t know.
Earlier this year, I contacted both Susan and Sarah by voicemail, when I was helping to plan a high school reunion. And I wondered if I would hear back from them.
And I did, from both of them, also by voicemail. And they both expressed regrets for not being able to attend. And they both sounded friendly.
So I haven’t had a chance to check with them, yet, to see what their memories are, of that story. I plan to, when/if I see them at a future reunion.
And I really hope I see them. Like I said, I liked them both, so much.
When I see them, I’ll probably tell them my experience. I’ll probably say, “I’m sorry.” (which I’m sure I said, back then.)
And maybe I’ll let it go, finally.
What else do I want to say, before I end this post?
I’ve been wanting to write this story, this year, to reduce its power. I suspect this story is one of the reasons for my Dread of Anger (which I wrote about, recently).
And, come to think of it, it makes sense that I have a fear of publishing things, doesn’t it?
Thanks to freesound.org (for most of the sound effects today), to DEROSNEC (for the use of that image), to Susan, to Sarah, to other people from my high school, and to you — for reading this post (math, confessions, and all).
* This image belongs to derosnec.com, which I found when I googled “derosnec.” If you look at the comments, below, you will see that I made some mistakes about this. I believe at this point, that I have fixed those mistakes. I am now officially letting go of any guilt about those mistakes, also. Thanks to Derosnec for patience and understanding.
I think many, many of us have similar Susan and Sarah stories — and your writing it out helps us to see that the hold those past events have on us, is limiting our world today.
thanks for your courage Ann. and the inspiration (and sound effects) too! 🙂