In the one thousand and five hundred consecutive posts for this daily blog, mistakes have been the main topic at least five times, if I am not mistaken.
You can check for mistakes in previous posts about mistakes here, here, here, and here.
Yesterday, in therapy, somebody was focusing on mistakes. Make no mistake, lots of people who come to see me for individual or group therapy focus on and feel bad about mistakes. They often make the common mistake of believing that only they make mistakes every day.
Everybody makes mistakes every day. Why? Because we’re human.
Was it a mistake for me to take only four photos yesterday?
I may be mistaken, but I believe that first photo shows people on their way to yesterday’s victory parade for the New England Patriots. And make no mistake, that last photo shows my boyfriend Michael’s latest victorious meal. Michael was afraid he’d made mistakes by soaking the monkfish before trying to bread it (unsuccessfully) and then poaching the fish instead. I thought those “mistakes” resulted in a perfectly delicious meal.
When I look at the news these days, I can get upset about what I see as other people’s mistakes. Sometimes I make the common mistake of forgetting that the only behaviors I can control are my own.
Even though I’ve chosen a similar title before, I think “How to Choose a Post Title” is a blogging topic useful enough to revisit.
Do you agree, dear readers? How do you choose a title for a post, or for anything else you create?
Obviously, there’s no single right way to do so. One technique is to consider the images you want to include in a post for possible title candidates. For example, today I’m considering the following post titles:
“The Best Bostonians of All Time”
“Enjoy Life’s Simple Pleasures”
“Fake It Until You Make It”
Now this may be foolish, but I have a lot of trouble making decisions, especially when there are so many good choices.
Actually, “Making Decisions” might be another good post title.
Whenever I struggle with decisions, it helps me to ask for assistance from others. Therefore, which title would you choose for a post like this one, based on all the other photos I took yesterday?
I hope you choose to let me know your choice, in a comment below.
Choice thanks to all who helped me create today’s post, including my son Aaron’s classmate Emma, shown holding the guinea pig (which my boyfriend Michael titled “Cheryl.”) And special thanks to you — of course! — for choosing to visit here, today.
It’s helpful to focus on the present, letting go of regrets about the past (which we cannot change) and worries about the future (which we cannot control).
However, humans look into the future, as a way to prepare.
During certain times of the year, preparation seems more important. For example, if it’s cold and dark outside and we don’t prepare for that before we go out … we might be sorry. (I considered writing “WE MIGHT DIE!!!!”, but I didn’t want to alarm anybody.)
Also, during the Christmas season, people prepare in many different ways. They buy gifts. They often prepare to connect with family and friends.
I don’t know about you, but preparation can make me anxious. Why? Oh, probably because I think I need to do a great job at everything or …. dire results may occur. (I doubt that buying a bad gift will actually kill me, but who knows?)
I’ve written several times, this year, about perfectionism. (For example, here, here, and here.)
Nobody is perfect — including the writer and the readers of this post. As humans, we all make mistakes, every day. (Probably, we all make mistakes every hour.)
I react differently to the Making of Mistakes, though, depending upon who is doing the mistake-making.
When I realize that I have made a mistake, this is my usual response:
I feel awful.
Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:
Oh, no! I made a mistake! I should have paid better attention. This is really going to be a problem for other people, too. What’s the matter with me?
It’s a different story, though, when somebody else makes a mistake. Often, I forgive other people their mistakes.
It’s much easier to remember that everybody makes mistakes, when it’s everybody else.
However, when somebody makes a mistake that has a direct, negative impact on me, that’s a different story, too.
Then, this is my usual response:
I feel awful.
Here are some typical, automatic thoughts I have:
Oh, no! This other person made a mistake! And that really caused me some discomfort. What do I do now? How do I tell them about it? They’ll probably think it’s MY fault, too! How can I prove it’s NOT? Maybe it IS my fault, somehow! And what if it’s NOT my fault and they don’t own up to that? THEN what do I do? Also, if I mattered and was important enough to them, they would have been more careful! Now I’m angry! NOW what do I do? If I express my anger, I’ll probably alienate them! I don’t want to lose them! But I don’t want to pretend that it’s all okay with me, either, because it’s NOT!
This is what I notice about THAT, now.
When somebody else makes a mistake, I tend to have MORE thoughts.
Well, I’m really used to my own mistakes. I KNOW (by living with myself) how imperfect I am: I’ve got lots of proof about that. At times in the past, I’ve thought of myself as a screw-up — somebody who constantly make mistakes.
So THAT’s familiar.
But, somehow, I’ve never gotten used to other people’s mistakes.
Why is that?
This is my best guess, right now: When I was a little kid, I needed important people — upon whom I depended — to NOT make major mistakes. (And they made mistakes, of course. They were human.)
I know I’m not alone, in that.
Here’s a personal example of that: I needed the doctors keeping me alive — through surgeries and new technologies — to NOT make major mistakes. Big time.
So, my wish — even as an adult — is that people NOT make mistakes. But they do, of course, every day.
Also, if somebody makes a mistake that has a negative effect on me and doesn’t own it, I can feel some anger about that (naturally). And as I wrote, two days ago, I can be a little clueless about anger, once I have it.
So there you have it: My reactions to other people’s mistakes.
It’s easy for me to write this post today, dear readers, because somebody — whom I’ve yet to meet — made a mistake last night which did have a negative impact on me. At this writing, the person is not owning the mistake, which may or may not change.
This is what I’ve done, so far, this morning, to deal with this:
I wrote an e-mail to the person, pointing out the facts.
By focusing on the facts, I let go of any wish to affect the other person’s feelings about this in any way.
I worked on this blog post.
All those things helped.
What’s missing, for me, right now?
A cool image, for this post!
My next step: consult my iPhone for recent photos.
Oh! Here’s one:
Recently, I saw this hand-written message on a sign, regarding a overdue repair to a machine.
So there you have it, my dear readers: Another way to respond to other people’s mistakes.
Thanks to everybody who makes and responds to mistakes and to you — of course! — for visiting here today.
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:
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
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.
Last night, I walked around in the rain, with my bf. We had one umbrella, but we still got wet. That was fun, because it’s pretty hot and humid right now, in these parts.
There are going to be thunderstorms for AT LEAST 10 DAYS IN A ROW, if we believe the weather people.
Believing the forecasters (or any kind of fortune-telling, no matter what the data) is a proposition I sometimes find dubious. (I wrote about the meteorological kind of fortune-telling on Groundhog Day. I write and talk about the cognitive distortion of fortune-telling most days of the year.)
Here are a few of my associations with rain and the title of this post, this morning:
#1. Spotting bunnies — one of my favorite walk-time activities — is still possible, if not probable, when it’s raining.
Because of my policy of honesty, I need to confess that I did not spot this bunny last night — nor at any point when it was raining. However, I did spot it with impressive proximity in both time and space. (That is, very recently and very close to where I’m typing right now.)
Here’s a list of some areas where I’ve been making some real progress:
I’ve been including taking care of myself as an important consideration, when I’m deciding on my next choice, next step, or next decision (especially when I’m overwhelmed).
Also, I am letting go of some anxiety and fear of consequences when I’m making choices (for example, “If I make this decision, what if it’s the WRONG one?). That helps me think more clearly and make more balanced decisions.
2. Being present in the moment.
Letting go of anxiety regarding fear of consequences (see directly above) is helping with that, too. What’s also helping? The fact that it is so friggin’ beautiful outside right now …
… as Spring has sprung in Boston.
3. Realizing I have “all the time I need.”
This really helps me, when I’m overwhelmed. I’ve been having some trouble sleeping lately, so it is especially helping me to take my time, be careful, and think. I notice that when I take my time, I get as much done as when I’m rushing (and I make fewer mistakes).
Yes, I see progress there, too. For example, I’ve been falling asleep more easily. My sleep challenge, lately, has been waking up in the middle of the night, and having trouble getting back to sleep. Last night, though, I did some things differently. When I woke up (probably around 4 AM), I:
did NOT look at the clock,
noticed my thoughts about what I might blog about today, but let them go, and
noticed my fears about possible disconnects with people, but let them go, and
noticed my guilt about things I haven’t gotten done, but let them go.
Doing this daily blog has helped improve my writing. Also, it’s helped me tell my story in a “better” (more healing, more clearly, more nuanced, more balanced) way.
I’m not as concerned, lately, about what other people think, especially when I’m doing “weird” things, like walking down the street, listening to music and singing. What does “weird” mean to me? Well, I don’t see too many other people walking and singing out loud. However — here’s a thought — when I do see other people doing that — I like it!
What’s help me reduce self-consciousness? Thoughts like that one I just had, above, plus:
Letting go of mind-reading (I don’t know what other people are really thinking)