Thursday, March 7, 2013

Been There-Done That

"It is better to be high-spirited even though one makes more mistakes, than to be narrow-minded and all too prudent."
~Vincent Van Gogh

Making mistakes in life is about as universal as passing gas. We all do it and we all are mortified when we get caught. Mistakes, like gas, can be huge, smelly and messy or small and quickly ignored. Attractive comparison right? I thought so.

I've had my share of mistakes both big and small. But lucky for me so has everyone else. 

I remember being mortified when I began going through my divorce. In my mind I was a failure and I was sure people would look at me with surprise, disgust or even pity. Instead what I found was complete understanding, compassion and empathy. I would hear things like: "I don't know if you knew but I was married before;" or "My parents divorced when I was a kid and it turned out to be the best thing for them;" or any number of other comparisons that immediately made me feel not like I was this unique brand of loser at the moment. I had some of the most meaningful connections during that time including one woman who told me she was "blissfully divorced."  My first reaction was that I could also be blissfully divorced.

The blissfulness may not be quite up to par but I am so much happier, as are my children, being out of a household with such an unloving air to it. The marriage was a mistake but I have three fantastic kids who are my world. So for that I would live that mistake again if needed.

More than three years ago I was reconnecting with an old friend who lives in Europe. After awhile the friendship became flirty and then more romantic. We decided to see what was there so I boarded a flight for 10 days in Amsterdam.

I didn't tell anyone. I was at the end of a divorce with three kids (who were on vacation with their dad) and I was going to see if there was a relationship across an ocean with someone I hadn't really seen for 20 years. Seemed like it had the potential to be a huge mistake.

But if it was it was going to be MY huge mistake. I didn't want anyone's opinion or judgement about why I should or shouldn't do this. Did I panic? Hell yes! I stood in the center of JFK asking myself over and over "What are you doing?" This could be an incredible 10 days or the most uncomfortable I've ever had. A couple of drinks in an airport bar helped me calm down and actually board the plane.

It turned out to be one of the most life altering weeks of my life so mistake averted. But it was a huge chance to take. And my family thinks it was a huge mistake to not trust them but I stand by my ideals on that one. That one trip gave me such strength and independence. I returned ready to be on my own and it didn't look scary anymore. I was ready to be a single mom with all of the responsibility and stress that can include and be okay with it. 

So our mistakes aren't always so clearly bad or good. We can hate ourselves for our actions, failures or weaknesses. But with every mistake comes something that makes us more aware of who we want to be in the future. 

I tell my children that no matter what mistakes they make they can tell me. Chances are I've done something similar. If they only knew the mistakes their mom has made they would be amazed. And if they ever need me to share them to make them feel better about their own mistakes I will in a heartbeat. I know how it feels to admit something you think is shocking and hear, "Yeah, I did that once." It's like waiting to get socked in the gut but instead receiving a warm hug. That's how I hope to be with anyone's mistakes, not passing judgement or guilt, but sharing my own inadequacies or at the very least understanding theirs. And maybe I'll learn something as well.

"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."
~Al Franken 
"Oh, the Things I Know"

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