Mistakes and Forgiving

This morning, as the kids ate their breakfast and brushed their teeth, I decided to squeeze in some work right before we left for school. Clearly, not a good idea, but I figured if I did it, I’d feel less guilty about going to the school meeting I wanted to attend.

I am assuming you already can tell how this goes…

In my rush, I made a simple, silly mistake that made it look like everything was broken. In my panic, I couldn’t see the mistake no matter how hard I looked. I finally asked for help from one of my teammates who told me there was something super-obvious I was missing. I kept looking but it might as well have been a blank page because no matter how much I looked, I couldn’t see it.

And then I saw it.

It was dumb. So super-dumb that it put me right into a huge shame trigger. I felt horrified that I’d bugged him over something so obviously dumb. In the middle of that, more things went wrong and I just kept panicking more and more. Yelling at my family to be quiet, still fighting to finish the task and making even dumber mistakes along the way.

I’ve written before about how when you’re in a state of reactive panic, your fight/flight kicks in and literally shuts down your prefrontal cortex where all the higher level thinking happens. And even knowing this, I just continued to live inside the panic state (and shame state) until the whole task was finished. At which point, I got dressed in under two minutes and was out the door with Jake and the kids.

The climax (or nadir) of this story is that I didn’t even end up going to the school event because I was feeling so super-crappy from the morning’s events. And then I started feeling shame around missing that and having let Jake down and having yelled at the kids. The shame from my coworker was also still live and breathing inside me.It felt like I was spiraling and every small or big event was contributing to the story I was already telling myself. It wasn’t just that I simply could not snap out of it, I kept feeding it so it grew.

This went on the whole day. I read blogs and found myself wondering how come other people could go through life achieving things they wanted and I just kept failing. Or, worse, not even trying. Wait, even worse, not even knowing what to try. I read work emails and made stories around those. On and on.

And here I am. It’s 4pm and I am still carrying the shame from 7:19am. The 2-minute issue that was resolved by 7:40 and had zero fallout. Yet I’m still holding on to it. Worse, I am still perpetuating it.

I want to stop.

I want to learn to be able to say “mea culpa, that was dumb,” and then move on. I want instances like this to not become identity-defining moments. Or even day-ruining moments. If there’s something to learn, I am happy to learn it and then move on. And yet, I am not sure how to do that. What I do know is berating myself for not knowing doesn’t help either. Telling myself to let go or being disappointed in myself don’t either.

So here’s what I am going to do: I will walk away from the computer. I will think of three things I am really grateful for right this minute. (Like my 4-year-old who is sitting next to me, giving me kisses, the perfect combination of sunshine and breeze in the backyard, and the wonderful package of art goodies I got today.) And I am going to go take a walk. Then I will come back and play with one son and help the other.

Sometimes the best path involves getting out of my head. Not trying to “figure it out” or “vent” but to reach out to others and to give and to rest and be kind to myself.

At least, that’s what I hope.

9 comments to Mistakes and Forgiving

  • Cheryl

    I’m sorry you had to go through this. And yes, walking away from the computer and doing something totally different probably calmed you. Here’s another thought…Your word is “present”…if the entire incident was over and solved and had no fallout…why are you dragging a negative present moment forward? Why didn’t you move onto the next present moment? Just trying to help you figure it out. Not sure if I’m explaining what I mean.

    • karenika

      this is the exact point i was making. i wasn’t able to move away from the present moment cause i kept making it bigger and entangling the feelings with whatever was in the present moment.

  • Louise

    What other people see:


    Just sayin’

    Hope today you have a super day.

  • Lynn Herrick

    I have experienced this same scenario so many times in the past. You know what finally “cured” me? I learned it from many of my male colleagues and in particular my former CEO. It’s called “Get over it.” My former CEO told me this one night when it was late and I was so upset about whatever (can’t even remember now). He simply said, “Get over it.” I realized in that moment that all of these guys around me just let it go. They just don’t let it hang around and then they move forward. I also realized that almost always, there are no terrible consequences that follow one of these incidents, but that I spend hours punishing myself and that time could be better used moving forward. So maybe it sounds too easy, but really, I just tell myself to Get over it and it kind of works. Good luck and thanks for sharing.

    • karenika

      you know what, this is good advice. i think sometimes it’s harder than it sounds but yes this is what most men seem to do, at least on the surface. i dont’ know if they really do just get over it or they’re better at hiding than i am 🙂

  • Anina

    Hi Karen,
    I just want to say that I love your blog, your ‘voice’ feels very familiar to me. Very offten what you are saying, mirrors voice in my head. I love your honesty the most. We all have those days when we feel everyone else has it so together and we are failing at it all miserably. Then that day ends, and we get to start another one, and we realize how lucky we are. I myself hold my breath on those days, in case by saying that I am happy and lucky out loud, I will jinx myself.
    Anyway – I love hearing you speak on PRT – you remind me to shake off outside expectations and be true to myself all the time!

  • dawn

    Karen, I’m sorry you had to go thru this rough patch. I ditto what all the above readers have said. Hope the next day was better and your in your PRESENT moment now. HUGS!

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