Sometimes even the best laid plans go awry. It is disappointing as heck when that happens; when you map out every moment and think you have factored in every possible contingency, only to run into an unforeseen snag and fall discouragingly short at the end. Sigh.
I remember a few such incidents, some more vividly than others. The very first one that comes to mind is my oldest daughter’s wedding day in Chicago. It was our first wedding, so we did it up big: evening church candlelight ceremony with 150 guests. Orchestrating the entire thing from Pennsylvania (where we lived at the time) was no small task. On top of planning the wedding and reception, I had to plan for out of town guests which accounted for around half since only the groom was from Chicago (my daughter was in grad school there at that time). But I tackled the project like a job and thought I had provided for every tiny nuance, and then some.
Rehearsal day, all out of town relatives and wedding party took a private cruise on Lake Michigan; went off without a hitch. At that point, I was feeling very confident that we were going to have a flawless event and giving myself a little pat on the back. The biggest problem we had experienced so far was the bridesmaids dresses had not been ready when we dropped by to pick them up two days earlier. The daughter of the owner said they still needed to be pressed. I wasn’t concerned—the owner of the shop had been so accommodating and helpful to date; and after all, they had fitted the last girl over three months earlier. I wasn’t too excited to add in ‘pick up dresses’ to an already packed wedding day, but that is as far as my concern went since it was an evening wedding.
When I stopped in to pick up the dresses at 10 am on wedding day, they were not ready—and I mean really not ready. Two of them still needed to be altered. I remember vividly the streak of panic that hit me then, like a punch in the stomach. I didn’t know then that the dresses were actually most likely done and the scene had been set up as a financial scam. When one of our daughters drove in to pick up the dresses just three hours before the wedding (getting stuck in horrid Chicago traffic), and called from the shop because they were trying to charge her for a bill already paid, the streak of panic fully bloomed. Even after the bill got paid so they would release the dresses (we were charged several hundred dollars to ‘rush’ since they had to work on the dresses the same day as the wedding—no kidding–and they refused to release any dresses until those fees were paid), the bad feeling would not not leave me. Throughout the evening, I continued to fight off negativity, beating myself up for being so stupid and not seeing it coming.
To this day, our family and friends proclaim that wedding as one of the the most fun times they’ve ever had and speak of it fondly—and each time they do, I can feel that pit of self-disappointment churn in my stomach. If only I’d done better…
As we age, we become more aware of our own shortcomings. One of mine (and believe me, I have many) is expecting perfection out of everything I do. If I fall even 1% short of that goal, I derive little pleasure from the other 99%. That is a lot of unrealized joy.
I have been working hard to better handle self-disappointment—to allow myself a reasonable margin of error. Am I the only one who does this? Do any of you out there beat yourselves up for things you have no control over, even long after the occasion has passed? It feels really bad to carry around all of that disappointment. Of course, the best solution would be to stop making mistakes, right? Okay, I’m joking….kind of.
“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”
― Ralph Waldo Emerson
November 30, yesterday, was the last day of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writers Month). My goal was to write 30 blogs in 30 days. I did all of my homework and created a progression of steps to succeed; did my blog mapping, solicited an audience, set aside daily time to blog. Perfectly planned, right?…only if real life wasn’t going on during the plan.
In the middle of my perfectly planned 30 days of blogging, I had two of my children come in from out of state (with their families) and stay at my house. I witnessed the birth of a new grandchild. I had to take on a new insurance company for my daughter’s business (becoming an in-network provider for ABA services is no small task), and of course, there was my new Thanksgiving plan—you remember, the ‘compromise’ brunch—that ended up being a wonderful family day but twice the work I had anticipated (we ended up making Thanksgiving brunch and dinner). Best laid plans…
Although I thought about it constantly, there were days when I simply could not find the extra two hours to blog. Yes, two hours…at least. I write, and rewrite, and rewrite again…still full of fear that each blog sounds narcissistic or just plain stupid. I have post-it notes placed in random places (the lid of my laptop, in the little wallet with my ATM card, next to the gear shift in my car) that say “don’t give up” to remind me not to give up when I get disappointed in myself. I am trying to be my own cheerleader.
Even still, I ended up with only 20 blogs at the end of 30 days: 20,000 words as opposed to my 30,000 word goal…which made me feel very bad yesterday. But even though I felt bad, I couldn’t write—my daughter’s husband had to go back to work (remember, the farmer?) so with a one week old baby, she needs someone to help with her sweet and spicy little 4 and 1 1/2 year old boys. By the time I got home last night, I ate a late dinner, drank a glass of wine, and tuned in to tune out (TV of course).
Today, I am going to work hard to forgive myself my shortcoming—nurture my inner child (I know, sounds comical). During class the other night, our teacher suggested we treat the child inside of us the way we treat other children. That suggestion sounds simple enough but struck me as very profound. How would I treat a child who worked so diligently every single spare moment, carrying around their laptop, and leaving themselves reminder notes? I would pat them on the back and say “great job!” You did your very best…nobody could do more. Perhaps if I were even a small bit more kind to the little scared me inside of the outwardly confident me, life would feel better…happier even.
What have I got to lose by trying? I’ll let you know how it goes…