A couple of days ago I made a huge mistake. One of those mistakes that makes me feel like human garbage. Not the funny human garbage that sits under the dining table eating dinner ’cause they don’t deserve to eat at the table a la Homer Simpson, but the horrible human garbage who has badly hurt someone they love deeply. The unfunny kind.
This is not the first time I have successfully executed a personal cock-up of magnificent proportions. Neither is it the first time I have hurt someone I love, but I arrogantly assumed that at 35 I had made all the asinine mistakes I could possibly make in this lifetime. Isn’t that what your 20s are for?
My very patient friends – older, younger, all infinitely wiser – admonish me admirably.
“Friend,” they say, shaking their heads. “Dear, dear stupid friend whom we love despite your incessant and endearing stupidity, hear this: you are going to make mistakes for the rest of your life, just like everyone else. What measures you as a human being is not that you make mistakes, but how you deal with them when you make them.”
My friends don’t actually call me stupid. They are very loving and understanding and tell me that I’m not a bad person, that I can call them anytime to tell them how stupid I feel so they can tell me I’m not. I love them for it, but this does not make me feel better, however logical their words may be.
Making mistakes that effect other people in a hurtful, devastating way are awful. They’re awful to commit, and they’re awful to be on the receiving end of. I feel bad. I feel hollow. I feel physically sick. I can’t sleep. I can’t eat. And there’s not a damn thing I can do about it, except be sorry. I want to say I’m sorry time and again, even though I know hearing that word too much can make it lose its meaning. I want to do anything I can to make it better. But I can’t.
And so I’m dealing with it. I want no sympathy and I expect none. I sit here in my living room with a cup of tea and a cat and maybe an episode or six of Buffy, not feeling the warmth of any of these things, feeling instead the contemplation of my mistake. I cry. A lot. I cry for my loved one’s pain and what I did to cause it. I cry as I uselessly wish to undo it. I cry for the wrongness of it and for my disappointment in myself.
And I wait for the person I’ve hurt to be ready to talk to me. And yell at me and be angry with me and blame me and punish me so I’ll feel validated for hating myself, and then maybe we’ll both even eventually forgive me.
But that’s a long way off, so for now I can only wait for the feeling of epic shitness to settle, knowing that it will never really go away completely because, as with all monumental fuck-ups, this one will pop up in years to come to remind me of my own human iniquities and imperfections.
By then I think I’ll be grown up enough to accept them.