I say this is part 73 assuming there will be a part 74. How can I be so sure? Because I know that I am human and prone to fucking stuff up. I’m not exactly sure of the exact number of fuck-ups I’ve had … those kind that make your stomach drop … where you start out of a sleep groaning that it was not, after all, one of those bad naked/late-for-work/I-don’t-know-the-words-to-the-aria-I’m-singing-on-stage dreams. My ever-so-precise algorithm was to take the average of slightly more than once a year and add a pretty heavy dose for my undergraduate career.
My latest screw-up starts with my NeighborFriend texting me to ask something very simple.
We are in Cabo. I have our mail on hold, but would like to send something to you so it doesn’t arrive too late. We’ve got tickets to Muse on Saturday night.
No problem. The price will be an invite to Cabo next year.
Ha ha. Wink. Nudge. Except … it ended up being a problem. In the back of my mind, I tuck a little flag to remember to be on the lookout for a package for the NeighborFriend c/o me. I’m ready to sign for it.
Fast forward a week and picture me and Galahad going through the mail.
- A form letter to my mom (who’s been dead for 4 ½ years … we still get a lot of those)
- A magazine
- A plain envelope addressed to me with a name I don’t recognize in the return address
So – I open the letter. Inside is a page torn from a blank wide-lined school notebook wrapped around two tickets for a Muse concert. Muse? I think I’ve heard them. Rock band, right? I look them up. Not really our cup of tea. Looks like something our oldest squire would really enjoy, but I have plans for Saturday (seeing a screening of Wonder Woman that’s a fundraiser for a museum) and we don’t feel good leaving the youngest squire by himself. We look into getting a third ticket, but they are damned expensive.
We stalk the return address. Nope. We can see that it originated in a neighborhood that’s south of us in our Beautiful City. I know a few folks there, but not these folks. Why are random people sending us random tickets?
Are you starting to get a feeling of dread and foreboding? Not me. I was blithely ignorant and still waiting for some sort of official correspondence to be sent by FedEx or UPS.
It’s Friday, and Galahad is on a conference call with YoungColleague when he mentions the mysterious tickets. <Are you screaming at me at this point, “Maddie … they are MUSE tickets. She said they were sending MUSE tickets.” I’m certainly screaming that at myself, now.> Galahad’s YoungColleague gushed about MUSE. “Muse is fantastic!” So, Galahad generously offers the tickets, and YoungColleague’s husband takes off work early to drive to our house to pick them up.
<My English accent now kicks in with, “Maddie, you stupid git.” >
Cut to Saturday afternoon. I’m in the car pulling out of the driveway to go to the said Wonder Woman screening when get a text from the NeighborFriend’s son saying,
Can I come by and pick up the Muse tickets?
My brain has STILL not caught up. I think, Did Galahad post something about it on Facebook? Hmmmm ….
I text back
Hi there. So sorry. They were snatched up yesterday by one of Galahad’s work colleagues.
Yeah – still not even a flicker of the coming doom. Amazing in retrospect.
I drive for 5 minutes and get a call from NeighborFriend.
"Maddie? Remember those tickets you were going to hold for us?"
And then it clicks.
“OH MY FUCKING GOD!!!” I shriek into the phone. “NeighborFriend, I have truly fucked up!” <babble, babble, babble> “Let me call Galahad. We’ll fix it.”
I’ll wind this down now. We couldn’t really fix it, though we did try. We contacted YoungCollegue’s husband. We could claw the tickets back … but not in time. We offered to buy new tickets. NeighborFriend’s son sweetly declined. NeighborFriend responded with a text joke.
It’s just as well that they were kind, because someone much closer to home was throwing around lots of swear words and accusations. No, no. Not Galahad. I was talking up a shit-storm of self-loathing in my head. And occasionally muttering under my breath, "I am an idiot. I am a fucking idiot. I am a goddamned fucking idiot.” And I was. I really don’t write this to excuse myself. I saw 2 + 2 and came up with the sum of Peanut Butter. WTF, Maddie?
Now, some of you might not know, that in addition to being an excruciatingly slow-to-post blogger, I am a consultant who knows a lot about how the mind works. My analysis of this event indicates that because I didn’t have the right schema to even know what Muse was, I promptly forgot it. I did remember that something was coming in the mail. But I set up an erroneous expectation that it would be an official package. I had a picture in my head of something being hand delivered and addressed in a certain way. Was that in NeighborFriend’s original text? Not at all. It was just a story that my brain told myself so I would remember. Erroneously.
And this brings me to the reflection part of this blog. When I was a high school English teacher three careers back, my favorite book to teach was The Scarlet Letter. Hester and Arthur. Action (they got some) and consequence (shunning and guilt). The shame outwardly displayed ... that hand-sewn letter 'A' made of embroidery thread ... ended up being easier to bear than the hidden guilt ... the self-flagellated 'A' made of scars.
Maybe this is why I write. So I have a catharsis for my guilt. I’m putting a digital letter 'I' for Idiot on my digital avatar for all to see. I do worry that I am trying to secretly look like a good guy by writing, and then explaining, a simple (if stupid) mistake. We all make them. Good old Arthur Dimmesdale ended up being a a sympathetic character. Looking sympathetic is not my goal, though the writing does have the sting of a whip about it.
Perhaps I expose my failure because this particular screw up flies in the face of my self-perception. I see myself as smart and capable and trustworthy. And yet, as the protagonist in this particular story, I am dumb and flaky and unreliable. Ughh. And Ughh again.
Mistakes happen. I’m sure #74 is already on the horizon. Yet I remember that my friends still love me. And each fornication skyward gives me the opportunity to learn. This time, I learned:
* To slow down with my communications and worry less about my funny come-backs and more about the gist of the conversations.
* To slow down and look up things I don’t know. To listen (or read) more deeply.
* To slow down and think things through. When presented with 2 + 2 = ______, Peanut Butter is very rarely the right answer.
So, my lesson this week is apparently to slow down and think.
I finished the above the morning after The Event, and it was going to be the end. And then I went to the woo woo, liberal church that I love. And the minister talked about the term "Collateral Beauty" from a Will Smith movie of the same name. Really? I got deep insights from a Will Smith movie about death and love and our relationships to them--a veritable smash up of A Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life? Apparently. And yes, I am aware that The Event was only about concert tickets … and my ego. Yet the term collateral beauty sparked something for me. The Event made me see some ugly things about myself. But I also saw some beautiful things in others.
My NeighborFriend tried to take some responsibility for failing to text me a reminder mid-week. For failing to ensure that the package was clearly marked. For failing to treat me as though I had surely struggled with Kindergarten addition. NeighborFriend even sent me a little joke via text. Beautiful.
I also saw that my NeighborFriend and NeighborFriend’s husband had raised an amazing child. Their now-ticketless eldest was polite and sweet and forgiving. He could so easily have been annoyed and irritated and grumpy. Beautiful.
Galahad’s YoungColleague and YoungColleague’s Husband could have been bitter or antagonistic. They were very understanding … and then grateful to go see the show. Beautiful.
I may still be wearing the 'I', but I don’t want to keep looking down at it. I want to look up and make sure I am seeing all of the collateral beauty around me. Today. Tomorrow. And the day after that. Beautiful.