Appearances can be deceiving.
For the past few days, signs that I'm not as together as I think I am have been arising in small ways. And then yesterday, I hit the wall. I was much too tired for midafternoon on a Tuesday, and so I decided to be honest with myself and regroup. I took a nap, declared that dinner would be takeout, and got a second wind.
As it turns out, I still wasn't quite as efficient as I thought I was.
I'd sent out an email early in the day -- a meeting reminder I (try to) send out every month. Late yesterday afternoon (post-nap), one of the group members let me know she didn't think it had gone to everyone, so I forwarded it to the remaining members with an apology.
At least that's what I thought I did.
One of the members wrote me back, seemingly in a state of total confusion, unsure of what the details of the email meant. I wrote back. He did, too.
Then this morning, I checked email again. He was still completely confused.
With good reason. I'd sent the email to the wrong person. Right first name, wrong last name.
So, I admitted my mistake, issued another apology and tried not to feel too much like an idiot as I sent an email to the right person.
The thing is, if someone else had done this, I probably would have brushed it off with a laugh. But when I do it, I waste a ridiculous amount of energy chastising myself, certain that others will think less of me.
Perfectionism and pride are dangerous things -- and I'm learning that they often travel hand-in-hand. Who am I to think that I'm so perfect that I can't make a mistake? And why does my pride take such a hit when I inevitably do?
In theory, I understand that mistakes are a part of life, and I know I've learned from my own. But while I accept this rationally -- and even teach this to others -- my emotional acceptance of it is sometimes a long way off.
I can laugh off the email mishap, although I feel awful for my friend whose anxiety I raised with nonsensical (to him) details. But when I make a mistake in an arena where I'm supposed to be the one who knows what she's doing -- as a teacher, or as a parent -- those are the ones that haunt me.
I have long believed that in these situations, admitting imperfection, apologizing where necessary and righting the wrong is the best course of action -- and all we can really do. But while the requisite action seems simple enough, the emotional fallout of being hit with my own mistakes and owning up to them is much less simple.
Because, you see, we're not in charge of other people's reactions. And beneath the pride and perfectionism lies an unspoken fear that this mistake, this minor disruption in the scheme of things, will cause a cosmic shift in another person's level of respect. And there's not a thing we can do about it.
I can issue all sorts of platitudes about how that doesn't matter, how true friends will understand and laugh with us, not at us, and how all we can do is what we can do. And those things are all true. But none of them is a salve for the lingering sick feeling in the pit of my stomach over a mistake that can't be undone.
Mistakes are a fact of life, and life sometimes overwhelms us. And, like pride and perfectionism, life and mistakes go hand-in-hand, making it impossible to eradicate one from the other. So I guess my only choice is to move on, knowing mistakes much bigger than my email mishap inevitably lie ahead.
I think I'm going to need another nap.