I spent an hour on the phone last week with a relative I hadn’t spoken to in a long time. By a long time, I mean a decade, or more. Let me say, right away, there was no dramatic reason for our lack of contact. No argument, no estrangement; nothing at all, in fact, except a gradual drifting away. Life happened, we grew up and apart – literally thousands of miles apart – and our contact ceased, until last week when the power of Facebook helped us to connect again.
Our conversation alternated between describing our lives now and reliving memories from our youth. We recalled stories about family members and friends, shared quite a few laughs, and discussed life in general. Everything was fine, wonderful actually, until somewhere in the middle of our talk, when I suddenly remembered that this person had been witness to one of the single most humiliating experiences of my life.
I don’t know about you, but I can recall four or five occasions that I rank among the most embarrassing of my life. Not “ha ha, I accidentally put my shirt on inside out” embarrassing, but the other kind of embarrassing; the kind that sends the hot flush of shame to your cheeks, and leaves you with your head hanging between your knees while you hyperventilate into a paper bag, trying to avoid passing out before you regain the ability to breathe normally.
It was just this sort of memory that leapt into my mind while we were chatting, and before I could stop myself, I blurted out a reference to that horrible occasion as casually as if I were discussing the weather or my favorite song. As soon as I said it, I wanted to take it back. Why remind someone of my biggest humiliation? Really, who does that?
Me. That’s who.
That’s not the worst part, though. The worst part was this: He didn’t remember. Not a bit of it. I ended up having to explain my comment, thereby causing me to relive the horror of my memory in even greater detail. It was awkward and odd, and thankfully he expressed little interest, allowing the conversation to move to the discussion of other recollections, more pleasant by far.
I can take a lot of lessons from this experience.
First, find and use my conversational filter. Just because I thought it, doesn’t mean I should say it. This can be a challenge for an impulsive personality like me, but I think I am up to it.
Second, let go of past mistakes. My mistakes don’t define me – or at least, they shouldn’t.
Finally – and most important of all – Everything Is Not All About Me.
Whoa. Shocking stuff here, folks. My own personal hell on earth happened one day in 1990, and other people don’t remember? It’s only been a little over twenty years since then – how can this not be fresh in their minds? It must be that, for some inexplicable reason, Everything Is Not All About Me. I realize that everyone else learned this lesson somewhere around high school graduation, but we all have our own learning curve, and it appears that mine is not especially steep. Don’t judge me, please.
Simple enough, right? Don’t over share. Leave mistakes in the past. And get over myself.
I’ll get right on it…