Complacency is a funny thing. It is more often perceived as a negative state of mind, yet I seek it as often as possible. Perhaps I desire comfort, which is complacency’s more socially acceptable cousin.
I have made several gaffes in my life because I thought I was comfortable, but I had actually become complacent.
‘Something’s Gotta Give’
I used to be something of a movie theatre cut up in my younger days. Back before I had two kids watching, and then emulating, every bit of my playful, yet rude, behavior.
Back in 2003, before Lacey and I were married, we went to watch “Something’s Gotta Give” at Century 16. Yes, I admit it: it was my idea to watch the damn movie. Jack Nicholson had just come out in “Anger Management” and I thought he’d be just as funny in this movie as he was in that one. The movie was a boring piece of shit (and I could have gone the rest of my life without seeing Diane Keaton’s bush).
I was bored out my mind as the movie droned on, my feet propped up on the chair in front of me. I wasn’t tired enough to fall asleep, so I daydreamed about god-knows-what. In this haze, I sort of forgot where I was and did something that should only be done in the comfort of one’s home: I farted. Loudly.
We were watching the movie on premiere night, so the theatre was packed. Lacey must have turned beet red in the darkness as she elbowed me and said my name sternly. You know, like when you’re in trouble and the ol’ lady even throws in your middle name.
And I figured since everyone on our row, and the surrounding ones, knew it was me who broke wind, I rattled off a few more. I heard some muffled laughter, a bit of coughing, but mostly chastisement from my poor Lacey.
Something gave, all right.
A more serious infraction
I’m sure you’ve made your share of off-the-cuff remarks, or have thrown insults in heated moments, that you wish you could take back.
Like the time I was in college and I knew a transgender person named James. James was cool as shit. Sometimes James would dress up like a guy, sometimes like a girl. Sometimes James would shave his/her face with an electric razor before class. I had asked around about James, only because I wanted to respect whatever sort of persona James wanted to portray. This was the first time I had been around anyone like James.
“Do I refer to James as ‘he’ or she?,’ ” I had asked a friend. The answer was tricky.
“Whatever James is feeling like that day.”
Well shit. That seems like an ordeal, I thought. But hey, I’ll do my best.
So one day a bunch of us were standing outside our Bible as Literature class. Shooting the shit. Waiting for Robb (the professor). James said something I apparently agreed with. So, after seeing James in jeans and a TAMUCC tee-shirt, I jerk my thumb towards James and say, “Yeah, I agree with him.”
I made what I thought was a good judgment call, but I apparently was wrong.
‘Be yourself,’ I’m told
I have recently screwed up a couple of times in the past few weeks. In both instances, one a seemingly harmless prank, the other a text message, I used what I thought to be my best judgment. Now, emotions played a role in both cases. In one case, I was feeling mischievous. In the other, I was tired and extremely pissed.
Suffice it to say that I came out with warnings on both cases. It could have been a lot, a whole lot, worse.
But in hindsight, I realized I was too comfortable while making my mistakes. I thought my intentions (which were much less nefarious than perceived by my audience) were clear. They weren’t. I badly misjudged the situation.
Beating myself up
I am my harshest critic. My own worst enemy. My biggest detractor. Even my method of humor, at times, veers toward self-depreciation. You know the person who lies awake at bedtime and laments some minuscule misstep from years ago? I’m one of those people.
And after the times where I really fuck up, I withdraw. I avoid people the way a mouse might avoid a room full of hungry tomcats. And I wallow in my mistake.
If you are like me, you have a pretty good idea of the kinds of things I say to myself.
But I have learned a way to help me get over my missteps.
What did you learn?
The best way for me to get past the gaffes in my past is actually pretty simple on the surface: find the lesson to be learned. Remove the judgment and negativity I feel. Conduct a sort of objective case study on what happened. Think about what I could have done differently and apply it to possible future situations.
- I’m gonna fuck up. We all do. Even if you don’t believe you’re a slimy sinner like you learn in church, it’s pretty obvious nobody’s perfect.
- Be more cautious about what you say and do. Try to understand your “audience.”
- Beating yourself up gets you nothing. It only perpetuates negativity.
- Some mistakes are blunders (where you did everything you thought was right and prudent and still fuck up).
- The path to redemption in your own eyes lies in finding the lesson to be learned.
I exist on this earth to fart around. I don’t have to walk on eggshells, but paying attention to myself and my actions can help me avoid the next potential disaster.
Stay strong (I’m telling myself that as much as I’m saying it to you).