You will stumble. You will fall and bruise yourself. You will feel like giving up.
The path won’t always seem clear.
But remember, friend: You are forever on the path. Losing the path is part of the path. Forgetting the path is part of the path.
Your true path cannot be lost. Your true path is wherever you are. (Jeff Foster)
So I made a mistake… no doubt about it, a big mistake, something that apparently hurt another person, or at least they think so and have told me in so many words that they are very disappointed in me. I am not going to talk about the mistake as such, but rather about its effect on me. I know everyone has made mistakes and I am sure I am not the only one who has reacted in the manner I am about to describe.
I had no idea I had erred until this person called me on the phone, said that they were furious with me and told me why. At that moment, I saw the mistake, the big one. I felt as if the bottom of my life had just dropped out and everything I held dear was draining away. The sinking feeling was accompanied by the realization of my absolute powerlessness: the mistake had been made, there was nothing that could change it, it was already in the past, soldered there for all of eternity.
I immediately said I was sorry, that I had meant no harm, that they were absolutely right and I was responsible and how could I make it right. As the mistake was in writing, I offered to erase what had been written, although as that person so rightly pointed out, I could not erase what had already been read: the harm was done (according to them).
Anyway, I did what I could to correct the uncorrectable and then asked if there was anything else I could do. The answer was once more that this person was very disappointed in me and that the harm was already done. It sounded pretty final.
There was nothing left to do but to live with the MISTAKE, which is punishment enough as everyone must well know. So for two days now, I have been living with the mistake. Of course, living with it seemed –at first- like doom: there was nothing I could do, nothing that would change what had been done, nothing to avoid being rejected by everyone who had contact with this person if they decided to inform (warn) their friends. The feeling of doom –which was so disastrous that it made me contemplate the possibility of having to move away from my beloved little village-, was followed by a devastating feeling of shame. All I wanted was a hole to crawl into, and it didn’t have to be very big, given the diminished state in which I found myself.
But something was different from other times when making a mistake had seemed like the end of the world. There was a part of me that stepped outside of the bowed and shameful me, and looked on kindly, perhaps even embraced me at a given moment. So warm was this embrace that sweet tears would fill my eyes and help me get past the sinking feeling and back into the living world.
During these two days, days that felt like I was mourning the death of someone dear (myself, no doubt), that larger presence never left me and every time I took a dive into the depths of despair, there would be a hand there and a kind of soft knowledge that nothing happens but for the best. I can’t count the times I have felt tears coming and dribbling down my cheeks and in each instance that other presence would patiently wait, holding me until the feeling of unworthiness passed.
Then today she/it, asked the question: “You shouldn’t have made a mistake, is that true?” and I couldn’t find a ‘yes’, because it happened. I looked hard at my state of mind immediately before and right after “making the mistake” and saw clearly that –not only was there no intention (that was obvious and that is why it is called a mistake) – but neither was here any thought whatsoever that there might be a mistake contained in my action: in other words, it was as irreflexive as it was irresponsible: a ‘disaster’ produced in a child’s irreflexive action. It wasn’t only that I meant no harm, but rather that it never occurred to me to think harm or good might come of my action: it was just an action, an action without a future such as children perform. I can add all the “should-have’s” I want to it but they didn’t exist in the moment. There was only excitement, the excitement of a ‘child’ who discovers something and wishes to share it with others. As I realized this, she/it asked another question: Did you make amends? ‘Absolutely!’ I answered, ‘in the instant in which I realized the mistake, and I offered to make more if there were any more demanded.’ Did you understand clearly what the mistake was so that you won’t make it ever again if you can help it? ‘Oh yes!!!’ I cried, feeling completely certain that nothing like that would ever happen again from my conscious mind. Then your work is done – she/it said- and you don’t need that person’s forgiveness, you need your own, which is the only one that will set you free.
In that instant I knew she/it was right: I had to forgive myself for being human… No, much more: I had to love myself for being so human as to make blatant mistakes… and survive. Suddenly a weight was lifted from me and once more tears filled my eyes, but this time they were tears of understanding and love and tenderness. I realized finally that if the other person wanted to stay in a place of insisting that what had happened shouldn’t have happened (unforgiving), that was their problem. And what is more, I knew that I couldn’t be sure a greater good wouldn’t come from this ‘mistake’ both for the other person and for myself (mine has already come, I think I have learned an important lesson), so I am watching and waiting. At any rate, my experience is that this is always the case, but only always.