The gift in mistakes

Back when I was married to my first husband, I used to love visiting his older sister, who lived only a couple of hours away.  She and her husband served as house parents for a prep school dormitory, and I remember she had a poster on her refrigerator that said, "If you love somebody, tell them."

Carol was particularly good at that, so she was truly a joy to be around (and the kids in the dorm loved her, of course).  And though I don't remember the image from that poster, the sentiment stuck over the years, and clearly got passed on to my daughters: I hear them saying those three little words to their friends all the time.

... which is a good thing, because we all need to hear that we are loved.   But I also remember reading a book on child-rearing in the 70s -- Faber and Mazlish's Liberated Parents, Liberated Children -- which emphasized that it wasn't enough to just praise a child: you needed to be specific about what you were praising.  They also introduced me to the idea that it was important to make it clear when expressing anger with a child that you are objecting, not to them, but to their behavior. 

So "I like it when you do that" became a catch-phrase for me, and I tried hard to impress my girls with the difference between a distaste for someone's behavior and a distaste for their actual person.  Because I do believe the world could be a better place if we could all learn to hate the hateful things that people do without hating the people that do hateful things.  (Was that sentence convoluted enough for you?)

This partly comes up this morning because I woke to find a note in my mailbox conveying praise for my performance at rehearsal last night -- and it just made me feel so good!  But it also relates to what I'm reading this morning in Trust the Process about the importance of allowing yourself to make mistakes.  Which is really important to hear when I'm caught in this limbo between what I've been doing and what I'm going to be doing: I really need to be okay with mistakes if I'm going to keep moving forward. 

And I'm realizing, thinking about Faber and Mazlish this morning, that however good I might have been about "hate the sin but love the sinner" with my kids, I'm not all that good at it with myself -- especially with myself, the artist.  If I dislike whatever art I produced that day, there's a litany of accusations that begins dripping away at my psyche in the background, like water torture.  "You're no good.  You're kidding yourself.  You'll never amount to anything.  You're not good at creating, just at copying..." And the most common one I hear from that internal judge, "What were you thinking?  You're an idiot."

Clearly I have some retraining to do of those inner voices -- both the ones that applaud (which are all too quiet) and the ones that are so quick to criticize.  So here.  This is what I created yesterday afternoon; it builds on what I created the day before, though that may not be obvious.  And though some part of me wonders where on earth this is going and what the heck it has to do with where I've been, I like it.  I like the angularity of it, and the sort of Japanese floral effect.  And so I'm honoring that and sharing it here with you. 

I'm trying to learn to be kinder to myself -- and to trust that sometimes the things that look like mistakes could be an entry point into a whole new direction.  I invite you to do the same!


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