My father used to tell me that my big mouth would get me in trouble one day. Talk about the kettle calling the pot black! But he was right. I often speak before I think. When I’m emotional, the process does not occur in the logical, think-speak sequence. These mouth mistakes often happened at work and were no doubt, part of why I didn’t rise higher in the corporate hierarchy.
But now I’m in Paradise, and there’s no reason for these kinds of faux pas. Except that they still happen. Mostly they occur when I’m trying to be clever. Like the time in water aerobics when we were talking about our Angel Wings, you know, the saggy part hanging from our upper arms. One gal said she thought hers were growing. I quipped back, “Well when they get to your knees you can join the circus and be in the freak show.” I immediately knew I had crossed the line. She looked stricken.
I apologized in front of the whole class but she ignored me and didn’t say anything for the rest of the hour. Luckily, I had the chance to again sincerely ask for her forgiveness in the locker room. She finally accepted my apology, and we’ve been friendly since. I was lucky on that one, because we hadn’t had a long or deep relationship from which this incident could be viewed in proportion. The incident WAS almost our whole relationship.
We had a language for that back at work, probably taken from one of the many seminars we took over the years. We called it growing our relationship circles so that bad times fit inside of them. I learned I needed to make real connections with the people around me. It went beyond treating people with respect, to being there for them and making their day whenever possible, even loving them unconditionally. That behavior and the feelings that go with it enlarged the relationship circle I had with people, so that mouth mistakes and other incidents could fit inside the circle. Problems arise when an incident is larger than the circle I have with a person.
But even when I have such a great relationship with friends, when my circles are large, my big mouth can make an incident that swamps the circle, can make a permanent injury. Or maybe my circle was not as big as I thought. Five weeks ago on my trip back to Wisconsin, I interviewed a dear friend who had reviewed my manuscript. During that conversation, I said something very ugly to her. No excuses, it was ugly. I meant it as a joke, but I immediately knew that I had hurt her feelings.
This is one of the most gentle women on earth. She speaks well of everyone, is charitable beyond her means, and extends her kindness to animals, plants and the very earth. She lives Aloha, even in Wisconsin. And I hurt her. How could I be so stupid and unthinking? Of course, I immediately apologized, and later sent her an e-mail to follow-up with another apology. Her response was a cheerful ‘apology accepted, and let’s get this behind us.’ But it still gnaws at me. I hate the thought that I hurt her and have damaged our relationship.
I’ve sent her a couple of other emails since with no response. That is not unusual. She’s a very busy woman with two careers (not jobs, two totally different careers). Yet long distance, I can only wonder. I don’t have the luxury of seeing her a couple of times a week as in the old days, where every encounter was a chance to enlarge the circle again, to repair the damage. I no longer have the chance to make new memories. Have I permanently changed our friendship? Me and my big mouth.
But the lesson is not lost on me. My big mouth is likely to always be with me. No matter how well I stay conscious and rein it in, or even bite my tongue, something is sure to slip out. So I need to keep expanding my circles, being there for the people around me, trying to make their day, and love them unconditionally.
I can try to do this for myself as well, and forgive my big mouth’s past transgressions. But I’m not sure my self-circle is big enough to hold that one. I’m so sorry.
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