The biggest mistakes I’ve ever made have all stemmed from the fact that, at the time, I didn’t stop to think about what I was doing.

That and a lack of adequate sex education in high school.

Was just one class on how a bra strap works really so much to ask?

Sometimes – because I’m only human, after all – in moments of stress, or surprise, or simple absent-mindedness, I forget to stop and take a breath and help my feet find their way back to the ground before deciding what to do next. The most important question I’ve ever learned to ask myself – and the learning process was a long and often-painful one – is: What if I’m wrong?

Which has been known.

On occasion.

Once or twice.

I guess.

It’s a tricky question to ask, because to swallow it too completely is to invite self-doubt, one of the most crippling human emotions you can encounter, into your house and down to dinner.

‘Come, come, eat, eat! What’s that? You’ve finished all the dumplings¹? Well please, please… here’s my happiness! You can eat that all up.’

What. An. Asshole.

The big mistakes I’m referring to are not the times when I’ve banged my hand in a door, or missed a three-point banana peel compost bin throw from across the room², or even that time I miscalculated the amount of space between the side of my car and the sharply-cornered metal bar at the back of the truck I was trying to sideslip around at a busy intersection in mid-morning traffic (the correct calculation was: $3,500 worth of space + x centimetres of empty white paper on a comprehensive insurance form where my signature should have been).

No.

The things I regret, the mistakes I’ve made, are the times when I’ve left human damage in my wake.

I’ve never committed any of the major crimes, I’ve never intentionally gone out of my way to make someone feel bad about themselves, and while I’m not bound by the Hippocratic Oath, I think ‘First do no harm’ is a good and important life philosophy to have.

But, like most of us, I’ve fucked it up more than once. I’m no stranger to the battery-acid wash of guilt through my stomach or that mental wince of Ah… could have – should have – handled that one better, man. There have been moments when I haven’t considered consequences, or properly recognised that someone may have a different view of the same circumstances. I’ve hurled hurtful darts and watched them fly home and wished I could somehow reach out and snatch them back out of the air, wished I could somehow smooth over the cracks in the earth that my big and clumsy footsteps have opened up.

I’m also not psychic, just as none of us are. I can’t see all things at all times and analyse every single possible outcome before I act. And while I don’t carry around a flagellatory catalogue of my past actions, I’ve done my best to learn from the times when things have gone wrong. To try to be a little smarter, to try to be a little more careful in my actions, to try to see where my personal foundations are shaky or dangerous and how to repair them so as to avoid making the same mistakes again. And I can comfort myself with the knowledge that I’ve learned to be comfortable with recognising and admitting to my errors, and subsequently working to repair the damage done.

I’m not perfect, but then, I wouldn’t want to be. The striving, the learning, the discovery and creation of what is uniquely mine, and mine alone, is too important to me.

And so what I’ve been trying to do lately is form a more sympathetic view of other people – which, indirectly, has lead me to a more sympathetic view of myself. I don’t believe the vast majority of people see themselves as the villain in situations that have turned sour. I know I don’t see myself in that light.

Well.

You know.

Sometimes.

But that’s a different story. And one that I hope is behind me.

The point I remind myself of is that whatever times there have been in the past when I’ve felt crushed or hurt, when I’ve felt small or angry or broken-hearted and thought You. You did this to me… well, I doubt very much the other party has imagined themselves to be sitting in a plush leather couch in their bunker control room, gently stroking a white cat, laughing as they considered the state I was in.

Maybe they felt that I was the one who had hurt them. Maybe they didn’t think of me at all. Really, I’m not sure it matters as much as I’ve thought it has in the past.

Don’t get me wrong. I would have preferred not to go through those times – and I’ll take steps to avoid them in the future. There’s a lot to be said about the importance of the preservation of safety and personal happiness.

But people are people and sometimes, mind-bogglingly myopic. They get it wrong. They get scared, or angry, or carried away, and they do stupid things, which have stupid consequences. I know I certainly do.

There’s a quote I’m not sure I’m fully on-board with yet – ‘There is no sin, only mistakes.’

Yeah, I’m not completely sold on that. But I will acknowledge that there are a lot of mistakes. A lot of mistakes.

And that’s just it.

Through some kind of strange universal convergence, my recent days seem to be filled with people – friends, lovers, acquaintances –  all too ready to blame themselves, to belittle themselves and hold themselves responsible for a raft of troubles and sorrows. My Facebook feed right now is a laundry list of people who wish they’d done things differently.

I can appreciate that. I really and truly can. I think it could be one of the crueller elements of the human condition; this laying of blame and hatred and misery either externally or internally, or both.

But I learned a trick last week (thanks Deepak!).

It’s a meditation, rather than a trick, but I’m coming to think of it as an important ace to have up my sleeve. Maybe one day it’ll help me move on from the memories of some of my own personal mistakes. I’d like that.

Deepak Chopra, who spoke in Melbourne last week, spoke about this as one of the keys to being a more evolved type of person.

Sit or lie quietly, however you like to meditate (taking as given that we all have our personal favourites from that wide, wide range of meditative postures, after all), and move your awareness into your heart, ask ‘Who am I?’ and wait for the answer to come back. Then ask ‘What to do I want?’, ‘What kind of world do I want to live in?’ and, finally, simply spread your awareness throughout your body and say to yourself, ‘I am.’

I dig the idea of being a more evolved type of person, especially as they can apparently wish up whatever they want out of the raw firmament, according to every self-help teacher of the 21st century, which sounds like evolution to me, so I figured I could give this a shot.

And I started doing this last night, for all of about a second. I moved my awareness to my heart and I suddenly thought – or rather, suddenly realised – Hey. I’ve got this muscle in my chest. This thing is clenching and unclenching, and it’s pumping blood throughout my entire body.

That’s… awesome.

Clearly, I’m not the first person to consider this.

However.

I’d never thought of my heart in such a way before. I’d never brought my awareness to bear and considered the fact that this thing inside my chest that I can’t see is what’s keeping me alive, is what’s propelling me through each hour of my life. I started thinking about my brain and its electrical properties and movements and that went and blew my mind all over again (I know, I know. I’ve spoken about this before. At length).

Which lead me to a realisation.

I am, quite simply, a wonderful creature. By virtue of the fact that I have a beating heart and a ticking brain, a circulatory system, a nervous system, a biology that works so effectively and completely that I don’t even think of it until I make the effort to (and this is just on the biological level. Don’t even get me started on chemistry and creation).

By inference, you too are a wonderful creature. And it’s easy – it is so, so easy – to forget that.

Remembering this truth, in quiet moments of meditation and peace, I find it easy to think that I can forgive the mistakes of others. Because those errors in judgment, those moments of suspension of thoughts of consequence that resulted in me feeling angry or hurt or less than I ever wanted to feel… these are much smaller than I ever thought they were, when I stand them alongside the fact and the truth of who and what these people are, in their completeness. Thinking this, realising this, knowing this – yes, absolutely, I can forgive the mistakes of others.

Just as I hope they can forgive themselves for their mistakes, and forgive me for mine.

 

¹ And man, do I love dumplings

² Although what further depresses me in that situation is knowing that having missed that shot, I will also be missing out on the million dollars I decided would be waiting for me when I got home if I made the shot.

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SIMON SMITHSON is an Australian writer and editor. He is currently based in Melbourne, Australia, but frequently finds himself in Los Angeles and San Francisco. His work has appeared on both sides of the globe in print and online in publications such as BLIP, Every Day Fiction, Beat, The Loop, My Sinking Boat, and more. He has a tumblr at www.simonsmithson.com and he runs a lifestyle experiment at www.selfhelpless.net.

218 responses to “All the Mistakes We’ve Made”

  1. Zara Potts says:

    Well.
    I’m sure you know just how strongly this resonates with me.
    I would add that rather than “there are no sins, just mistakes” it can also be “there are no mistakes, only lessons.”
    It’s just when you keep making the same mistake again and again that it becomes a sin -especially if you are harming another person.
    It’s also the definition of insanity – when you do the same thing but expect a different result.
    I think that true love is when you consciously decide to not harm others. That you put your loved one ahead of your own needs and desires. I think if we all did this on a conscious level – the world would be a happier and more peaceful place.
    Love. Forgiveness. Gentleness. These are the things that make a heart beat strong.
    Oh and by the way, you have to be one of the most caring, loving, thoughtful people I know. I am so grateful to call you friend, brew.
    xxx

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I think I do know, brew.
      And yes. Some of the biggest mistakes I’ve made have also been the best lessons – which makes me think that maybe, they were no mistake at all.
      That’s one for those with more spiritual knowledge than me to answer, though, I think.
      Deepak… ?

      And yes. First do no harm. That’s an important one to remember. And those who don’t address their mistakes – who don’t take the time to understand history – are doomed to repeat them, and the problem becomes compounded when they drag others down with them.

      I guess the classic case is the abused who grows up to be the abuser. You would think it would be the opposite way around, but until the lesson is learned, it’s hard to break the cycle.

      Thanks, brew. I appreciate it. Right back at you – and I’ll buy you a drink when we get to LA.
      oxoxox

  2. Jude says:

    “I am, quite simply, a wonderful creature. By virtue of the fact that I have a beating heart and a ticking brain, a circulatory system, a nervous system, a biology that works so effectively and completely that I don’t even think of it until I make the effort to.”

    Yes you are a wonderful creature Simon Smithson – but you forgot the most important thing of all – that you are a person with a big heart, a sensitive heart and a caring and compassionate human being.

    I love that you question…who you are, why you’re here. And I’m sure one day you’ll find some of those answers. I look forward to the day when you write about it. Meanwhile, I love that you share your exploration and I look forward to reading more about your journey through your life.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Well thank you, Jude. As are you – I remain grateful for your kindness, your hospitality, and your delicious whitebait (was it whitebait?) sandwiches.

      I’ve been very lucky. I’ve had some wonderful, wonderful teachers along the way. And I’ve had wonderful friends and people in my life, people who have shown me patience and consideration and understanding, and helped foster some of the growth I felt like I’ve done.

      And I’ve had the time and the opportunity to be able to work some of this stuff through, even if I have lapsed into paralysing over-analysis from time to time.

      I look forward to that say as well, Jude. In the meantime, by all means, there will always be a seat available and reserved for you only on the ride.

  3. Greg Olear says:

    A great piece, as always, Simon.

    Forgiveness is, by and large, good policy. JC was on to something there. And self-forgiveness, most of all. Grudges are just too exhausting; they’re like paying to store furniture you’ll never again use. I would add, as a codicil to “do no harm,” that you should also begin by assuming the other party has not meant to do you any harm, and go from there. How much heartache stems from perceived slights that are not really slights?

    I’ve heard, and done, the meditation that goes further than “I am.” It fills that in. “I am______.” Repeat over and over and over. Shakti Gawain stuff (I assume you’ve read her? If not, you should; you’ll like).

    And thanks, obviously, for the shout-out.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      That JC. He knew his stuff, all right.

      Yeah, I think self-forgiveness is an important call to make. I heard a great line about resentment once – ‘It’s like drinking poison and expecting someone else to die.’ Bang on the money. Resenting yourself? Well, that’s just awful.

      I do not know this further meditation, or this Shakti Gawain. I’ll check it out.

      And as for slights that are only perceived – I like to crack this out at each and every opportunity as a great illustration of when interpretations go horribly wrong. This should be, I don’t know, the anthem of the cognitive psychology movement or something:

      http://www.motivatingquotes.com/cookie.htm

    • Sarah says:

      Perceived slights – the first thing I thought of when reading this was something so trivial but somehow seems to fit.

      You know when you call tech support for something and you get transferred like 50 times? Or when there’s a huge error on your bank statement NOT in your favor and you call the bank to try to figure it out? I always have to consciously remind myself that the person I finally reach on the other end of the phone did not cause whatever it is that’s causing me to need to make that phone call. He didn’t hit my computer with a virus or steal my identity and a few hundred bucks out of my account. Conversely, I get so irritated with people in similar customer services positions who are automatically snippy and bitchy with me from the get-go just because they’ve had at least 20 people chew them out already that day. Hey, jackass, none of those 20 people was me so how’s about you at least fake some decency, mmkay?

      • Simon Smithson says:

        Yeah, that shit cuts both ways – it’s nice to think that if you’re extending your understanding to someone, that they’ll extend it back to you. I think we’d all be a lot more relaxed if we could remember to do that.

      • Greg Olear says:

        It’s OK to vent at those people, Sarah. It’s part of their job. Plus, they so often don’t know what they’re doing and refuse to take initiative that it drives one bonkers. After all, even JC got bad at the moneylenders in the temple. ; )

  4. Andrew Nonadetti says:

    Simon, it has been a very long night here (and not in “the fun way”) so I’m not particularly eloquent… or coherent… or able to focus my eyes on the keyboard. But I wanted to thank you for this piece. It resonates with me on many levels, not the least of which is forgiveness of self. There are monsters in the world but they are a rarity. I’ll revisit this again after some sleep.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      It’s been a while since I’ve been that tired. I miss it, in a strange way – there’s something a little pleasurable about being exhausted and being able to go to sleep (and nothing pleasurable about times when you have to push on through). So thanks for reading, and I’m glad you got something out of it.

      • Andrew Nonadetti says:

        Well, if you miss that level of fatigue that much, the reproduce case for achieving it is fairly simple. Step 1: Reproduce. The rest runs on its own accord. End of case.

        Being unable to forgive yourself is self-sabotage at its finest. To refuse to acknowledge that yes, you were wrong and no, there’s no way to turn back the hands of time and undo it is to doom yourself to always being “that person”, even if only in some small part. I have often said that I can’t be who I am now if I wasn’t who I was then and I rather like myself now. Yet there are a few things – one of which I mentioned in my debut piece (I love saying that, you know) – over which I still impose guilt upon myself. And, intellectually, I know that I am not that person anymore, that that person was all flavors of fucked up, that, if I were in those situations now, I would handle it differently. But, perhaps because I can see the solution so clearly now, I can’t dispel the notion that I should have been as wise, strong and/or compassionate then.

        Dammit.

        On the bright side, it should make for good reads for you all in the coming months. In the meantime, you have written true wisdom above and, in the writing, offered someone, somewhere a chance at peace. Well done.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Check.

          Dear Janeane Garofalo…

          Hindsight. What a total motherfucker. Sweet, sweet ignorance, I’m sure, would stand me in such wonderful stead.

          But, unfortunately…

          And yes. It’s a process. A learning process, and that’s all about gain, even if the lessons can seem to unpleasant and regrettable at the time, and even after that.

          “I have often said that I can’t be who I am now if I wasn’t who I was then and I rather like myself now.”

          Exactly.

          “But, perhaps because I can see the solution so clearly now, I can’t dispel the notion that I should have been as wise, strong and/or compassionate then.”

          Exactly-er.

      • Greg Olear says:

        I’m taking note of this never-tired business, Simon…we’ll show you what fatigue is like when you’re here. [cue: evil maniacal laughter]

        Anon: reproduce. Ha! Truer words were never spoke.

  5. Lorna says:

    “By inference, you too are a wonderful creature. And it’s easy – it is so, so easy – to forget that.”

    This is the one thing I am always telling myself. It so easy, but my brain makes it difficult. In recent years I have found that when things become difficult for me, I simply surrender them to the universe to take care of. I release the need to control the situation and all the “what if’s” and “why” and it’s funny how the pain subsides and the problem seems to become no big deal.

    Sometimes I hate my over active imagination for all the scenarios it creates in my heart. But other times it is a beautiful escape.

    Forgiveness…… for me, lately, has been an issue. I think you nailed in this sentence

    “Maybe they felt that I was the one who had hurt them. Maybe they didn’t think of me at all. Really, I’m not sure it matters as much as I’ve thought it has in the past.”

    Just last week I asked myself, “why do I find it so impossible to forgive when it has been so freely yielded upon me by others”. When I stopped and thought about some of the people who have forgiven me, it blew my mind.

    Maybe this read is just what I need to get past that last little hump. Thanks Simon.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      What’s up with that? I can be so amazed by other people, but when it comes to telling myself that, well, there’s where the difficulty comes in.

      Ah, the imagination. That guy. Man. I like him a lot, but sometimes he needs to straighten up and fly right a little more.

      I can clamp onto situations too; it’s something I’ve learned along the way. I think there should be a balance between action and relaxation. The traditional advice, I think, is to let go of expecting outcomes. Which can be very difficult, as we’re naturally goal-oriented organisms.

      You’re welcome, Lorna! Glad you got something out of it.

  6. Irene Zion says:

    Simon,
    I’ve found that forgiving others for what you think they’ve done to you is a damn sight easier than forgiving yourself for anything whatsoever. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

    • Andrew Nonadetti says:

      Not by a long shot, Irene. Odd, isn’t it? But, like most things, it gets easier with practice even if it never truly becomes “easy”. The trick is practicing….

      • Irene Zion says:

        Practicing is hard, though, Andrew.
        Practicing entails mulling over what you feel guilty about,
        stewing in it.
        Not like practicing the piano when you were 8.
        or the accordion, if you were Victor.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          True enough but, as I believe I’ve said elsewhere, we cannot fix what we ignore. One of the few worthwhile instances of “no pain, no gain” is spending time with your demons and giving them their freedom. The accordion, on the other hand, should probably remain ignored (my heart belongs to the bagpipes, I’m afraid).

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, I’m so on board with the both of you.

          @Irene: Yeah. My stockpiles of slack are much greater when I’m distributing it to other people than when I’m distributing it to myself.

          ‘Hey guy! Want some slack? Say no more – I’ll cut you some.

          When it comes to myself it’s much easier to say ‘So sorry. Out to lunch. Come back later.’

          I hope it does get easier with practice, as Anon advises (I’ve grown attached to that nickname).

          But yes. As some wise people have said, the way out is through. I don’t think ignoring this stuff is the way to go. It can be tricky to work your way through it, and it takes time.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Simon!

          Anon and I BORE you?

          Well humph to you.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh!

          I read your comment and I thought ‘What?! I didn’t say that! I couldn’t have said that!’

          Well-played, Irene.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          It’s okay, Irene. He just made a mistake. 🙂

        • Irene Zion says:

          Yeah.
          Well, Simon, I am just too bored to talk to you right now.
          (Can you see that I am yawning?)

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Forgive me?

        • Irene Zion says:

          Anon/Andrew,

          Oddly, I am NOT too bored to speak with you.
          I also enjoy the bagpipes.
          Victor took accordion and a wind instrument, I believe the clarinet.
          Both his music teachers begged his mother to stop wasting her money.
          He tortured them.
          That is not on topic,
          but I am weary of the topic….

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, I get the feeling I’m going to be hearing about this for a while…

        • Irene Zion says:

          Oh it is humiliating how easy I am.
          Of course you are forgiven, Simon.
          I wasn’t even serious to begin with.
          I was just playing with you.
          I could never be angry at you.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          I can see why you think you couldn’t be angry at a stellar individual such as Simon but, as with all things, with the right amount of practice….

          😀

        • Simon Smithson says:

          @Irene: Oh, I know. I was just playing back.

          @Anon: Ixnay on the racticepay!

        • Irene Zion says:

          You are right again, Andrew/Anon,

          I should try harder to be angry at Simon.
          Let’s see….
          1. He’s a foreigner.
          2. But he
          does speak English.
          3. He’s too cute for his own good.
          4. But, he’s nice to look at.
          5. He eats weird pasty things.
          6. But I make lots of pesto and that’s pasty too.
          7. No, it’s too exhausting to do this, Anon/Andrew.
          8. I’ll practice tomorrow.

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Perhaps you would be less exhausted if you only had to type one of my names. And, given that “Anon” is shorter and I’ve grown to like it, you would cause no offense and save some energy if you stuck with that one.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I believe it’s pronounced ‘ferrener’.

          And I wish I wasn’t, if that helps at all? Oh, California, how I miss you.

          Thanks for the list of merits and demerits, Irene. It’s a nice way to start the day.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Ittedanon Werdna/ Nona,

          .derit yrev ylneddus ma I.

        • Irene Zion says:

          Simon,

          You have no demerits. You are all merits.

          God, it is so hard to be annoyed at you.

          You are too perfect.

          Except that Florida is WAY WAY WAY better than California.

          That’s the only thing.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I guess I’ll have to visit Florida so I can see for myself. I liked what I saw of Miami in Dexter.

          Apart from all the blood.

          But the Cuban food looked delicious!

  7. Matt says:

    Very thoughtful post, amigo.

    “A mistake doesn’t become an error until you refuse to learn from it” is a bromide that’s always sat pretty close with me. And pretty fully illustrates the one thing I find most difficult to forgive: refusing to learn from your mistakes, which inevitably just leads to repeating them. I recognize that this doesn’t always stem from malice but….well, the surgeon might MEAN to do no harm, but one who keeps killing people on the operating table isn’t exactly one you should trust your life to, you know?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, man.

      Yeah.

      Difficult waters to navigate.

      Because, after all, the point of making mistakes is to learn from them. But, if you don’t learn, and you keep repeating, well… yeah. That’s no good for anyone. Especially in the surgeon scenario.

      From my experience, on the whole, the rate of incidences of bad surgeons is thankfully low. But there’s still plenty of danger out there. And that’s where awareness comes in – the awareness that stems from ourselves and from each other, that point where you have to say ‘Hey, come on. That could be done differently.’

      Of course, this requires deftness and tact in great amounts. And a willing to listen from the other party, whoever that may be.

  8. D.R. Haney says:

    All of my attempts at mediation have resulted in sleep.

    I think I’m more forgiving of others than I am of myself, which is, I suppose, a slight rewording of what Irene wrote. Not that I forgive automatically. I’ll stew and storm about things — flaws more than mistakes — but, ultimately, it requires too much effort to stay mad at people.

    But I don’t know that it’s anger that I feel at myself as disappointment, and lately even that requires effort. I don’t have the energy for anything other than the business of staying afloat.

    I think I’m now going to go meditate, so as to sleep.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Duke, I love you, buddy, but you’ve retained your position as the King of Comment Board Typos (in a hilarious fashion, I might add… and I’m now going back and double-checking every word as soon as I write it).

      But it’s nice to know that you can soothe fights and arguments.

      Disappointment. Yeuck. Nasty feeling. And one that can probably be soothed over with a healthy dose of forgiveness and understanding as well.

      I’m sure there are some wise sayings about grudges and the holding of them, not the least from Maynard James Keenan. He wrote a song about them once.

      Oh, here’s a good one, courtesy of Google. From a man, who, incidentally, has the same name as my grandfather:

      “To carry a grudge is like being stung to death by one bee. ~William H. Walton”

  9. Lisa Rae Cunningham says:

    Simon, you really do make me smile. And your ability to make me laugh spontaneously is pretty awesome.

    “I doubt very much that the other party has imagined themselves to be sitting in a plush leather couch in their bunker control room, gently stroking a white cat, laughing as they considered the state I was in.”

    This is perfectly timed. You’re my hero.

  10. Judy Prince says:

    Damn and thunderation, Simon—you’re waxing poetic here! Loved these bits:

    “I’m no stranger to the battery-acid wash of guilt through my stomach or the mental wince of Could have – should have – handled that one better, man.”

    And: “I’ve seen hurtful darts fly home and wished I could somehow reach out and snatch them back out of the air, wished I could somehow smooth over the cracks in the earth that my clumsy footfalls have opened up.”

    And: “I doubt very much that the other party has imagined themselves to be sitting in a plush leather couch in their bunker control room, gently stroking a white cat, laughing as they considered the state I was in.”

    Gorgeous post, Simon!

    You and Irene nail the fact that it feels near-impossible to forgive ourselves. I can see the the wisdom in the Catholic church’s ritual of confessing to a priest and doing some penance, even though I’m not Catholic. The notion of being forgiven for something we feel guilty about is powerful in any system.

    The prayer I posted to you some weeks ago has me astonished some mornings not only because it has me say that “Cosmic Birther” (read God or Love or whatever word you want) releases me from the binding effects my mistakes—-but it further has me say “as I release others from the binding effects of their mistakes”. The first bit about myself is way helpful, but the second bit means I intend not to flog someone else—-not only for their recent mistakes, but for assuming that they will continue to make those kinds of mistakes. Something like this: “Oh hell, she had an affair while she was living with wotshisface, so that’s a pattern. Watch out, she’s gonna do it again.” Or, “You *always* have to be right, don’t you?!”

    Further, it seems like we need to cut *ourselves* a lot of slack. And we can do it the same way we do it for others.

    When we’re about to beat ourselves up for some idiocy, hurt, offense, saying something like: “Oh crap! There I go again, verbally slapping wotshisface”, we can hesitate. We could consider what we’re about to say and REFUSE to damn ourselves, refuse to label ourselves, refuse to make negative self-prophecies. Instead, we could say, “Hey, so I did it and have done, but that doesn’t forever tie me to that behaviour.”

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, thanks Judy! Nice to know the lines worked out the way I hoped.

      I think the Catholics are on to something there – the idea of penance and working towards objective forgiveness are very powerful artifacts. I had the idea once of creating a chart for how to work out difficulties in relationships, where everything had an opposite antidote.

      ‘OK, so, you forgot my birthday, that’s a Red 34, which means I’m owed a… let me see here…. a Blue 85 – three dinners, a backrub, and a grovelling apology.’

      And so then the issue is wrapped up, done, and no one has to worry about it ever again.

      The important thing to remember is that we’re people too – just like the people who we love and forgive. And we can learn and change – if we’re of a mind to. And a little help along the way can work wonders.

      • Judy Prince says:

        You wise, goofy, witty Leader Dude! And what a brilliant idea: a Relationship Difficulties Antidote Chart:

        “‘OK, so, you forgot my birthday, that’s a Red 34, which means I’m owed a… let me see here…. a Blue 85 – three dinners, a backrub, and a grovelling apology.’ ”

        I’ve already jotted down some antidotes to get from dear Rodent! (Later, I’ll come up with stuff he did to deserve my getting the lovely dinners, backrubs—-and of course the groveling apologies.) heh heh

        Does this somehow connect to the Scylla and Charybdis of footwear sexuality?

  11. Joe Daly says:

    Hey Simon,

    Know what you are?

    Straight up fucking awesome.

    Thanks for the kind of read that goes beyond entertainment and interest-piquing. Thanks for the kind of read with the potential to raise awareness, if you just let it.

    The past and future simply don’t exist, other than figments of our minds. Which of course are shaped and limited by our individual experiences and fears.

    Happiness and fear are feelings that come from the mind, and I can cycle through them all day long. But bliss is an experience of the soul, and the only place I can find that is here and now.

    Rock on, my brother. Thanks for the soul chow.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Right back atcha, Joe!

      “Happiness and fear are feelings that come from the mind, and I can cycle through them all day long. But bliss is an experience of the soul, and the only place I can find that is here and now.”

      Oh, well said. Speak of raising awareness…

      As I said above, I’ve had some wonderful teachers along the way. And the opportunity to take the time to think about some of this stuff, which I’m very grateful for. Hopefully I’m moving towards some kind of synthesis.

      And money.

      Also money.

      Thanks for reading, amigo. I’m glad it struck a chord with you.

  12. Becky says:

    I’m quick to anger, or maybe annoyance, more correctly, but I’ve always asserted to people (I think it’s true) that my saving grace–the yin to this smoldery yang of mine–is that I’m equally as quick to forgive, forget, and move on. In and of itself, it seems to cause confusion and even anger in some people. How can I have been so seemingly furious 15 minutes ago and now not even acknowledging it?

    I swear I don’t have multiple personalities. I just function on a sort of steam pressure release system. I shrill and scream…like a tea pot, maybe…and then I just don’t any more. Energy discharged, situation over. Moving on.

    That said, I wish my reluctance to hold grudges stemmed from a place as noble as yours. As conscious as yours. Honestly, I’m with Duke. It takes up too much damned energy to make a big, sustained show of being angry with someone.

    A grudge is ambitious. It’s an emotional and practical commitment to continually, ritually, remind oneself of some perceived wrong and guard against any potential encroachment of indifference towards it. It’s an internal vigil bent on nurturing and sustaining shitty feelings, basically. What a waste of time.

    Holding a grudge, in my estimation, is the grown-up equivalent of a child watching himself cry in the mirror. Just reminding oneself constantly that one is upset, eventually even forgetting what one is upset about and just ending up being upset–and increasingly so–about the fact that one is upset at all.

    Watching a kid cry at him/herself in the mirror is just about the most pathetic, and sort of pitifully hilarious, thing ever. When I feel myself trying to hold a grudge, I get a terrible sense of embarrassment. It’s the damnedest thing. No one “saw” me holding or starting to hold a grudge but me, but I instantly regard myself as a little absurd and pathetic. And I get embarrassed for myself. At myself.

    I swear I do not have multiple personalities.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Heh.

      Yeah, that would really, really irritate me, I think.

      But I know what you mean about the steam release. Sometimes you just need to let that pressure out and then boom, it’s done. Gone. Which is probably healthier than brooding on it.

      A grudge is ambitious, and I think it’s important to remember that the phrasing is ‘to hold a grudge’, rather than the grudge holding you. Which isn’t just semantics or lingual trickery, but implies that the action is with the individual, not the grudge itself – and that therefore, the grudge can be let go.

      Which is very much easier said than done.

      But I don’t think you should feel absurd or pathetic for having feelings. Cut yourself some slack. I’ve got a whole store full of it.

      • Becky says:

        I don’t feel absurd or pathetic for having feelings…or maybe a little, sometimes, but that’s not what I mean.

        I mean that I, to some degree, regard grudge-holding as weakness. A character flaw. Especially in myself. A pointless, unhelpful task undertaken in the name of indulgence and self-pity.

        I don’t know if that’s true, really. But that is how I tend to react to it. I mean, I think it is at least partly true. People have feelings, but at some point nursing bad feelings along for an extended period of time to no productive end becomes pitiful.

        “Nobody can make you feel this way or that way,” my mom would always say, “You grant those permissions.”

        So if I find myself feeling “made” to feel this way or that and am indulging that for any extended period of time, it becomes a lapse in personal accountability, in my mind. It means I’ve willingly handed over control of my emotions to someone else, refused to take it back, and then had the nerve to carry on as if the offender in question took control from me. That, for me, is where a grudge is different from just experiencing feelings.

        • Becky says:

          I should add that this spills over, too, into some strong feelings I have about friend “break-ups” and friend excommunication phenomena. I feel strongly about those things anyway, but I am also currently in a situation where two of my good friends are going through a separation in their marriage, and many others in the friend group around me are doing things like telling one party or the other that they are on their “team.”

          I can’t do that petty stuff. I’d never survive as a Real Housewife of anywhere. All of these things–the grudge-holding, the factionalism, the excommunication–fall under a larger category of “unfortunate, un-admirable B.S.” that is currently vexing me. So my opinions on it are probably stronger–more frustrated–at the moment than they would normally be.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          But I don’t think that grudge-holding, when it gets to that extent, is entirely a conscious choice. Or rather, it is – but only when you become aware that you’re the one in charge. It’s like the parable, or whatever it is, about the guy carting around sacks of rocks. Someone stops him and says – ‘Hey! Dude! What up with the sacks of rocks?’ and the carrier looks surprised and says ‘You know, I never figured I could just let them drop. They serve no purpose. Rocks, goodbye.’

          And then he banged a bunch of models and rock stars, I think. And he got a racecar. And Will Smith was his friend.

          I think it’s OK to recognise that if you had total control over the situation, you’d much prefer to not feel that kind of rancor (and, after all, who wouldn’t?), and then take that total control. And let yourself off the hook for not doing so earlier.

          Oh, man, the team thing? That is no fun for anyone. Where’s the objectivitity?

        • Becky says:

          A lot of the factionalism derives from grudges. Someone offended someone way back when and now they have an excuse to turn on that person now, where before they had to play nice for the sake of the group. The ever-insidious dormant grudge. I am the only one who has ever had a really major blowout with either of them, and the only one really resisting taking sides. Like I said, a mess.

          And yeah. How are you going to take the reins in any situation if you don’t know they’re yours for the taking? If no one ever told you or you don’t believe it? I agree completely.

          But that’s where it becomes an issue between me and me in particular. Other people might not know about the rocks. But I do. I know I know better.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Ah, dormant grudges. The unexploded bombs of personal relationships.

          Or bear traps. Also like bear traps.

          Well that raises the question – if you know the reins are yours for the taking… why aren’t you taking them? What’s going on with you that you don’t?

        • Becky says:

          I am, mostly, I think. I mean, I’m sad for my friends that those around them–that they have come to believe they can count on–are playing favorites at such a difficult time, and I’m disappointed in my friends–people who I have largely come to regard as more mature than me–for engaging in what I think is sort of juvenile behavior. And I’m sad for me and my other friends for even having to navigate it all and feeling pressure to choose favorites at all. But I’m not taking it personally. I’m not mad at anyone. I mean, it is what it is. These kinds of situations are never going to be pretty.

          It’s just that, as a solutions person, I find this kind of Gordian social clusterfuck mentally taxing. If everyone would just listen to me and do what I say, everything would be fine. But that’s not going to happen. So I’m vexed, but not consumed.

        • Sarah says:

          “If everyone would just listen to me and do what I say, everything would be fine.”

          I say those words every day. Surprisingly, no one listens.

        • Becky says:

          Their loss. Stubborn asses. Strive away in futility, you fools! You bring it upon yourselves!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Heh.

          I may have uttered similar sentiments myself, in the past…

        • Sarah says:

          Stubborn asses indeed. Hear that mom?!

  13. Becky says:

    Also, forgiving myself is, nevertheless, almost entirely out of the question. I am a super-human she-beast and really need to hold myself to higher–or at least different–standard than I do other people. It’s all fine and good for other people to be average and normal and not perfect and make mistakes “just like everybody,” but as far as I go, the suggestion is outrageous.

    I am outraged. Me. “Just like everybody.” Never. NEVER I TELL YOU.

    “Just like everybody.” Exactly what that lazy underachiever in me would LIKE to think. Well think again, internal lounge-about! You silly, lazy bitch! Off your ass! Perfection is always just over the next hill!!! FOREVER!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Yeah.

      Been there.

      What a motherfucker, huh?

      And what a huge amount of pressure to hold yourself to. The idealised self is, ultimately, unattainable. And you’ll only beat yourself up trying to get there.

      Try for excellence, not perfection. It’s much happier-making.

      • Becky says:

        No can do. I’m all for cutting others slack. My ridiculous aspirations are not their problem.

        But I…I, Simon, am a machine. I am going to be omniscient someday. I am going to Stare. God. Down. I am going to win. Mwwaahahaha.

        *strokes white cat*

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Well… maybe you and God could go shopping, or something, rather than duke it out? (the illustrious Mr. Haney notwithstanding).

        • Andrew Nonadetti says:

          Now, now. Stare-downs are so unseemly and offer no one a chance to save face. Here – [slides envelope across the bar] – these are photos of a certain deity and several underaged Malaysian boys. I expect that, should this deity find out you are in possession of these, she/he/it may be willing to negotiate certain concessions regarding your position in the universe in return for your continued silence. Just a thought. I’m big on win-win.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Win/win is an outcome I like very much. Especially if I’m both sides.

        • Becky says:

          I’m mostly kidding, Simon.

          But I’d be a liar if I said that deep down, in my wildest imagination, omniscience isn’t my greatest goal. It probably is. I have a touch of the Faust in me. But indeed, I suspect that my odds of winning any bet against The Guy are not good.

          Nevertheless, I don’t much care for shopping; Anon’s idea is much more appealing.

          So, Anon, what is the going price on omniscience these days? I have two dollars, some pocket lint, and a mostly complete screwdriver set.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, knowing everything?

          That would be sweet. I could happily indulge in some of that action.

          I don’t know whether this is more a non-fiction or a fiction idea, but I had a sudden flash – a mental image – of just hanging out with God, sitting by the side of a road, drinking Coronas and checking out women in tight jeans as they walked past. It made so much sense to me as a vision of my own personal deity.

          I really liked it a lot.

        • Becky says:

          Revealed: Simon is an ass man.

          Damn, that’s a good question though. Where do I sit with my personal diety, and what do we drink?

          I tend to have a pretty antagonistic relationship with the universe, as already mentioned, since it refuses to relinquish all control of everything to me, so maybe my personal deity and I sit in a dirty dive bar doing shots of whiskey until God passes out, I steal the car keys, his phone, and his wallet, and leave him there with no way back to the throne.

          Or maybe we are playing horse shoes on the beach and drinking Miller Lite. But Corona is good, too.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I honestly have no idea where the thought came from – well, I kinda do, but it was just a song lyric that contained the word ‘God’ and it was just bam! There. Fully-formed.

          And it was awesome.

          Horse shoes is nice. But so are dive bars. I like dive bars.

        • Sarah says:

          Who says you have to battle it out with God to be omniscient? I’m sure he can dole out the power like the Queen doles out knighthoods.

          If He’s not a reasonable, bargaining, bartering deity, then take Anon’s route. But maybe all He really wants is a little vacation. He’d grant you omniscience so you could fill in, then let you keep it when He comes back.

          Then maybe there could be a movie about it. With the part of Becky played by Jim Carrey. And with a different (better!) ending. Palani would make a handsome Jennifer Aniston.

        • Becky says:

          There can be only one, Sarah.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Becky Almighty?

          Yes.

          That’s how you should think of yourself, as a conduit for the divine – every morning, wake up and say to yourself: ‘I am God’s tube.’

          My God, that’s unseemly.

        • Becky says:

          That really was offsides, sir. This is serious. This is the deposition of the almighty we’re talking about, and here you are, inserting phalluses into everything.

        • Sarah says:

          God’s tube?

          Not so sure about that. Fallopian tube? Esophagus? Trachea?

          Pneumatic tube, maybe. That could be a run ride.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          “and here you are, inserting phalluses into everything.”

          I’m very sorry. Believe me, people have made that complaint to me before.

        • Sarah says:

          *fun* ride, of course.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          @Sarah: I just like the word tube. It sounds sillier and sillier the more you say/look at it.

          OK. I’m having too much fun. I don’t want to be at work today.

          Hey everyone! Meet me at Lounge on Swanston Street. We’ll go to the Carlton Club and spend the afternoon drinking.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          God’s pneumatic tube is the funnest ride of them all.

        • Becky says:

          A giant bank-whatzit-tube-thingamajig, straight to heaven.

          I would SO meet to play hooky from work. But it’s Sunday. And gas to Australia would cost a fortune

        • Simon Smithson says:

          This is somewhat reminiscent of Rod and Tod Flanders on the trampoline.

          ‘Each jump brings us closer to God!’
          ‘Catch me, Lord, catch me!’

          Heh.

          Poindexters.

          We should all play hooky and hang out in Melbourne. I miss my city. I haven’t spent enough time with her lately. And we used to be so very close.

        • Becky says:

          Sadly, we will have to settle for Chicago.

          But there is one bar there I know of, that I’ve been to multiple times, and I know exactly the El stop it’s on, so we can pretend it is a home town, familiar place.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          What is this ‘the El’?

        • Becky says:

          The elevated train.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          You guys have an elevated train?

          Man.

          America.

        • Becky says:

          Well, yeah, but don’t think high-speed monorail or anything.

          Like so:
          http://marcel-marchon.com/img–117946063–Chicago-El-station–m.jpg

          Man. I worry for you now. You can’t do Chicago without the El. It’s the way to get around. Like going to NYC and trying to get around without the subway, man.

          Look into it.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_%27L%27

          Coincidentally, the picture there is of a Green Line train, which is the train we ride into downtown when we stay with my relatives.

        • Becky says:

          I think TNB ate my comment. Probably not. PRobably it will magically reappear. Anyway, what is said, mostly, was this:

          Dont’ think high speed monorail or anything.

          I worry for you now, though. You can’t do Chicago without the El. It’s like doing NYC without the subway.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_%27L%27

        • Simon Smithson says:

          OK.

          When in Chicago: Take the El.

          Check.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh! There it goes.

          But it did have the distinction of being the 100th comment by virtue of hiding and then jumping out to say hello.

        • Becky says:

          Chicago has one of the best (in the sense of user-friendly, cheap, effective) public transit systems in the country, in my opinion. And certainly one of the largest. But I’m easily impressed, since navigating MTC (our local public transit) is so impossible, I’m surprised anyone ever makes it to work.

          Anyway, the El is really tops. You have to be nuts or totally masochistic not to take advantage of it.

        • Judy Prince says:

          The El is indeed a trip, Becky! Antiseptic, it is not. Scary, it is. Like a squeaky, leany, curvy screaming machine monster (I can hear it as I speak!) that gives, in its whole stretch—-south to downtown to north side—view of Chicago.

          If you can get someone to drive you around a bit, do get on LSD (no, not *that* one!) meaning Lake Shore Drive from Millenium Park in the heart of the Loop (i.e., the “loop” made around downtown by the El) past Michigan Avenue’s Magnificent Mile and up to the Bahai Temple and Evanston. You’ll never forget that trip for its beauty, with Lake Michigan stretching out like an ocean on your right side, and the (spring/summer) flowers and trees on the left side. I was fortunate to’ve made that trip from Obamaland to the northside every work day for 11 years—-and it was always glorious!

          Chicago is best known (besides for old gangsters and Michael Jordan) for its world-renowned architecture of all periods and styles, from Frank Lloyd Wright and the Prairie School to Philip Johnson’s glass/steel buildings as well as some truly stunning Art Deco structures.

          I would, as well, suggest your going to President Obama’s turf near the magnficent U of Chicago campus on the southside (57th Street) and have a meal at the Medici, a casual old skylight’ed restaurant with brick interior walls and big wooden booths carved with loads of initials. Can’t beat their hamburgers and hot fudge sundaes. And if you like—-truly like—-Chicago-style (i.e., deep-dish, fresh ingredients) pizza, then Uno or Due a bit north of downtown are The Best!

        • Becky says:

          I love the El shimmy. And the sound…I can hear it too. Clackclackclackclackclack….

          *sigh* I love Chicago.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          OK. U of C, Medici, reading, El, O’Banion’s Demise.

          Whew.

          That’s a lot to do.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Yeah, Simon, too much to do; you’re right. It’s invariable that folks want someone to enjoy the stuff they enjoy—-like giving somebody a present you want but they may not.

          What kinds of things do YOU want to do? (No, I will not suggest other stuff, just interested to know what you might like.)

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Well!

          I like a mixed bag. On the one hand, I’m very much looking forward to traveling through the heartland. There’s this scene in Bonnie and Clyde where they’re standing in a field and the camera pulls back, and the shadows of the clouds moving across the face of the sun can be seen moving over them – a field is a field, but I think I fell a little bit in love with American farmland when I saw that as a kid.

          On the other hand, I love hustle and bustle and cities. And landmarks. I like landmarks.

          I guess at the end of the day, what I really want is to spend time with the people I know either through talking and relating online or the people who I know already who are in the US. That, to me, is a good trip.

        • Judy Prince says:

          I think they filmed Bonnie and Clyde in Canada, Simon. 😉

          My son would drive past the boring (to him) miles of Illinois wheatfields to escape the U of Illinois campus and spent most weekends in Chicago. Go figure.

          And as you’ve concluded, dear Rodent and I also did recently in Glasgow. I’ve never seen him more radiant than when he joined me and a poet friend after a 3-hour chat with his old U of Glasgow mate, Tom Leonard (an utterly unique maker of powerful poems).

          We’d made plans to get to landmarks but quickly decided that being with friends was higher on the list, like 3D movies instead of postcards. Next time we’ll stay longer—-and we’ll be living up closer to Scotland, too.

          Make your dreams come trooooooo!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Tricked!

          I can see the appeal of both. I think being an outsider might help a lot, too. The lure of the unfamiliar.

          Oh, I like this story.

          Especially the part about my dreams coming true!

        • Becky says:

          Well, shit. If you’re ever in the mood for some farmland, we’ve got plenty of that.

          Do they grow corn in Australia? Have you ever run around in a field of corn? Very disorienting.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Becky, when I moved into this little rental house a couple years ago there was a single TALL corn plant standing in the front lawn. I kept wondering if the previous renters had planted it purposely, bcuz believe me, it matched nothing else in the neat little flowers, bushes and herbs garden.

          Naturally I loved the darned thing and noticed that any visitors, letter carriers, and delivery folk would be drawn to it, touch it, and enjoy it, too! If anybody came up the walk grim-faced, they’d soon be grinning.

          Getting lost in a cornfield, though, that would bleeping terrify me!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I… I don’t know if we grow corn.

          We must.

          Surely we must.

          I have never run around in a field of corn, but I’ve seen it done on TV. Which is where I get all of my information.

        • Becky says:

          It’s so much fun!

          If you ever make it up here in August or so, Simon, we’ll run around in corn until we’re lost.

          It’s fine, Judy. When it comes right down to it, every row is a way out. Just follow it ’til the end.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Becky, that is such a relief! Makes sense, though, when you think about it.

  14. Oh Simon, you are so wonderful and this is such a great, insightful, thoughtful essay. I really can’t believe Janeane Garofolo won’t have sex with you. I bet if you sent her this essay, she’d fly to Australia to meet you right now!

    I’m going to go listen to my heart beat and ask myself who/what. Seriously. I’m not kidding. No one’s home. I actually have time for this right now.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh thank you, Jessica Anya Blau!

      I can’t believe Janeane Garofalo won’t have sex with me either. What a complete bi-

      I mean… I’d make her heart beat.

      Heh.

      Do. Go! Do it!

      Let us know what you find.

  15. Brian Eckert says:

    Thinking about the fact that we have a heart that needs to keep beating…over and over and over and over and over and over…..to sustain our life…not to mention all of the other myriad functions that keep us miracles alive and well…is awesome and humbling and frightening all at once…

    • Sarah says:

      I vote frightening. The more I think about sustaining a heartbeat the more I think about the many ways I could fuck it up. The more I listen to it beat the more I’m convinced it’s beating irregularly. Stresses me right out, which of course probably IS causing it to beat irregularly.

      Crap, there it goes again.

      Yes, it’s pretty egocentric to think that this machine, variations of which have been functioning just fine for eons, will suddenly get all out of whack and go kablooey if I actually focus on it enough. Yes, that’s exactly what I think will happen.

      • Simon Smithson says:

        “awesome and humbling and frightening all at once…”

        Damn straight.

        Hmm. Maybe you should consider some of that quantum stuff about changing states by observing them, Sarah.

        But then again, maybe the shift will be to a positive, as opposed to a negative.

        Fingers crossed…

        Thanks for reading, guys.

  16. Sarah says:

    “The most important question I’ve ever learned to ask myself – and the learning process was a long and often-painful one – is: What if I’m wrong?”

    Exactly. And I have been wrong before. Many times. Which in turn makes me unable to forgive myself. Which in turn makes me unwilling to make those difficult decisions in the future. Compound all that with the fact that every decision and every mistake I make changes the lives of two wonderful, innocent, amazing kids who deserve to live healthy and happy lives in an environment that allows them every opportunity to succeed. Yes, the pressure abounds. And, what if I’m wrong?

    “I think it could be one of the crueller elements of the human condition; this laying of blame and hatred and misery either externally or internally, or both.”

    Sorry to keep bringing up the kiddos but I swear they’ve taught me more than I could ever learn on my own. My son, age eight, is a very linear thinking, cause and effect, black and white kind of kid. I think of him as my binary son. Anything that goes wrong – nothing catastrophic, just day-to-day stuff, he needs to assign blame. Every bad thing that happens needs to be someone’s fault. To him, accidents don’t just happen, they’re the cause of carelessness or wrong doing of some sort. I don’t like him thinking that way in general but especially because he usually blames himself. More often than not, I can’t convince him otherwise. I know he’s only eight but I’m really thinking of introducing him to the phrase, “Shit Happens,” just to try to get him to understand that concept.

    As a consequence of my efforts to retrain his way of thinking, I’ve completely retooled mine as well in a way that has been long overdue. For so long I blamed my ex for breaking up our marriage. I’ve forgiven him and moved past most of it but I realize I was only able to take that step by transferring the blame to me. In a classically unhealthy way of thinking I began to truly believe that I drove him away, I made him blah, blah, blah. It’s taken a long time for me to truly understand that we both made several mistakes, regrettable ones and inevitable ones, because we are both human. It has been only through this process that he has now become my very dear friend once again.

    Great piece as always my friend.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, man, have I gotten it wrong at times before. Spectacularly out of gear, out of tune, and out of time. Horrible, horrible things.

      But, you know. You live, you learn.

      I’ve been very caught up in the idea of integration lately – and I think there’s something to be said for understanding that cause and effect and random happening are all inextricably tied together; that sometimes you can reverse things by understanding how a led to b and sometimes you have to just shrug and get a mop.

      Hmmm. He shouldn’t be blaming himself as a knee-jerk reaction, though. That’s no good.

      One thing I’ve also learned is this: show me a one-sided issue and I’ll show you a winning lottery ticket – they’re that rare. It’s unhealthy to blame anyone entirely, because it always goes both ways. I wish – God, how I wish – I’d come to that knowledge sooner.

      Thanks, Sarah. It means a lot to me to hear that from you.

      • Sarah says:

        We’re trying to deal with his emotional ups and downs. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some smoldering feelings from the divorce but a lot of this pre-dates that.

        It’s little things he blames himself for and oftentimes he’s logically, technically correct but they’re never things he intentionally does.

        For example Olivia will be toddling along on the floor and crawl right into his path. He’ll step on her hand and she’ll flip out crying. Then he’ll flip out crying saying, “It’s all my fault,” which depending on his overall mood can lead to, “Everything’s always my fault.” Now technically yes, him stepping on her foot caused her to cry but I try to explain to him that this type of situation falls into the Shit Happens category and that he should just move on.

        These things are happening less often over time and can be easily attributed to amount of sleep he’s gotten, level of the day’s boredom, etc.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Yeah… the last thing you want is a kid who grows up to think everything’s their fault.

          Right, mum and dad???

          Heh.

          Oh.

          I made myself sad.

          Yeek. Man. The more I discover about psychology and human interaction, the more I grow to respect the roles that good parents (which I’m sure you are) play. There’s a lot to be mindful of to make sure you’re rearing a happy and well-adjusted little individual.

  17. Simone says:

    Ok, so I had to clean up the tea that landed on my laptop, desk and papers before I commented. The cause of which was me choking back laughter, with a mouthful of tea, at this line:

    “One class on how a bra clasp works. Not so much to ask.”

    Oh, how clueless some guys are when it comes to the bra clasp. Funny shit, Simon.

    On another note, you’re an inspiration. Not for the first time have I read a post of yours and thought to myself “This kid’s a deep thinker. He’s got me thinking. I like it.”

    “Cogito ergo sum.”

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Seriously.

      One class.

      What do I need to know about a cervix for if I don’t know how to get a girl’s bra off? Because if I can’t get her bra off, I doubt very much I’m getting anywhere near her cervix.

      On the other hand, apparently learning to unclip a bra one-handed isn’t great, either. It shows you’ve had too much practice.

      Thanks, Simone. I do what I can. All steps on the road to redemption, you know?

      • Simone says:

        You’re too funny. And you’re a logical thinker, covering all your bases before you hit the home run, hey?

        Ah, yes, the one-handed bandit. Heard of them, but have never come across one.

        Yes, Simon, I do know.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Well, you have to pass first before you can pass home, you know?

          Heh.

          The trick is to release the pressure on the clasp, first.

          I mean… that’s what I heard.

  18. It’s true. We’re magic. We’re magical beings.
    It’s all amazing – all of it.
    In this day of faster, better, faster – this is a nice reminder to take a pause
    and to let our wiring appreciate itself. So, thank you, Simon.

    I think we humans like to think of ourselves as separate from the plants and the earth.
    But really, isn’t it magical how the sun grabs the tree out of the seed and the tree reaches up for the sun?
    Our roots are not planted in the soil – but when we meditate or pause for a moment, we’re letting ourselves connect to our source. Or go to sleep, as Duke mentioned. But, hey – that can also be a good thing. I always feel less angry when I wake up.

    Cant wait to discuss this further on the porch, mon ami!

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, man. The discussions we’ll have on that porch! I can’t wait.

      I know I’ve mentioned this before tangentially, but, hey, think about this:

      So, the fact of the matter is that there is not some invisible barrier where we end and the universe begins. It’s all the universe. It’s all Source, whatever you want to call that – including that energy and shift of chemicals and electricity that we call thought.

      So therefore, the thoughts of the Universe are the thoughts in our own heads. Because it’s all one and the same. There is nothing that isn’t, therefore, everything is.

      I thought of that as I was cleaning my teeth last night and had to stop and think, with flouride burning my tongue.

      But! To get back to your comment, Steph: Ah, sleep! That stitches up ravelled care, or something, or… look, the Bard was more coherent before Entrekin went upside his head, you know?

      Freakin’ Entrekin.

      And thank you, Steph. I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to meeting you and the rest of the family.

      • I just re-read my comment – I sound like some damn hippie –
        this was before I had my coffee this morning, clearly.
        No, but, I really do feel this way.
        And I agree with you completely. And I experienced this
        when I got preggos with our two kids. We did this thing, this private thing,
        and it’s more than just biology – because our kids are these forces – how did they know –
        (am I making any sense – starting to want to censor myself now – ok – maybe I’ll wait
        until the porch with mojito in hand). But totally agree – our thoughts evolve as the Universe
        expands – it is all one in the same.

        And we feel same – can’t wait to meet you.
        And you are going to blow Dom and Prue (but especially Dom’s) minds
        when you explain being from Australia. He’s going to love you and want to
        hear every detail of your journey.

  19. Judy Prince says:

    Simon, here it is. Having just killed Duncan, Macbeth delivers that great line (scene 2, act 2) in response to his wife who thinks he’s gone mad. He says:

    Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
    Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,
    Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
    The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
    Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
    Chief nourisher in life’s feast,–

  20. Oh, the feeling of guilt… We’ve all been there. Even when we’re trying our hardest (well, almost) to do right, we still fuck up and hurt others.

    I think I have a severe lack of foresight, sometimes. I can be like a child, or a cat, looking for something nice. I try and do right by those around me, but sometimes I look up and, oh, shit… Sorry.

    Inviting self-doubt is a dangerous thing, too. One little negative thought and you could be on your way to weeks of self-loathing.

    Anyway, great post as usual, Simon.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, it’s a horrible, horrible thing, right? Guilt and regret… man. I would so much rather be sitting in a park drinking beer and eating Subway than ever experiencing those emotions.

      You know.

      Given the choice.

      I think there’s a necessary – and important – distinction between self-doubt and self-awareness. Mastering the divide between the two is probably an important human trait or something.

      I like your ‘like a cat’ analogy. May I borrow it?

      Thanks Divad.

      • You may borrow my cat analogy. I use cats to simplfy and explain everything… They’re just little curious little people.

        And you should start “Coping With Guilt” classes, wherein you explain that once confronted with the feeling of guilt, one should buy a six-pack, a big sandwich, and run to the nearest sunny park.

        Guilt… gone.

  21. Very thought-provoking piece, Simon. I was actually just having a conversation with a friend yesterday on the topic of forgiveness. Amidst that conversation we discussed the idea of how sometimes with certain mistakes we’ve made we actually judge ourselves much more harshly than the other person has judged us. I know that to be the case with me sometimes. Ah, my Catholic guilt. It’s bottomless.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks Rich. I like to provoke thought. Every now and then, I go too far and a fight breaks out, or it bites me, and I have no one to blame but myself.

      What is up with that? I have total commiseration.

      As in: if someone crosses me or hurts me or angers me, or whatever, but then takes the time to say ‘Hey, I messed up, here’s what happened from my point of view, I’m sorry,’ then boom. No harm, no foul, as far as I’m concerned (you know. As long as they then don’t go and do it again in the next two seconds).

      But me? I just can’t seem to let myself off the hook that easily.

  22. Alison Aucoin says:

    If I had time to read Deepak, perhaps I would have found such wisdom from him but alas, I do not. Good thing parenting is the ultimate multi-tasking role. I read picture books, have tea parties, clean up, get my cardio, and evolve all in one big sweeping motion.

    This child is the most amazing creature on earth as far as I’m concerned and we’re not so different really, therefore I am not such a wretched creature. I’m actually pretty cool. Her mistakes lead her to wonderful realization and growth. She has yet to learn about regret. Mine do to, as long as I forget the regret.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I know! Time, time. Not only does it make fools of us all, but it stands us up right when we think we’ve got it all to ourselves for a little while.

      That being said – audiobooks. Good way to get it all in at once, especially when it’s non-fiction.

      Oh, cool! Isn’t it strange, where teachers come from? In this post alone I’ve been hearing (for the first time ever) how people learn from their children.

      Which is just awesome.

  23. Nice post, Simon. Such an important realization.

    I don’t know if I really believe in either sin or mistakes.

    The thing about life is nobody gets out of it alive. Nobody goes through life without getting hurt, at some point, and hurt is as important as happiness. Hurting is as important as smiling.

    I’ve hurt people. Usually, I think, out of selfishness, or a lack of self-awareness.

    But you take a risk, you know? Everyone does. Everyone must.

    Have you read Perfect Skin? I recommend it to pretty much everyone, but specifically all the guys I know. You’d probably like Nick Earls, too; he’s an Aussie as well.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks Will!

      I have not read Perfect Skin, but I’ll add it to the list.

      Yeah… I don’t like to think of hurting people. It’s a much worse feeling than being hurt, I think.

      Of course, I’d prefer we all get ice-cream. Win-win!

      But yes. The risk must be taken.

  24. Ronlyn Domingue says:

    Yeah, I’m with you on learning from mistakes. Almost 20 years ago, I learned a big one about getting involved in other people’s business and letting people make their own mistakes. Painful to watch someone you love do something so obviously detrimental (yes, time proved it to be so), but there it was. Since then, I’ve tried to give my “advice” only when asked, with no expectations attached.

    So did Deepak mention what one does when the answers come back? The leap from knowing to action isn’t so easy.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Yeah… the old ‘let ’em make their own mistakes’ is a big one. And it can be very hard. But sometimes necessary.

      Deepak did not mention that, no. He talked about listening for the answers, and his next step was that if you do this often enough, things will just fall into place on their own.

      I don’t know. I like the idea of agency. I really do.

  25. kristen says:

    Oh, Simon, love it. Love “It’s a tricky question to ask, because to swallow it completely is to invite self-doubt, one of the most crippling human emotions you can encounter, into your house and down to dinner,” love “And so what I’ve been trying to do lately is form a more sympathetic view of other people – which, indirectly, has lead me to a more sympathetic view of myself,” love it all.

    I really think you’re onto something here, and it’s something, among other related somethings, that’s elaborated on in that Awareness book I mentioned. I think it’ll truly resonate w/ you, should you decide to crack it.

    Also, I just yesterday started reading the new David Lipsky-on-David Foster Wallace book (http://www.strandbooks.com/app/www/p/profile/?isbn=09780307592439), and here’s what the back cover reads (direct Wallace quote):

    “If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people w/ extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that w/ ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.”

    Same idea, you know?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      LD! Thank you. I appreciate that very much.

      Oh, so many books! My list is growing by the day. Or rather, by the comment post.

      “If you can think of times in your life that you’ve treated people w/ extraordinary decency and love, and pure uninterested concern, just because they were valuable as human beings. The ability to do that w/ ourselves. To treat ourselves the way we would treat a really good, precious friend. Or a tiny child of ours that we absolutely loved more than life itself. And I think it’s probably possible to achieve that. I think part of the job we’re here for is to learn how to do it.”

      Yes.

      And it was actually the memory of one of those moments that started me off on a lot of this soul-searching I’ve been doing lately.

  26. jmblaine says:

    Sir
    you are
    close
    to the
    Kingdom

    Do you still
    want
    to be
    Baptized?

  27. 1159 says:

    St Antony
    in a vision
    was shown
    the World
    & all it’s fiery traps
    “Lord!” he cried. “How can one make it through?”
    “Humility,” was the reply.

  28. Marni Grossman says:

    “While I’m not bound by the Hippocratic Oath, I think ‘First do no harm’ is a good and important life philosophy to have.”

    I agree. I have always always wanted to be a person who is good and who is kind. To do no harm.

    But I wonder if a live in which you’ve done no harm is a real life. Is it possible to live fully without brushing up against other, jostling and hitting and crushing?

    I’ve never been someone that people hate. And sometimes that strikes me as a failing. Is it better to inspire hatred than to inspire no passion at all?

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I don’t know… I’ve come too close to hatred in a lot of forms and shapes to think it’s ever a good thing. Or a better thing. It can set things in motion, and maybe its role is just that, as a kind of universal catalyst, but it’s an ugly emotion.

      But yes. I don’t think it’s possible to live a life completely free of harming people. It takes too much time to learn how not to harm; not the natural state of the growing ego.

  29. Jordan Ancel says:

    Great piece, Simon. This really resonates with me on a profound level.

    “But, like anyone, I’ve fucked it up more than once. I’m no stranger to the battery-acid wash of guilt through my stomach or the mental wince of Could have – should have – handled that one better, man. There have been moments when I haven’t considered consequences, or properly recognised that someone may have a different view of the same circumstances.”

    It is said that hindsight is 20/20, but I believe that we know at the time we are doing something that may be “wrong” or inappropriate or hurtful, yet, for some reason we can’t stop. Like it’s some runaway train that’s speeding toward a bitter end that we know will leave human wreckage in its wake. And we are at the controls. But what keeps our hand on the throttle?

    Could it be some deep-seeded need to fail because we fear whatever the other option is? Maybe. Maybe not, but maybe. Could it be the need to be right? And for what?

    I think that we all have the ability to stop a course of action that we know deep-down is not good, but having the ability is far from taking the action. I’m interested in what gets in the way. I have no answer or theory, I’m just curious about it.

    “The point that I remind myself of is that whatever times there have been in the past when I’ve felt crushed or hurt, when I’ve felt small or angry or broken-hearted and thought You. You did this to me… well, I doubt very much that the other party has imagined themselves to be sitting in a plush leather couch in their bunker control room, gently stroking a white cat, laughing as they considered the state I was in.

    I agree with your point that our behavior may not be intentional, although it may be perceived that way by someone we’re causing to feel pain. Even though we may know we should do something differently, not stopping or changing doesn’t necessarily mean our behavior is deliberate. It may mean we’re just stuck in a pattern that we don’t know how to break. It may mean that we may feel like we’re actually doing the right thing for whatever reason we assign it, but for some reason it is having the opposite effect.

    We all have ideas of how things “should” be or what “should” be done, but something gets misfired in the execution and not only do we make a mess that we need to clean up, we also are left with our own personal wreckage of “how did that go so terribly wrong?” And while trying to fix our mistake, it just gets worse.

    I believe we all want to be the best we can. And we are always learning from the mistakes we make (some maybe slower than others), but patterns are hard to break.

    “…yes, absolutely, I can forgive the mistakes of others. Just as I hope they can forgive themselves for their mistakes, and forgive me for mine.”

    I think forgiveness for others is important, but self-forgiveness is essential. But I think self-forgiveness is harder than forgiving others because guilt and shame weigh so heavy on us. However, without it, we can’t move forward because of the guilt and shame we carry around with us, and if we can’t move forward, we won’t grow. We must forgive ourselves in order to learn our lesson and strive to be better.

    And that is something I believe we all want.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, Jordan. And thanks for leaving such an insightful and considered comment.

      “It is said that hindsight is 20/20” – I think hindsight can either be a scalpel with which to cut away the dangerous parts of ourselves, or a club to beat ourselves over the head with, depending on how we go about using it. The key is in the learning.

      And I think you’re right – I think that we do strive towards growth and to be our highest self (an idea which seems to become more and more important to me with every passing day). I’m no psychologist or spiritual guide, but what little I do know in both of these fields leads me to believe that fear is the greatest culprit here (although ignorance and hurt certainly both play their part; or at least, I know they have done for me).

      Speaking personally, I find a lot to be valued in the ideas I’ve come across in the field of cognitive psychology (a friend introduced me to a book called Reinventing Your Life, by Young and Klosko – I think I’ve referenced it elsewhere on the board).

      The basic premise is that we learn what we believe to be truths about ourselves through the patterns we grow up with – patterns which we then proceed to re-create throughout the rest of our lives, and while consciously, we may want to change, subconsciously, what we fear most is the new (even though that new may be healthy and positive). So we keep going back to the old, even if it’s destructive. And, of course, because other people aren’t mind-readers, they see us going through the steps and think ‘Well, of course they’re doing that because they want to. Why else would they?.

      Not because we want to, but sometimes because we know of nothing else to do.

      The key to change, then, is understanding these drives we have, where they come from, and their truth or untruth, and hopefully, step by step, defuse them and put the reins back in our hands.

      Patterns are a complete and total bitch.

      Yeah. Self-forgiveness. Tricky one. I think a good starting point is to love and accept ourselves the way we love and accept others. It helps.

      Glad this struck a chord with you – and thanks again for reading.

      • Judy Prince says:

        Nice refinements of the guilt and self-forgiveness ideas, Simon and Ancel.

        All the things you mentioned, Ancel, really resonated with me, especially these: “Even though we may know we should do something differently, not stopping or changing doesn’t necessarily mean our behavior is deliberate. It may mean we’re just stuck in a pattern that we don’t know how to break. It may mean that we may feel like we’re actually doing the right thing for whatever reason we assign it, but for some reason it is having the opposite effect.”

        I could immediately bring up situations in which I had done what other people had done or I had read or been advised to do by friends—-which fit some strictures I figured were wiser than mine. But they hadn’t felt right to me. However, I had no foundations upon which to judge and reason them out. Reminds me of Lisa Rae’s taking her friend’s advice to be a “bull” re the Great Body that she was smitten with.

        And Simon, how indeed much fear distorts our reasoning and mindset. Long ago I’d read that fear—-not hate—-is the opposite of love; that the two can’t occupy your mind at the same time. I decided that spinoffs of fear like worry and self-doubt and guilt were as debilitating to a person as blatant terror, p’raps bcuz they’re more common, more “accepted” by the self about the self. Most unfortunately, many religious groups hang the nooses of these fears on their believers, and the result often is that the believers learn to loathe themselves. How oh how can self-loathing be loving? The believers, then, are locked into fear, constant fears about their inadequacies, mistakes, missteps, “inherent” sins.

        Don’t misunderstand. I think we all mess up big time a lot, and the older I get the more I see my own past and present acts as incredibly, laughingly and achingly stoopid, thoughtless and downright mean. With all gratitude and honesty, I learn healthily from dear Rodent, for one, by his own generous acts and attitudes that are so natural to him—-and so less natural to me—-that they kind of scream to my brain: “Try this! Might be a pattern that’s helpful to you and him and others!”

        You guys are giving good stuff for further pondering!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Welcome to SSE, Judy. I was just thinking of how fear, and not hate, is the opposite of love and then bam! Here you go. Saying the exact same thing.

          Because love uplifts – it makes us happy, it confirms our belief in ourselves, and others, it opens doors.

          Fear closes them.

          And yes, I think a terrible fear to have is that there’s something inherent about humanity or people in general, because, after all, how can you fix that? How can you change it?

          In my book, there are no absolute constructions of the soul.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Simply and purely laid out for us, Simon.

          I wonder if hate isn’t also a subset of fear? I mean in what variety of situations do hate someone or something? Can you actually hate someTHING or do you just hate people?

          I’ll let you explore that stuff bcuz my eyeballs are falling onto the keyboard with fatigue.

          the joodled

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I think hate stems from fear (and that’s certainly not a new idea). Think about the things you hate – it’s generally because you fear the consequences of them.

          People hate being broke – because they fear what will happen as a result of it. Jealousy stems from fear – that someone might be better at something than you and therefore reap a reward you want for yourself… leaving you fearful at the idea of its loss.

          Fear.

          No good!

          Although, in a tiger-type situation, certainly healthy.

        • Jordan Ancel says:

          I think whenever we take the advice of other people without having another point of reference, there is always the possibility that it could go south. People can only advise based on their own personal experience with any given situation, which is different for everyone, so what would work for them would probably not work for us.

          And I agree with you about fear, but I don’t think it’s just the opposite of love. I think fear is contrary to just about anything.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          I think advice can help us in mapping the territory – but not in traversing it. That’s ours and ours alone.

          And yeah. I think you may be right on the fear factor.

        • Judy Prince says:

          Oh your bon mots, Simon!

        • Simon Smithson says:

          They’re my raison d’etre, Judy.

        • Judy Prince says:

          [getting out my French dictionary] Oh bon vivant! Such sang froid! Et les grandes epaulettes! ok i’m faking, but this kind of language ignorance nevertheless got me a pass in the French language requirement for the MA—–and every test-taker but me had a dictionary with them. Me not so bright with directions, but a super-motivated little creature.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Sang froid is one of my favourites.

          That and joie de vivre.

          And my big shoulder pads?

  30. Slade Ham says:

    ‘There is no sin, only mistakes.’

    Nah. There are some evil motherfuckers out there. I think there is a pretty clear line between “sin” and “mistake”. As for the realization of all this super cool bio-mechanical crap inside of us – I, too, am astounded. We are pretty impressive machines, no? We get a lot of mileage out of these bodies. It’s almost like magic.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      I had a conversation with my brother once; I was talking about this guy at my work who made a regular habit of cheating on his girlfriend. My brother made a point about how karma would catch up to him, and I said ‘But that’s just the rub. Really, you should only be punished if you know you’re doing wrong – so if you have no morals, you never get any comeuppance, because you never think you’re doing anything wrong.’

      And then my brother made a good point about comparative ethics that I’ve never forgotten:

      Say you’re walking down the street, and you see some guy on the other side of the street suddenly, out of nowhere, take a baseball in the balls (I actually once saw almost the exact same thing happen, except it was a guy trying to leapfrog parking meters. It was, hands-down, one of the funniest sight gags I’ve ever seen). You might have a range of reactions, but your first reaction is probably going to be ‘Oh, fuck, that guy’s hurting.’

      So to extrapolate from that, we can recognise pain, and that we’d prefer to avoid pain in ourselves – and that therefore inflicting pain on other people is a bad thing. To knowingly do that – yeah. That’s where the evil comes in, I think.

      We are so goddamn impressive.

      • Slade Ham says:

        That’s the best way you could have put that. We do recognize pain and sadness and loss, etc. To willingly, intentionally cause them… You know. You HAVE to. Nobody can plead ignorance.

        And watching someone get hit in the balls is the funniest thing you can ever see. You cringe, but you laugh. It’s immediate laughter too, and America’s Funniest Videos has made a fortune off of it.

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Yeah. And that’s when you cross the line, I think.

          Oh, man. It was so perfect. A buddy of mine and I were in Cairns (tropical northern Australia), and walking into town on this hot, hot, humid summer night, people were all over the streets (it’s a party town), and this guy who was maybe ten yards ahead of us was clearly trying to impress the girl he was with by leapfrogging this meters – you know when you can see it insomeone’s walk, and hear that little tone in their voice, that they’re showing off for a girl?

          And so he cleared the first, cleared the second… and then his groin just wrapped itself around the cold steel of the third and he went down like a sack of shit.

        • Zara Potts says:

          Is this the time to bring up the hot pie?

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Ha ha ha ha!

          Yes.

          Yes.

          I want to marry that story.

        • Zara Potts says:

          “Do you, Simon N Smithson take Pie Face…”

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Totally.

          Did you hear about the German guy who married his cat?

        • Zara Potts says:

          Oh, oh. The jokes that have just gone through my head…

        • Simon Smithson says:

          Oh, but yes:

          http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,5534186,00.html

  31. Jordan Leigh says:

    Beautifully heartfelt, Simon (no pun intended). Thanks. I needed that today.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks Jordan (and I wouldn’t have minded if the pun was intended). Yeah, I could do with feeling that way all day every day.

  32. Candice says:

    Thank you Simon. So very much. It means a lot to me because I have often been on the verge of suicide and I am still boiling with self-hatred. I also think that some of the people that do the same mistakes over and over again are repeating it to somehow prove themselves they are terrible human beings, or something.

    Also, here is my love letter to the Nervous Breakdown people: You are wonderful, unique, funny, beautiful, crazy. You are humans. Your heart is beating. It’s hard this life, but it did not harden you. You should be proud of yourself.
    Candice

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Oh, Candice, you are so very welcome.

      Self-hatred is a terrible thing. And I think you’re right – if people carry around a certain image of themselves, they act (and react) in accordance with that image.

      An interesting book on this stuff is an old-school self-help text by a guy named Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-Cybernetics. He was a plastic surgeon who noted how some people would be so much happier after plastic surgery because they’d got a problem they hated fixed, whereas some people wouldn’t change at all – their self-image was ingrained in their heads, not in reality.

      Thanks for the love letter, and, on the topic of being on the verge of suicide – that’s a terrible thing, too. Duke wrote about that only recently, and I think it’s an important piece.

      http://www.thenervousbreakdown.com/drhaney/2010/04/the-worst-crime/

      My hope for us all is that we can move out of the dark elements of our pasts and our feelings towards ourselves, and into happiness.

  33. Candice says:

    I also think appropriate to post a cheesy poem I wrote for a friend of mine:

    I have only words of love dripping from a knotted mouth,
    the tongue of the mute, the tongue of the scared.
    I have only my poor arms to hug, eyes turned inwards,
    but happiness still there, a gay beggar,
    that happiness waiting for you, to bloom and explode.
    Sleep on the softness of love poems, large souls,
    on the tenderness of a “I am sorry for you”,
    on the sobs of those that care and always will,
    There is no enemy in this battle of will,
    Do not let anybody tell you any different.
    You are truly extraordinary

  34. Judy Prince says:

    Candice—-it’s a fortunate person who can count you as a friend!

    Lovely fresh metaphor: “knotted mouth”, and this line has a great echoing rhythm: “the tongue of the mute, the tongue of the scared”.

    My favourite part of your poem: “Sleep on the softness of love poems, large souls”—-its alliteration and, again, rocking rhythms, invoke calm and majesty.

    *You* are a TNB person, so you, too, are embraced by your love letter to TNBers!

  35. Candice says:

    Oh. You. are. so. welcoming. But really you are all wonderful. And very funny. I would love to be published in TNB. I like how writers either further their relationship with each other and create new friendships. I like the glittery wit, Simon/Jude/Zara Aussie talk, the incredible anedoctes, the pop culture references, ect… You talked about commune in several threads: how about a mansion, since you are all royalties ( dim attempt at humor )?

  36. Candice says:

    *Or* create. Sorry.

  37. Candice says:

    Oh Lord. So many typos. Oh well…

    • Judy Prince says:

      Candice, I think there’s a formal kitty that we have to pay into for every typo. Some of us have to take on extra jobs just to keep food on the table when we’ve had a bad tu[poi day see there I did it oh can I afford this TNB scam? Maube this time they wont nitocse the mistakes!

  38. I am, quite simply, a wonderful creature. By virtue of the fact that I have a beating heart and a ticking brain, a circulatory system, a nervous system, a biology that works so effectively and completely that I don’t even think of it until I make the effort to…

    Well said.

    I was having this conversation with my wife just recently. Heck, I have this conversation with my wife quite a lot. The beauty of life. The minute details of our existence.

    We were on the discussion of pregnancy, having babies. And you know, every time I think of it, an actual being inside the womb, I can’t help but smile. It really is a beautiful thing: life in general.

    I think sometimes we forget that with all of the trivial matters of the world, the horrifying stories on the news daily, the politics, the polarization, the outside disturbances. When it all comes down to it, the mind and body of all living creatures is breathtaking.

    Excuse me for sounding like a hippie.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Thanks, Jeffrey.

      Yeah, it’s a crazy thing, isn’t it? The mind and the body. And everyone wants to win the lottery, but we forget that really, we already have. What are the chances of being here, being alive, being who we are at any given moment?

      Pretty fucking slim.

      It’s OK. I think some of my recent posts are bringing out the hippie in a lot of us.

  39. Carl D'Agostino says:

    I should have known not to marry the most deceitful, immoral, scheming, mercenary and manipulative woman that ever lived. I should have known I was being played for a sucker and would lose everything I owned plus child support and $10,000 attorney fees to lose it all. It lasted 22 months. Oh, how different my life would have been. I should have known.

    But this is what I know now. My son will be 28 and I put him through college. He loves me and can’t stand to be around his mother for more than two seconds. My daughter will be 26. She loves me and can’t stand her mother for more than one second. Rough time for a long time substance abuse. She’s ok now, working and I have two lovely grandchildren.

    I didn’t know all the suffering was the price I had to pay for what I have now. Still hate it. IT WAS WORTH IT. I
    WON.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Yowza. The MOST deceitful? That’s pretty deceitful, right there. Sorry to hear about that.

      I think that’s the thing about suffering. It can be horrible. Man, so, sohorrible. But strange – so strange – the way you can sometimes make it out of that bubble and say ‘Hey. That was worth it.’

      Thanks for reading, Carl – pleasure to make your acquaintance.

  40. Tawni says:

    Sorry I’m so late to the blog table. I have an insanely hyper four-year-old to keep alive, so I often bookmark my favorite TNB writers’ works for later reading, and read them when I get the chance. I just realized I’d missed this, and am typing this comment in between bursts of my son running into the room with a car that inexplicably blasts dance music. Really annoying dance music. So please forgive any disjointedness in my comment. Focus is hard to come by ’round these here parts. (“Y’all ready for this? DUH DUH DUH DUNT DUH DUN DUH DUN DUH DUH DUH DUH…”)

    I really like the meditation you learned from Deepak Chopra. I would like to borrow that, please. Lately, I’ve been doing yoga and meditation with Maya Fiennes, via DVD, and it is really soothing.

    An awareness that many of the people I’ve felt have wronged me in this life are probably entirely unaware of my pain has washed over me as I’ve aged. The realization that I have most likely hurt many and thoughtlessly moved forward in blissfully insensitive ignorance has also occurred to me. I am more uncomfortable with the latter. I am working on forgiving others and myself. I find forgiving myself to be one of the hardest things in the world.

    Thinking about my heart, circulatory system, and other such biology tends to send me into panic attack mode, however. I don’t deny the miracle of it all. I just don’t understand what keeps it all from suddenly stopping. This train of thought is why I have to drink a few beers before I get on an airplane. This is also why I haven’t ever been able to successfully smoke pot. (:

    This is such a thoughtful, kind piece. I really like it, Simon. xoxo.

    • Simon Smithson says:

      Not a problem, Tawni. Nice to know you read it – and liked it!

      HA! I’ve can pick exactly the difference between a ‘duh’ and a ‘dun’ while singing that…

      Maya Fiennes. Check.

      Man. It is so much worse to think of hurting someone else, for me. I don’t like it. And for some reason, that forgiveness is much, much more difficult to come by.

      (I can understand where you’d be coming from on the pot scenario).

      Once again, thanks for reading, Tawni, and for sharing your thoughts.

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