“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side.” — Maya Angelou
Something unlocked when I wrote this post about self-blame and began the project of absorbing its sense into my patterns of thought and emotion. I am learning to lean, more often, towards being “on my own side,” to quote Angelou. And I find its ethos materializing in quiet conversations with myself, curling up in delicate plumes against the hard walled instinct to blame myself. It has been helpful, especially in interactions with strangers or in circumstances where I feel I have been misunderstood. But I struggle with it in specifics. As an example, I have been preoccupied with the logistics of our move to D.C., the brief reunion with my parents last weekend after 15 months of not seeing them (!), the celebrating of my daughter’s fourth birthday, the unexpected cluster of hair and dental appointments for everyone in my family over the past two weeks, the heartbreak of telling our nanny we were leaving (we both wept), and — amidst that fracas — something slipped my mind, and someone was out of sorts about it. I felt a familiar pit forming in my stomach. How could I be so inconsiderate!? Your busy life is no excuse! Etc. About half of which is valid and deserved. I don’t intend to make excuses for thoughtlessness — only apologies. I learned this the hard way a few years ago, when one of my sisters and I alienated another sister by forgetting to invite her to something. The omission was not ill-intended. It was not intended at all, come to think of it, which may have been the hardest pill for everyone to swallow. It was forgetfulness in pursuit of plans, but how could we forget a sister? In retrospect, it feels unthinkable, cruel. I remember my mother’s taciturnity on the subject and I knew I had done serious wrong. The subtext: sometimes you have to mean not to. Be mindful, be proactive, think! I wrung my hands over it for some time, privately atoning for many weeks after the formal apologies were made and generously accepted. I still feel heartburn when I think back on it.
And so I found myself slipping into that zone more recently, angry with myself. Hadn’t I learned my lesson?!
Well — well. Let’s think. You let something slip. You shouldn’t have. You feel horrible that you caused another hurt, or frustration. You want to repair that injury as quickly as possible. But you know in your heart of hearts that it was not malicious, and that this particular matter is not on the order of, say, forgetting to include a sister in an event. Jen, you can browbeat til the cows come home, or you can be on your own side, analyzing with fairness — if not in front of the other party, by yourself — why the chips have fallen the way they have, why this particular issue has been deferred in the context of greater movements afoot. You can apologize but also acknowledge that you are human with many things happening at once. You can delicately suggest that you need a bit more wiggle room during this time of flux. You can afford everyone grace in this unfortunate happening, yourself included.
I struggle in this position. I instinctually want to take the other person’s side, to see myself as the Other with the cruel or callous agenda. Yeah, how could she?! She doesn’t care. She looked at this and shrugged. She made a conscious decision to let me know I didn’t matter. But I know none of that to be true. And I further know myself to be a good and conscientious person. It is rare I drop a ball. I say this not to be boastful, but to be honest with myself. If I tell someone I will be there at 10:30, I am there at 10:30. I always send the follow up note. If there are action items from a meeting or phone call, I tend to them right away. “Right on time, as usual!” my Dad always says by way of greeting when we have pre-planned a phone call. I cross my t’s and dot my i’s. I calendar follow-up emails so nothing slips through the cracks. I am nothing if not meticulous. Perhaps that is why this issue is particularly nettlesome. I don’t know how I let it gradually slip out of view. And then I think back on this chain of thoughts and feel exasperated: “My God, Jen. It was a mistake. On a matter that is far from life-or-death. You apologize and you move on. Stop with the recriminations!”
So I sit here, somewhere between sometimes you have to mean not to and the wisest thing you can do is be on your own side.
Who else sits with me in this discomfort from time to time? How do you move yourself out?
+Positively drooling over this dress. The neckline! The silhouette! The stripes! AHHHH!
+This scallop-trim tankini for girls is beyond adorable. Also comes in a one-piece. Marysia vibes!
+J’adore this eyelet top — currently on sale for under $50. SEA vibes!
+Mini has been randomly talking about sleepovers for awhile now — who knows where she picked the notion up! — and I’m already anxious for her opportunity to sleep over at her grandparents, with this cute sleeping bag in tow.
+For a limited time, you can buy these iconic Hunt Slonem bunny dishes from BG online (normally only available in their 5th Ave location). Such a sweet gift, or a fun way to gussy up your bedside table. (I’d use as a ring dish!)
+Already eyeing some art for our new home, even without knowing what it will look like. Love pop art pieces like this. So unexpected!
+A great pair of shorts for our men — comfortably straddles the line between athleisure and outside-the-house-appropriate. I love the shorter length! (Mr. Magpie loves this style, too, and owns a few pairs!). Could be worn with a button-down or tee.
+This storage bench!!!! Love the print and currently 25% off.
+Speaking of toys for little girls….the highlight of mini’s birthday haul? Her astronaut set-up: this blow-up space shuttle, this astronaut suit, and the matching helmet. She even insisted on wearing it to the park for her birthday playdate. She turned a lot of heads en route. I overheard a little boy ask his mother for the helmet!