sweater and sunhat

Being On My Own Side.

“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?

Post-Scripts.

+Positively drooling over this dress. The neckline! The silhouette! The stripes! AHHHH!

+Perspective I needed to gain.

+This scallop-trim tankini for girls is beyond adorable. Also comes in a one-piece. Marysia vibes!

+The prettiest spring earrings.

+J’adore this eyelet top — currently on sale for under $50. SEA vibes!

+OMG – these pearl-studded sandals are calling my name! Eek! Especially love the black. Would be tres chic with the $29 black midi I think we all bought.

+Clever new addition to my at-home manicure routine.

+Sweet cableknit cardigan for a little boy or girl.

+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.

+Speaking of RR, I just added their new green monkey pajamas to my cart for Hill, and while I was there, added these heart-embroidered slippers for myself.

+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!)

+This scalloped tennis skirt!!!

+Gorgeous white dress for a bride-to-be.

+Already eyeing some art for our new home, even without knowing what it will look like. Love pop art pieces like this. So unexpected!

+These ruffle sleep shorts look like a dream for warm weather.

+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.

+And some great home finds if you’re channeling a Nancy Meyers movie.

+The sweetest bin for a nursery — we have several by this brand and they are darling. Great for things like Maileg mice and their accessories.

+Speaking of toys for little girls….the highlight of mini’s birthday haul? Her astronaut set-up: this blow-up space shuttlethis 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!

+Easter finds.

8 Comments

  1. I love the sentiment here and that phrase, “you have to mean not to.” Being truly considerate is a skill, not just something that happens.

    Interestingly, I find the opposite perspective is more helpful when I’m the one who has been wronged. When someone hurts me, I try to also think about their intentions and not just how it made me feel. Intentions speak to character of that person, in my opinion, far more than the offense does and that view helps me give others the benefit of the doubt. It helps me be slow to judge and quick to forgive–something I’m certain I will spend the rest of my existence trying to master.

    1. “Being truly considerate is a skill, not just something that happens.” Yes! 100x. I love everything you’ve written here — major goals for me.

      xx

  2. I have a hard time with this myself. We are all our own worst critics.

    One thing I try (TRY) to remember is that the hurt has already happened, and my self-recriminations can’t undo the action itself. Dwelling on the circumstances that led to my infraction, or dwelling on how terrible, silly, or thoughtless I was to commit the infraction, does not negate that I still did something that hurt someone else. However, indulging in that type of thinking (or even worse, indulging in belabored conversations over how silly, thoughtless, or terrible I was with the offended party) CAN make the effect of those actions worse – certainly for me, and likely for others affected. It turns the attention back on me and what I am feeling – which is not what I should want; it’s not about me!

    Instead, I need to acknowledge the wrongdoing, apologize for the wrongdoing (without explanation or excuses), and focus on my actions moving forward – as you say, “mean not to” do that type of action again. And then I MUST let it go.

    1. I like this formula – and totally agree with your point that belaboring the point (especially with an audience) is a particularly bad and unproductive look. Onward!!

  3. I think about this a lot, especially the difference between intent and impact. How many times have we been hurt or hurt someone without intention for it to be hurtful? And often the indifference, the “I wasn’t even thinking about that” or “I have so much else going on!!” is what hurts the most! Our emotions and feelings are not a court of law; impact almost always trumps intent emotionally.

    This might sound counterintuitive to being on your own side but I think it’s actually helped me in this regard. I know when I’ve been hurt, constant apologizing or self-flagellation only bothers me – I just want some acknowledgment of the hurt! So I try to pull myself out of the “I’m a horrible person thinking” by reminding myself I acted carelessly and that was hurtful – acknowledge, apologize, and try not to do it again!

    Also – just to commiserate: I also recently had a “forgetting a sister” moment when my cousin and I were planning a trip (that ended up not happening – thanks covid). I didn’t even think to ask my sister because of her work schedule, lack of interest etc. But she was really, really hurt and said it was emblematic of an ongoing dynamic – nothing I had intended or noticed but clearly very hurtful to her! I felt like sh!t (pardon my french!) after hearing that but it also gave me pause to have the clarity that my sister would always rather say no than not be asked at all. But…hard to be on my own side in this one!

    1. Oh Molly – So been there with that sister dynamic! And you are so right that impact always trumps intent. It just adds insult to injury to say “I hadn’t even thought about it…” I like your way of snapping out of things. I’m not a bad person, but I acted carelessly and hurt someone because of it. Apologize, learn, dust myself off, onward!

      xoxo

  4. Ahhh I love the image of astronaut mini on the way to the park!!

    I have very high expectations of everyone (which I am trying to relax) but I am hardest on myself! Motherhood has been a great opportunity to relax standards bc there is simply no other option! Something is always slipping through the cracks, or being pushed off until tomorrow, or forgotten entirely. And no way do I want my daughters to feel like they are constantly disappointing me over trivial little things. But it is still so hard to cut myself slack! I am right there with you. Going to try to be on my own side more often…

    1. Hi Stephanie – Thank you so much for this. You totally nailed it. It is hard to cut myself slack — I hold myself to the highest standards! I have a hard time letting go / getting over when I’ve made a misstep.

      xx

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