Stephen King once wrote this great short story called “Word Processor of the Gods” about this writer who discovered that, when he typed a sentence about the picture that hung over his desk, and then deleted the sentence, the picture disappeared. The character thought long and hard — actually, no, he thought for about two minutes — and went on to delete his wife and kid, then gave himself the wife he should have had and the kid he should have had and the life he should have had, and you get the point. Anyway, how often in life have you wished with all your heart that you had a delete button for the things you’ve said and done?
My son mentioned this just today. He was feeling guilty for crying about a gift he had received years ago because it wasn’t exactly what he had wanted. Poor kid – he was, like, 10, and he still feels guilty. Let it go, kiddo!
As for me, I recently told my daughter, after a theatrical performance, that her song sounded great. “I expected you to sound crappy!” I said enthusiastically. “But you were awesome!” What?! Earlier in the week she had told me that her songs weren’t in a good range for her and she didn’t sound her best. So I was just referring to her own comments. But why the hell would I say, “I expected you to sound crappy?” Good lord! Rewind, delete, try again… (And she sounded, as always, amazing.)
Then there was the time I was at my first business conference and my boss introduced me to the conference president. I was sucking on an Altoid at the moment. The president and I shook hands and as I said, “Pleased to meet you,” the Altoid flew out of my mouth and landed on her hand. I plucked it off her hand and popped it back in my mouth, saying, “I’ll just take that back.” Uh, do-over please.
It might be useful to remember that the things we wish we could take back are usually those things that were hurtful to others, like when I told I expected her to sound crappy or when I told my son that he contributes nothing to the household. That’s just not true! He contributes so much! He’s a delight! He pronounces cucumber “coocamber” just because he likes the way it sounds. It makes us all laugh! Every time!
Just now, I’m feeling guilty for laughing because Lizzie came up the stairs in tears: she stepped on a dead spider. How big was it? She made a circle the size of a sunflower seed with her fingers. “It was all dead and dried up and awful,” she wept. She’s 15, for God’s sake! And yes, I laughed. Sorry, Liz. I’m pretty sure you have a phobia. But still…
Also, when I was about seven, my brother Mark was babysitting me while my parents were at a Christmas party. And guess what? The Year without a Santa Claus was on TV! I got to stay up late every year to watch that show because it is a classic, I tell you. There is nothing more creepy and weirdly Christmas-y than the Heat Miser and the Snow Miser. But! My brother Mark would not let me stay up past my bedtime! In vain, I explained that Mom always let me stay up. In vain, I cried. In vain I tried to kick him. Nope. Upstairs he sent me. Then – you won’t believe this – I heard him watching the show himself! I heard the awesome trombones of the Heat Miser song from the top of the stairs as he watched it without me. And I stood there trying with all my might to shout the word “ASSHOLE” at him. But I couldn’t do it. I was seven. I was a good girl. I didn’t curse. I didn’t call my brothers bad words. (Of course, in this instance I’m feeling regret for what I DIDN’T say, but the gist is the same.)
My point is, there’s no reset button and we have to forgive ourselves and others for the shitty things we say and do. We apologize and move on and hope we’re forgiven and if we’re not, well, that says more about the other person than it does about us, right?
And sometimes, the things that come out of our mouths are nothing more than comic relief, God’s way of not letting us take ourselves too seriously. For example, the whole inspiration for today’s article was this conversation my friend told me she had with her son today:
The 18-year-old son had called her while she was driving. She answered the phone while at an intersection, where a woman was apparently about to make a turn into my friend’s lane.
So my friend shouted: “Don’t pull out! I’m coming!”
To which her son answered: “God, Mom. I have to go.”
I have been entertained all damn night just thinking about that little exchange. It’s priceless. Pure gold. We humans are awesome, aren’t we?
So, Lizzie, try to forgive the dead spiders for getting underfoot and your mother for laughing (and while you’re at it, try to forgive your dad for sending you down to the spider-infested basement). Mike, keep saying coocamber and forgive your 10-year-old self for acting like a 10-year-old. Mark, I can get the Heat Miser on YouTube now, so I’ll let that grudge go. And DeAnna, just, you know, keep coming.
Have fun til next time,