last week of july
It’s Thursday morning. It’s still quiet and I sit at my desk. I breathe relatively easy and wonder whether today is the day I am able to do so all day or not. When the phone rings, I check the number and I cross my fingers and pray it is someone from within. I search for traces of the damage I have caused and am pleased to not find any. I allow myself to think that the next I will hear of my incident is from within – not from the outside world. This comforts me to some degree, allows me to breathe.
It’s Wednesday evening. Extremely tired and worn out I have crawled under the covers and am closing my eyes. I immediately start thinking about the last couple of days. Despite the tiredness I need to form sentences, explain the incident, the days, my actions.
J doesn’t ask me what I am thinking. I know he knows what I am thinking of. He always asks. Except for tonight. I am grateful. I need to be able to just close my eyes and sweep my thoughts away to a wonderland where everything is possible – quitting included.
It’s Wednesday around noon. The day so far has only consisted of one bad episode, one that shook me, no doubt, but also one that I was able to digest in an hour or two and then get on with life. An e-mail brings me right back to the land of misery. I write J telling him I wish I could quit. I sit at my desk and the tears start rolling in. I do nothing to stop them. No one sees them, but I couldn’t care if they did. I find myself wishing I could quit, wishing I could just leave a notice to my boss saying “I am sorry, but I can’t stay” and then just leave. Could we afford it? I know we couldn’t, but it doesn’t prevent me from thinking about it, wanting it to be a possibility.
I find myself wishing I was still a child. Things were so much easier when you were younger. When quitting was an option. When your life wasn’t fully depending on your staying somewhere, on your continuing to do something.
I am 13. I am humiliated at a basket ball tournament with school. And for days after every single person at school, my age or older (including my crush), comes up to me and gives me some sort of funny comment relating to the humiliation. All I want is to be left alone and get on with the life I lived before.
My mother won’t let me quit. She insists I keep playing the entire season she has paid for. No matter how hard I try to explain the humiliation, she insists that I get back up on the horse and continue. I accept this. Sort of. I don’t go. Instead I spend every single Thursday (the day of practice) with my best friend at her house. When I come home in the evening, I unpack my unused clothes and hang a completely dry towel to dry in my parents’ basement. My mother and I never talk about this. I accept her insisting I go, and she accepts my not doing so.
It’s Tuesday morning. We all make mistakes. Some are grand and grave, others are smaller and easier forgotten. But the thing is that while you’re in the middle of your mistake, little or big, it’s the aftermath that is the worst.
And that is exactly where I am this Tuesday morning. My giant f***-up from yesterday has naturally not been forgotten overnight. I arrive at my desk early and start my day by looking around and assessing the damages. It looks better than I have feared, and the guilt lifts a little of my shoulders and let me breathe easily and pain free for the first time since yesterday around lunch time. But the breathing space I am creating for myself is soon enough invaded by people who know about the incident as well as by people who don’t (but wants to know).
It is a long and anxiety themed walk I take to apologise to the person who has had to clean up my mess. And this person takes, as one self might also do, the opportunity to tell me exactly what I have done wrong and exactly how inexperienced I am and how I am of almost so little importance that I might not even be part of the food chain. And as I stand there, stomach aching as hell, my only consolation is that, thankfully, I checked everything with a colleague which means that, even though my name is the only one “written on” the incident, I am not the only one with bad judgement. And it comforts me that my colleague has been really great and has done nothing but admit that she is to blame as well.
I want to quit, but I can’t quit my job. Technically I could, but that wouldn’t be the greatest of moves. I wonder what would have happened if I hadn’t quit basket ball all those years ago. Would I ever be allowed to forget the humiliation? Would playing ever again become fun?
I write an email to J in which I write that I console myself with the fact that at least this time I am surrounded by grownups and that I hope they will do nothing but shrug their shoulders and say “anyone can make a mistake”. If this happens I will be proven wrong in my assumption that grownups are really just children. (Only just slightly more sophisticated in their way of acting around each other.)
Quitting isn’t an option. Facing the f***-up and moving on is the only thing I can do.
It’s Monday morning. I am back from a long weekend that’s been filled with sun and water and doing nothing. I feel as if my energy level has been raised, as if I am ready for the week. I have had a great morning, have kissed my caramel coloured boyfriend goodbye and have told him I can’t wait to see him again in the evening. I get about an hour and a half, maybe two, then the phone rings.
It’s Tuesday afternoon. J sends me an e-mail with the subject “Comfort kisses from me”. He tells me to get on with life, to let it go, to see the incident in perspective. “It was tiny, it was nothing. Sure it was unfortunate, but look at it: It was nothing. In a week no one will care.” And then he writes this (thank you): “The problem is that you and I don’t think we are perfect, infallible and immortal creatures. Our mistakes haunt us – and we take them for way more than they are, we let them haunt us way more than we should. That’s just us. We give them way too much space. EVERYBODY makes mistakes – even those who consider themselves to be perfect, infallible and immortal.”