Some of my most real writing- the most vulnerable, transparent material I write, comes from an experience in which I mess up royally and then learn a few lessons in the process.
Yesterday was one of those days.
But first: I don’t want my life or any of the lives in which I am in the position to influence, either through my writing, my teaching , my parenting or any other meaningful way of relating to be ever left with a message from me that life in Lori Gard’s world is one of roses and marshmallow fluff. That I never make mistakes. That I don’t have a multitude of life lessons to learn in my own journey. My writing has been for me a form of therapy, at times, in which I reflect on my day and try to find the bigger picture: the underlying message. What is the take away from today that I want to remember? What did I learn about myself and the world around me that can help me grow as a person and improve on where I am today…so that where I am tomorrow will be a better place?
So back to yesterday. Don’t we all have those days in which we would give a $100 dollars so as to just re-do it over again? Or maybe not. Maybe it is better that yesterday is behind us, and tomorrow is already on its way. No matter.
Yesterday, I began the day with a to-do list in mind- hustle,bustle. Rush,rush. Those days can go one or two ways- really good, or really, really bad. So by the time noon rolled around, I was already operating on about half my brain cells. I was using a half-tank of gas. So you can appreciate this when I say it: when we make mistakes that cost us dearly, it is important for us to remember our frame of mind before hand. Were we stressed? Tired? Anxious? Overwhelmed? Frustrated? Exhausted?
So at lunchtime, I was sitting back, taking in the scene around me- caught up in the moment: and I said something to someone. Something not very nice. Something I would never have said under ordinary circumstances. Something I meant to be a joke, but as soon as it was said: I realized wasn’t very funny. I could see the shock on my friend’s face. I immediately tried to think about what I had just said. Did I say that? And why? Quickly, I registered my thinking process. I knew in my heart that I had just got caught up in the moment, but she she know that? Did she understand the intent was not to hurt?
As a teacher, I have drilled into my students the concept of being a “bucket-filler”. Bucket-filling is when a person heaps up kindness onto another person so as to make that person feel accepted and valued. It is a positive way of interacting with other people. Bucket-dipping is when we say or do things to other people that take away that feel-good feeling from the person. It is when we dip into another person’s bucket that things go wrong. I teach my students and children to be bucket-fillers, of course, but after yesterday I wondered something: do I give kids the proper message about bucket-filling?
We as humans are never going to be bucket-fillers all the time. We are not always going to get it right. There are going to be moments throughout our day- everyday- in which we slip up and do or say things to others that are not nice. I think it is important to recognize that we are not perfect. We cannot eliminate entirely bucket-dipping from society- from our schools, our homes or our communities. A better approach to teaching around bucket-filling would be to show kids that messing up happens: it is a part of life. It’s what comes next that makes all the difference.
So again: back to yesterday. I realized immediately what I had done was hurtful- even though my intention had not been to inflict pain. And I went to that person. And I apologized. Profusely. In tears. And I told the person I was sorry.
And two things miraculously happened. I had an opportunity to realize that I am never going to be a perfect bucket-filler all the time: I am prone to failure actually a large percentage of the time. That’s the first- it was a realization that I mess up. But as soon as I apologized, my dear friend: She showed me grace. So I had the extraordinary opportunity to experience another person’ forgiveness. What a wonderful, exhilarating experience that is.
I don’t want the students I teach or my own four, precious children whom I parent to ever think they have to be bucket-fillers all the time. That’s an unrealistic goal. They won’t be that. I can’t be. We all can’t be. We are HUMAN. We are frail. We make mistakes. We mess up. Life lesson #1 is: being a bucket-filler every moment of the day is an exhausting challenge to live up to. So, I want my kids (all of them, because the school ones are mine too…) to know this: you can’t always be a bucket-filler every moment of the day.
And when we make those slip-ups, that’s where Life Lesson #2 comes into play: we can learn from our errors and use those opportunities to understand people better. We can put ourselves into those other people’s shoes, even if for but a moment. We can empathize with the person we’ve hurt- intentionally or otherwise: because empathy is a good opportunity to learn what it felt like, what it was to them to be “bucket-dipped. And we can also identify with them through heart-felt apology.
And if marvelous grace comes back our way, then bucket-filling has come full circle.
Grace is like that: it smooths out the rough edges, it salves the soul. It truly is marvelous.
I would never want my readers to only see the best of me- that’s not real. So this is me un-cut. Unrevised. In all my messy glory. And this is also me- a work in process. Growing step by step, a day by day.
We are more than the best, most shiny parts we show the world: and sometimes, it’s the rough edges that give the clearest picture of what it truly means to be a human.