Misteaks and Mishaps

When my son was young, he drew incessantly.  Fabulously detailed pictures of costumed characters, war scenes, tableaux of various sorts.  And he had a perfect image in his creative head about what he should produce each time.  So mistakes were problems.  He’d get frustrated with himself and decide that it was pointless to draw anymore.  A bit of black and white thinking passed on in the breast milk apparently.

My approach was to teach him that the mistake was a GOOD thing, and that it would now free him to go in a different direction entirely.  That it was information from his subconscious about how the picture SHOULD have gone, leading to something better entirely.  And eventually he started believing me.

But only, I think, because I modeled for him — in my own failures and flops — something beautiful coming from the ash heap, the phoenix rising, the potential silver lining.  I’m not a Pollyanna, but I do believe that the truth sets us free, and thus acknowledging where we are, what the reality of a situation is, or how we feel about it is the beginning of wisdom, the gate to the pathway to a solution, to redemption, to something beyond “This is the end of the world.”

I think the Psalms model that for us, as David (and others) rant at God and at their misfortune but often come around to a posture of reorientation, acknowledging that God is good even if life — temporarily — stinks.

Our family had a tradition when my children were young. Every week on our longish drive to church, at about the same spot (cued by I’m not sure what, as it was in front of a hospital), the children would say, “Mom, tell us a story of something stupid you did as a child.”  And I would oblige.  It took me a decade or so to realize that my husband did not have stories of “stupid things he did as a child” and that perhaps I was a mess.

Or a writer.  For, you see, as long as I can remember, when something awful or awkward happened, I almost immediately thought, “Oh well, at least this’ll be good material!”

When I made dinner for a date in college in my dorm room, and the chocolate cake turned out to be brick hard (inexplicably), I ceremoniously opened the window of the 5th floor room and threw the cake out.  That — to me — was preferable in its drama to simply being a bad cook.  Choose one: funny or incompetent.

When I had just delivered my second child and was returning all of the borrowed maternity clothes to my friends, I got them dry cleaned, of course.  Then I laid them on top of my car as I put the toddler and the baby in their car seats (a 20-minute operation) so we could go deliver them.  And then naturally I backed out of the driveway and ran over all the clothes.  Tire marks and all.  Hmm… back to the dry cleaners.  But I laughed my head off (as they say).  As did my girls.

I realized I’d passed the torch of “disasters can be fun” when, two or three years ago, I was making homemade avocado soup for 12 people with one of my children watching from the couch nearby.  I labored a long time, and I was finally putting the massive container of soup in the refrigerator when I dropped it.  Green, smooth (success by immersion blender!), slimy soup went all down the shelves of the refrigerator and under it, and doused also a shelf of cookbooks nearby.

Without missing a beat my daughter did two things.  She put on the song “Over My Head (Cable Car)” by The Fray, and she ran over and suggested we skate in the soup before we cleaned it up.  We danced and skated, singing — “I’m in over my head.”  I’ll never hear the song without thinking of how much fun it was to have that unexpected opportunity that day and how great it can be to make mistakes or do dumb things.

You too can entertain your children for hours if you catalog the stupid things you do and welcome their imperfections too. Ah, freedom.

~ by Cary on June 5, 2010.

2 Responses to “Misteaks and Mishaps”

  1. This is fantastic! What a great way to view life. I fully want to embrace this.

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