Sunday, February 28, 2010

Forgive Me

When I finished grad school five and a half years ago, I sent out DIY announcements to far-flung family members. I was proud of myself for earning a Master's degree and teaching freshman composition at a university in my mid-20s; prouder still that I'd financed the venture myself, had written a thesis in one semester. On a sunny May afternoon Mom called to say she'd received my precious home-made card in the mail. I detected the tremor in her voice immediately; what she said next made me dizzy. "But sweetheart, doesn't 'announcement' have two Ns in it?"

After screaming and sobbing and desperately venting to my fellow grads, I decided not to resend the announcements, not to write a mea culpa post-script. After all, I was the one suffering; some people probably never noticed. But I can honestly say that even as I was trekking through the June-green jungle of Costa Rica a month later, the horror of spelling "anouncement" as I announced my graduate (English!) degree made me cringe. Eventually I got over it, and even came to savor the awful comedic irony.

But, oh, the pain of forgiving myself.

This episode has been on my mind this weekend, as I again try to have mercy on myself. On a rainy Friday afternoon nothing is better than a handful of rag-tag high school kids---playing harmonica, sharing a giant cookie, looking forward to a sleep-over---bouncing around inside the creaky school van on our way home from viewing the fantastical animated Oscar shorts. What a treat, to go to the movies during the day-time, to watch Wallace and Gromit for the first time, to relish every minute. But then trouble comes, in the form of a belligerent old grump who steals our parking spot and then yells at us for parking the van in front of his house. I don't yell or scream or curse, but in the most caustic sarcastic tone I can muster, I do let this man know that his joyless existence is annoying the heck out of me. I'm fuming as I climb back into the van. And then I turn around and see my sweet-cheeked little students, all wide-eyed and befuddled at the stupidity of grown-up grouchiness. I feel awful. Aren't I supposed to be a role model? Shouldn't I be gracious and kind, full of deep breaths?

Not twenty-four hours later I'm congratulating myself for writing five short pieces for the Bohemian's upcoming issue, for interviewing people and fashioning clever titles and greeting the Friday deadline like an old chum. And then something makes me look again at the jacket of the book I reviewed, and there's that dizziness: I added a word to the title and a "c" to the author's last name. Now, sure, I made the corrections, re-sent the document, managed a light-hearted apology to the editor, and can rest easy knowing that tragedy has been averted. But still there's the lingering doubt that tagged along all day today, as I huffed up a hill in the Glen Ellen wilderness and munched a sandwich in the glary afternoon sunshine, that uninvited intruder that would rather taunt than forgive.

I could go on and on about all the missteps and failures of late: not doing those 30 daily push-ups, missing a fun hootenanny last night, not finishing Eudora Welty's autobiography, leaving dirty dishes in a Sunday evening sink. But damn, do these really matter all that much? Does it really matter that I post this blog tonight, the final night of February, so that I don't fail to post four blogs a month, roughly one a week, my goal?

Sadly, it does.

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