Mistakes

This is actually not a story about gardening, but it may seem like it at first.

Imagine that you have a large piece of property and want to create a garden and fill it with all sorts of wonderful vegetables. You think to yourself, what steps do I need to take to make this happen?

Knowing what you want to plant and when it would be the best time to get started would be helpful. So too would knowing how to prepare and fertilize the soil and fence it in properly so all of the animals in the area don’t eat your crop before you do.

But, I believe one of the very first steps would be to consider how big you want your garden to be. Once you’ve decided, you could measure the plot outline and place stakes at each one of the corners. And, maybe you’d want to string a line between the stakes so that you can get a better idea of the scope of your garden.

Cultivating the soil and planting your seeds might come next, however, I suggest you consult a real gardener or farmer for the best methods.

For my purposes, I’d like you to imagine that you’ve done all of the prep work and have begun planting your seeds and suddenly realize, that despite your best efforts, you don’t have enough space for everything.

Imagine what your reaction is to this situation.

Are you angry with yourself? Do you berate your lack of forethought? Do you feel like giving up?

Or, do you shift and focus on solutions? Do you think to yourself, all I have to do is move two of the stakes, so I can fit everything in? I’ve just made a simple ‘miss-stake’.

That’s all it really is…you’ve placed the stakes in spots that don’t work for you, so you pull two up and relocate them and then everything is okay again. Simple.

I really love the idea of…simple.

Imagine now that we’re talking about life and not a garden.

You want to experience or create something in your life, so you go about doing the things you believe will make it real for you. But, you know that there are things you don’t understand and that there will be challenges you’ll need to overcome.

You are human and part of that is making mistakes.

No matter how controlled, no matter how intelligent or careful or thoughtful you are, you will make mistakes. You’ll set something up, put something into motion, relate to another person, organize, plan and yet, you’ll make mistakes.

The good and wonderful news is…that’s okay and is to be expected. In fact, I believe, all mistakes lead us in the direction we truly wish to go. That is, unless we allow them to define us and our actions, so that we lose faith in ourselves. Rather than seeing our mistakes as taking away from us, we have the choice to shift our perspective and open to seeing mistakes as redirecting our path toward our best self.

When we shift our focus, we change the course of our lives. There is no more failure or need for negative thoughts about our self. We can see that each mistake offers us an opportunity to find a new and better path. We can be grateful for the insight brought into view and simply change the location of the stakes in our lives.

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Release From Self-Made Prisons

I was shocked to discover that the United States of America has over 2.12 million people in prison, the most of any nation on earth. This is even more astounding when you consider the US has a population of less than 24% of China or India, the two largest countries in the world.

This got me to thinking about prisons in general.

I admit, being sent to prison is one of my greatest irrational fears. The idea that I would not see all of those I love and have my freedom restricted for an extensive amount of time, is an intense and upsetting feeling. Knowing I haven’t done anything to deserve going to prison plays no part in this equation.

And yet, I wonder, am I not in a prison of my own making? Aren’t we all?

I listen to my own words and the words of others and what I often hear is self judgement and recrimination for actions we have taken or for actions we feel we should have taken.

What we tell ourselves can create some pretty high walls and some very strong doors. And the light that gets in may be too dim for us to see well.

The words we use to describe our lives are extremely important. They can provide us freedom or send us to our own internal prison.

According to the dictionary, prison is a place where inmates are confined and denied a variety of freedoms under some ruling authority. If a crime has been committed, the result may very well be incarceration in a prison with a loss of freedom until the sentence has been served.

But what about when we commit ourselves to a self-made prison?

When we deem our actions to be worthy of judgement, we may lock ourselves away, convinced we deserve to be isolated from the world.

Our mistakes might be minor or major, but they result in the same action, a prison sentence of our own making. We can be so hard on ourselves and may tend to focus on our infractions, rather than on their resolution.

So many things could be made ‘right’ by expressing sorrow for our actions and apologizing, then taking some action to make things better. When we fail to do this, we strengthen and extend our internal prison sentence. Our inaction holds us in place and our suffering continues.

There are ways out prison.

One is parole, where a prisoner receives an early release after agreeing to abide by certain conditions. And, the other way is a pardon, which is an act of being forgiven for an offense or error that has been committed. The proverbial ‘get out of jail free card’.

In both of these cases, it is the ruling authority which has granted the action of release, one with conditions, the other without.

What about us and our release from our own prisons? Can we open ourselves to the realization that we can be forgiven for our actions or inactions? Can we allow ourselves some latitude to live a free life, seeing our mistakes and yet letting ourselves off the hook? Can we find ways to make amends and clear the way forward?

How wonderful it would be to accept our own pardon and free up space inside of our self. Imagine what you could do if you released all of your guilt and shame and fear. What an enormous sense of freedom it would bring. Who knows what could be done with all of that beautiful open space? I hope you accept your own pardon and live a wonderful life.

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Do Overs

When I was a kid we resorted to the strategy of ‘do overs’ a lot, finding countless opportunities to take advantage of this practice. And why not? Everybody makes mistakes and wants a chance to do better.

It starts pretty early in life.

I remember one hot summer day when I received a beautiful cold sweet ice cream cone. I was so excited that I didn’t pay enough attention as I took it from my father. You can probably guess what happened. Yup, the ice cream scoop fell onto the ground and I was left holding the cone. I don’t remember whether I screamed or cried, but I got a do over…another ice cream cone. Go Dad, you rock!

Funny thing is, that do overs are programmed in to some things, kind of a recognition that everything doesn’t always work out the first time. Take our national pastime of baseball, for example. If you’re really good or perhaps, really bad, you can stand at homeplate all day long and hit foul balls. You get to keep trying till you hit the ball between the first and third base lines. I guess Abner Doubleday liked do overs a lot.

And sometimes in school, on rare instances, if you flunked an exam, you might get an opportunity to take a make-up test. I’m not sure how this gets decided, which ones you do and which ones you don’t, but I know it exists. Not that I ever flunked a test (wink wink).

I recognize that we are usually under some kind of pressure to perform tasks and that there are often expectations attached to our results. Supposedly, some people thrive under these conditions, but more often, I believe we’d feel much better if we knew there would always be the possibility of a do over.

What if life was like tennis, where you always get a second serve. Or even golf, where you can take a ‘mulligan’ (a well-loved, but unofficial opportunity to hit your shot over again), in case you drove your golf ball into the woods. I realize this doesn’t fly in professional tournaments, but in my opinion, life isn’t a tournament

Once you transition from school to the work world, you encounter all sorts of new experiences. Sometimes there’s latitude for errors and sometimes not.

I worked as a bank teller for a few years before moving up the ladder. At the end of each shift you had to ‘prove’, meaning that all of what you took in had to equal all of what you gave out. If it didn’t match, you had to find out why. This could be a very tedious and unnerving experience, especially if the amount was significant. Surprisingly, $100 differences were not uncommon. This happened to me a couple of times. We eventually found most of them, but imagine if every teller had to be perfect every day with no allowance for mistakes. No do overs.

And then there is the world of relationships. We all make so many mistakes no matter how hard we try. Of course, we can apologize and ask for permission to try again, promising to do better and hope our do over is granted.

I feel it would help us all if we remembered that each of us is a giver and a receiver when it comes to do overs. The giver can extend mercy and compassion. They can offer encouragement and express love and leave the door open. The receiver can promise to be more thoughtful or careful. They can show gratitude and love for their second chances and do those things that they promise.

I’m going to take some time over the next few days to pay attention to giving and receiving. I’d love to have you join me, and if you’re inclined, let me know how it goes with your do overs.

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