There is, somewhere, being decoded in my hippocampus, a list. A list of all the mistakes I’ve ever made. I keep track of them like I’m taking notes; they are organized by age, some are bolded and highlighted, some are scribbled off to the side, some I have attempted to erase and not think about but can still see the faint outline of a reminder. I’m always working on the list. Bad Judgments. Missed opportunities for kindness. Simple, plain stupidity.
Mistakes are considered “normal” and “healthy”. We all make mistakes, they say, as they pat me on the back and shake their heads with knowing, painted, artificial grins. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Mistakes help you decide who you want to be! It’s in the past, leave it be.
But what if you can’t?
What if every second you lie awake at night is more torment for the moment, that one specific moment you chose to do wrong instead of right? What if your conscience tears at your dreams, humiliating you over and over until you force yourself awake, away from your nightmares? What if the more mistakes we make, the longer we are enslaved to reliving them?
My reality is that I am obsessed with fixing my errors. Every day, I set out to try to prove that I am not my mistakes. I want to prove it to the world but more importantly, I want to prove it to myself…. Yet the blunt, cold truth remains that I can never recalculate my miscalculations. I’ll never be separated from the hurt I’ve caused others. That is an unbearable pain to me.
Perhaps this is an uncommon belief, but I don’t believe mistakes are healthy. I believe they are unavoidable and that everyone makes them, but I don’t believe that just because they “happen” they should be taken lightly. To me, mistakes are evidence that I am imperfect, that I am inferior, that I need forgiveness and the grace of God. They are my greatest weaknesses, my greatest sources of pain. They are a part of me. But tonight, as I lay awake thinking about them, I decided something.
They will not be the part of me I live for.
It’s something easy to say but so incredibly challenging for me to actually commit to. For years I have wrestled with the strangling thought that I am the person who is least deserving of my own forgiveness, and while I still think it is mostly true, I will not be owned by my guilt any longer. For my family, for my friends, for myself I will accept that I will be forever flawed. I won’t try to use my mistakes for meaning or purpose; I will live better because I love my God, my family, and my friends- and they deserve someone who isn’t burdened by life. They deserve the unencumbered love of a mom, a daughter, a wife- not the furious love of an artist trying desperately to paint over and cover a blemish. I am going to acknowledge that I have done wrong and will do wrong, but I am not going to let the inevitability of sin lead me to a complacent life. It’s going to be difficult and it’s definitely not going to happen overnight- but I’m going to take a stand against my actions that have devastated my heart and soul and leave them behind. For me, it’s going to be the hardest thing I ever do.
If you’re reading this and you’ve been living your mistakes behind your eyelids at night, or during the day, or any time at all… It’s time you did the same. You only have so many days to spread love and happiness on the Earth. Don’t waste your time re-writing your list.