I slipped up again. I really did. This time it wasn’t the stairs that plotted my downfall; it was my own self. The last time I wrote to you, I vowed that I would learn from my mistakes and embrace all of my failures. So, this truly is the time for me to practice what I preach. Here comes the moment when I must learn to give myself some grace. Yes, I can strive to improve through my mishaps and to be a better version of myself. Along with this, I must also show myself the love and kindness that comes through grace in order to find true and lasting improvement within. This is the battle that I faced just over a week ago.
I was just waiting for something like this to happen. Hmm. Now that I think of it, maybe I even willed it to happen so that I would have a good story to share with you. Well, whatever the case is, I think that you will see why I struggled with writing to you this time around. Now, would you like me to reveal what it is that has left me so ashamed?
*Sigh* Here it goes.
I’m driving home from work. I’m hungry. I’m tired and I’m driving. I come to a red light for a left turn and who is in front of me? A police officer. So I turn down my mellow music, I sit up a little straighter, and I tune in my focus to driving as safely as I can. Breathe, Celina. You are not in any trouble. It’s just an officer driving in front of you and if you focus, you’ll be just fine. Calm your heart, relax, and focus. (This was more or less my internal dialogue as I waited for the light to turn green). After a minute of waiting, we finally turn. I notice a cross walk coming up and process that this is a busy street and many people walk across the cross walk. I make sure to look to my left to ensure that no one is waiting to cross. Check! No one there. Now, Celina, look quickly to your right and make sure that no one is waiting there on the other side to cross. I turn my gaze to the right and…Oh shoot!!! I see the cop start to stop for someone to cross and I try to break, but it’s too late. My heart sinks as I drive over the parallel white lines. I slow down even more and look into my rear view window, and what do I see now? The lights of the police car flashing to pull me over. “Don’t cry. Keep it together. Breathe. Do not cry.”
Long story short, I am proud to say that I did not end up crying until after the officer left my window. Oh yeah, and I did end up getting a ticket. I can’t help but think that maybe if I had cried he would have shown more mercy on my crushed soul. Instead, I humbled myself and accepted responsibility for my error. I apologized as sincerely as was possible, but it was no use, he came back to my window after several minutes and handed me the vile piece of yellow paper. Now, I must pay my ticket, attend traffic school, and be even more vigilant when I drive. His last words to me were, “This doesn’t mean that you are a terrible person, it just means that you made a mistake.” But of course I felt like the absolute worst person as I drove away with tears streaming from my eyes and flooding my petite, shame-filled car.
Shame. Guilt. This is what keeps so many of us from forgiving ourselves and allowing us to shine grace within our own hearts. My slip up may have been a simple mistake, but it left me feeling so ashamed. I was so mad at myself for making this mistake. I was and still am so grateful that no one was hurt. I do know that my driving error could have been serious and I thank God that it panned out the way it did. This sense of conviction and awareness is a good thing; yet, accepting responsibility is not my issue. For a couple days after the incident my mind obsessed over how I could have prevented this from happening. If only I had looked to my right first. If only the police officer hadn’t of been driving in front of me, then I wouldn’t have been so nervous and made this mistake. And my thoughts went on and on, torturing me. Although I did share this event with a few people, I couldn’t even buck up the courage to tell some of my closest friends until today because I felt this sense of cruel shame and guilt.
I know that everyone deals with the battle between guilt and forgiveness. We make mistakes that are simpler than driving errors everyday and we even do things that are far worse. No matter the significance of the mistake, I see that many people grasp onto shame because they feel like they need to punish themselves. Isn’t the actual mistake punishment enough? After we listen to that conviction and learn something from our mishaps, shouldn’t we let go of punishing ourselves even further? I believe that it is so important for us to allow ourselves to see the wrong in our actions and then to move forward and bask in the peace that comes with grace. This is where true growth, maturity, and joy comes from.
I recently began teaching preschoolers in an amazing program, which has been such a challenging and exciting part of my journey. But man, the areas that you could use improvement in shine bright and clear when you are working with these inquisitive and energetic little humans. As I was recently struggling with accepting my own short comings, I started to think about these children that I am working with and the things that I want to teach them. My goal, after all, is to be an intentional and inspirational teacher. I don’t want to simply teach my students their letters and colors–all of which are valuable things–but I also want to equip them with the tools that will give them the opportunity to function (No!) thrive in this world that is so chaotic. So I found myself seriously considering this. How am I supposed to teach my students to learn from their slip ups and move forward in a loving way if I can’t do this myself? Children are quite perceptive. I often find that they use their intuition more so than many adults that I have had experience with do. They see when we are hard on ourselves and fail to show grace. They learn that this is the way to handle failure. I, for one, want to break this viscous cycle. Even if I only truly touch a few of the children that I directly work with, I would be more than satisfied because love is contagious. True compassion and a gentle hand passed down to one can travel to mind blowing distances.
For myself and those around me, I will accept my failures, as I promised I would. Now, I also promise to show myself enough grace to let go of my tight grip on the guilt and shame attached to these failures. This means that even in the times that I am hard on myself and, heck, fail to even accept my failures, I will take a deep breath and forgive myself. I’m not saying that this isn’t going to be difficult. In fact, I am expecting this task to be an extremely challenging one. The point is that I am going to try my absolute best to do this because I want to live without the burdens of shame and guilt.
What a beautiful life this is! I got my first ticket and I will suffer the consequences, but I refuse to feel anymore shame about it. It happened. I learned my lesson, and I will move forward with a smile on my face. I have too many hopes and dreams for myself to let negative circumstances and feelings permanently hold me back.
Until next time!
P.S. My back is all healed! Well, it has healed from my most recent fall at least. And though I now have a quiet fear of slipping on the stairs, I still run up and down those bad boys like there is no time to lose. Time is precious and, remember, life is about taking risks. Quite frankly, I prefer not to waste those valuable seconds by walking as I travel through my house.