Thursday, December 27, 2012

Knowing when to stop

Have you ever met one of those people that goes just one step too far?

Think about it. You know who I'm talking about. A name or some sort of mental image probably just popped into your head. Maybe your brain even went back to a particularly embarrassing incident that you're still cleaning up or have been trying really hard to forget.

My apologies.

But you know who I mean. The people with the broken filters. It's that friend or family member or co-worker who lulls you into a false sense of security by contributing just the right amount of something special to the conversation and then metaphorically pulling the rug out from under your feet with some awful comment to ruin the moment.

Cue uncomfortable silence, nervous laughter, or a whole lot of cringing. If you're really lucky, the group gets to experience all three of those things, plus more. Really, there's a whole spectrum of possible outcomes.

Trust me, I know.

I have that friend who goes just one step too far with their inappropriate humor. I have that family member who is just a little too honest and blunt. And believe me, I've known that person who just does not seem to know when to stop.

These qualities may cause those of us around them to shake our heads and sigh, but there's typically no malice in this occurrence. While I do believe it's something that needs to be worked at and improved upon, it doesn't make those guilty of this faux pas bad people. Maybe it even makes those of us closest to them better people.

We become better buffers. We learn to spin a situation like the best and most experienced of politicians. Being with them is a lesson in preparedness and reaction time, because we know someone is going to have to jump in and find a way smooth things over. We embrace the graceful steps of the delicate dance of damage control. We become just a little more forgiving and let things roll off our shoulders with a tiny bit more ease because we know it does no use to take these moments to heart.

And we become really grateful people who count it among our blessings that we don't know the taste of crow quite so well.

But even though many of us do not count this embarrassing public quality among our personality hiccups, we actually kind of may in private.

Like me.

To a certain extent, I was made for diplomacy. I was blessed with a pretty good filter and a fair amount of grace and refinement, and I know people. I can feel out a situation and know what needs to be said or where a conversation needs to go (most of the time). Basically, it's pretty rare that I find my own foot in my mouth.

But then there are the things that I don't say. I know this is very 1984-"Big-Brother"-esque, but I'm often guilty of thought crime. It could be that my brain is wired weird or something, because my train of thought has a tendency to derail. And not just off the tracks derail, but crash-through-the-"bridge-out-ahead"-sign-and-over-the-cliff-derail. That could be a bit dramatic, but maybe not.

All I know, is that I can be in a perfectly good place and then take my thinking just one step too far.

I'll lie in bed at night and think about my blessings. I'll reflect on the good times and laughter and happiness of the day or even just my life in general and find myself at the perfect place to stop.

But then I pull the rug out from underneath myself.

I think about that one thing. That one thing that I just can't let go of. The one thing that is the thought that is one step too far. My own personal faux pas against myself.

And I cringe. And laugh nervously. And find myself in an uncomfortable silence that is usually only broken by sobs. Pathetic.

What makes me make myself sad when I have so much cause to be happy?

Why more and more lately do I find myself staying up late watching television or reading until I can't keep my eyes open just so I don't lie awake thinking?

I preach about the importance of being happy with what we have.

I reassure and reason and remind people that they are so much better off than others.

But I beat up on myself.

And it's not about everything or anything, but just that one thing. The one thing that I want but ruined. 

My thought filter is broken and the only person I'm hurting is myself. I'm the only person judging myself, and I'm the only person who can smooth things over. I'm the only person who can spin the situation, but I don't know how. I'm just not that graceful, and I don't know the steps to this damage control dance.

But I want to be better. I know that this needs to be worked at and improved upon.

I can't do anything to change my situation. I can only change my perspective and attitude, and I have been reminded of this. I know this. I know better. And I will keep reminding myself of this, because it is the only thing I can do. I can't keep hurting.

But, with help, I can learn to be prepared for dealing with those moments where I'm tempted to keep on going. I can try to step up and save me from myself. I can learn the dance, and I can be a little bit more forgiving and let it roll off my shoulders with a little bit more ease those times when I fail.

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