I’ve made plenty of mistakes in my life; it’s a safe bet I’ll make more before I’m done. Hopefully plenty of time to make plenty more doo-doos.
But as my biological odometer clocks up another year – I turned 63 yesterday – and I anticipate, warily, the scrapheap, my thoughts turn less to celebration than to chagrin. I think of all the people I’ve let down, over the years, people who had the right to expect better of me. I’m reminded of those I have hurt, seldom deliberately I’d like to think, but all too often out of hubris, or pride, or selfishness; out of a truly world-class ability to delude myself. I think of the many, many times I’ve behaved like an asshole. Frankly, I’m embarrassed.
And I am sorry, really sorry, for all I’ve done wrong in the world (if you are reading this, and recognize who you are, if you are one of those I have injured or let down or offended, I hope you will forgive me).
I realise one doesn’t get off that easily, of course – a written apology, posted on the internet, and in return, a get-out-of-jail-free card. In religious terms (I am not religious) contrition must be followed by penance, and atonement; psychologists will tell you behaviour change, not regret, is what’s really important.
I agree with all this. But in trying to do better, and be better, I must also acknowledge my baked-in imperfection. By which I mean, not the biblical flaw that follows from Adam and Eve and that serpent stuff, but the limitations and faults that come with my particular historical, sociological, parental and personal territory. Not to mention the choices I have made, and the roads not taken.
Shift happens – as my former life-coach Helena Dolny would put it – but shit happens, also.
Instead of the hubris of seeking perfection, a little self-improvement, a little self-mockery, a little self-chiding, and a small, very small dose of self-forgiveness may turn out to be the beginnings of wisdom.
At 63, that seems like something worth working for.