Something I’ve talked a little bit about on this blog is that I, like many people, sometimes struggle with bad anxiety. One of the ways my anxiety manifests itself is by my brain wandering during a mundane task1 and filling itself with a fast-motion replay of everything stupid I have ever done or said, or every awkward interaction I have ever caused. Then, after playing these memories back to me in quick succession and excruciating detail, my brain reminds me that the reason all these horrific moments exist is because of me and my inability to function as a normal human being.
Then it laughs maniacally and walks away, leaving me wilting into a puddle of anxious self-loathing.
When this happens, the only thing I can do is stand there, helpless and immobile, and say things like, “Brain….brain, wut r u doing? Brain, SHTAP.”
As you can imagine, this is not very effective.
Another thing I have talked about a little bit here on the blog is my passionate obsession with the book Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. Recently, a friend shared with me an amazing blog called Terrible Yellow Eyes, an art project dedicated to collecting artistic interpretations of WTWTA. Naturally, I spent a few hours looking at and drooling over all of them, and then proceeded to pin most of them to my Pinterest board2.
There was one in particular I fell in love with, this sketch of a defiant Max by artist Dustin Nguyen. I liked it a lot the first time I came across it in my casual scrolling through the blog. Then I read the title, and fell in love with it.
The sketch is called “Hold Your Mistake Up.”
If you haven’t read WTWTA since you were a kid, you might have missed that at its core, it’s a book about getting angry, doing something thoughtless, wallowing for a while, then letting it go and asking for forgiveness. Pretty lovely and relatable stuff. But one of the key parts of this journey is the messing up, the saying or doing something dumb or mean or just plain stupid. Not necessarily because you’re angry or upset. Sometimes just because we all say and do dumb things.
So what do we do after we, like Max, have returned from our wild rumpus of stupidity or awkwardness or thoughtlessness? After forgiveness, then what?
Well then you have to forgive yourself, and part of that includes holding that mistake up and acknowledging you made it. We don’t have to hide it or let ourselves be shamed by it. We thrust it up and say, “Once I did this thing, and it was dumb or wrong, but now I’ve learned from it and will try not to do it again.” Will we do it again? Probably. But the point is that you’re trying not to. You learn from it. You get better.
I love this idea of holding up things in our life that made us who we are, good and bad, and this picture, with Max with that defiant look on his face thrusting up his staff, the memory of his wild rumpus, captures it perfectly for me. So next time my brain is a jerk and starts nudging me with its elbow while whispering, “Hey…hey, remember that time you made a complete idiot of yourself?” I shall fling my metaphorical staff into the air and say, “Yeah, Brain, I do. What about it?” Let’s see if that shuts the old brain up4.
- Something ordinary and harmless, like riding the subway or shelving books at work. Or occasionally something less mundane that I actually need to be paying attention to or devoting energy to, but I am then unable to pay attention or devote energy to because my brain gets in the way. Dumb brain.
- I’m sorry3, Pinterest followers!
- I’m not sorry.
- These are the weird musings I sometimes have about children’s books and life. I think it’s a result of being a recovering grad student5. Alright, now go back to your knitting.
- More on the recovering part next week.