On why we need to make Mistakes

Dear quarter lives,

I think most of us really hate making mistakes, but I must admit, there is definitely something to them.

You see, mistakes come in two levels depending on one’s level of self-awareness. The first level is when you make the mistake and don’t realise making it and can go on living like nothing happened, unless someone else brings it to your attention. The second level is when you make a mistake and know it in your bones. I don’t know about you but I find it so hard to sit with myself after realising I made a mistake, mainly because I find myself overwhelmed with regret and guilt that I can’t escape because I know that I know that whatever I did was wrong, and then I get stuck in a backward loop in time trying to reconctrust endless scenarios of all the other actions I could’ve taken instead of the one I actually took. It is only when I’ve exhausted myself of scenarios and find myself on mental repeat, that I finally decide to accept that I did in fact make a mistake and take responsibility for my mistake. It is only when I reach this state of full acceptance of my mistake and in turn myself that all the discomfort settles and I can finally see why I needed to make the mistake.

Any child can tell you that the reason we make mistakes is so we can learn from them. But what no child can tell you is what it is exactly we’re supposed to be learning from making mistakes. The child might offer an answer like “so I don’t do this again” or “so that I know how to do this the correct way next time”. But these aren’t really why we make mistakes, they’re just context. The real reason we get things wrong is so that we can learn how to love ourselves as the imperfect and flawed human beings we truly are. Mistakes are an opportunity for us to grow our muscle of love. It’s not only ourselves we learn to have compassion for by making mistakes, but others too. It’s what brings us closer to each other in our times of despair. It’s the fact that you’ve made a similar mistake that allows you to say to another “I feel you.” , when they’re confiding in you. You see we need to make mistakes to grow more in love with ourselves and others. We need to make mistakes to see where we still need to learn to love and give kindness. Mistakes show us where our judgements are still hard and resisting the softening power of love.

Mistakes help reveal us to ourselves, and in that process of revelation, we meet our boundaries — the things that feel wrong to us but perhaps not to another, so we learn to communicate those things that don’t sit right with us and in turn we learn to speak up for ourselves. And there is no greater act of self-love than speaking up for yourself! We need to make mistakes to realise what feels good to us and what feels bad. It is not about abiding by an overarching social or religious morality but rather about learning to respect our own values and sometimes we need to make mistakes to know exactly how we feel about certain things. Mistakes are like our little life exams that continue to hand us over from one level of love to the next.

For the longest time, I used to think that I needed to punish myself so that I don’t repeat any mistake twice. I thought punishment was the tool to use to exercise self-discipline. I didn’t know that punishment is a tool for self-hate. When we make mistakes, all we really need is a time-out to reflect. We just need time to sit in silence with ourselves, first to forgive ourselves for not being perfect, then to forgive ourselves for expecting ourselves to be perfect and finally to love that part of ourselves we realised we’ve been hating by making the mistake. And in that way, we learn to carry ourselves over from the darkness of shame into the light of learning and love.

We are all human. We make mistakes. We love. We get angry. We get scared. We act out of fear. We forget we are worthy. We fall down. We stand up again. We remember we are loved. We love again.

Embrace all of you! It is the imperfect parts of us that teach us most about our humanity. It is those parts that make our hearts grow and have the capacity to love all the parts of another.

So make mistakes. The important thing is not to deny them because when we deny our mistakes we can never claim responsibility for them. And if we can’t claim responsibility for them, we won’t be able to learn from them. We won’t grow. We will remain stuck in a loop of self-denial and self-hate.

Mistakes are a pathway for us to free ourselves from the shame of error. It is time we normalised error and celebrated its capacity to teach us. There is beauty in error. You just need to open your heart to embrace what error has to tell you.

With love and always for peace,

S.A.

We need boundaries to grow

Dear quarter lives,

This is a short story about letting go, about growing apart and growing healthy. It is a story about our need for space to grow, about our need for boundaries, even with our most beloved mothers and fathers.

***

One day someplace where there were streets and crossings, a young mother and her son were about to cross the street. The little boy was very afraid. He had never crossed a street before. He had seen stories on the news of people who died crossing the street, but never about those who had survived crossing the street. So he assumed that people just died crossing the street. He didn’t understand why his mother would want him to do such a thing as cross the street, but he didn’t question her, she was his mother. The boy held his mother’s hands as tightly as he could, to the point he was hurting her just a little bit. You could see his little hands latching onto her big hands tucked in and protected by their sheer size. Her big hands were nothing compared to her tall body, like a walking tree beside him, she protected him. As he stepped onto the zebra crossing, his eyes began to sparkle, wondering why the marvelous lines changed colour so frequently. Black. White. Black. White. Black. White. And as his mother took a large step in front of him, she cast a long shadow over him, a shadow longer even than she was. 

The little boy fell into a deep darkness. His mother falling only a split second after him onto her knees and over him. Her shadow now much stronger and much closer. He slipped further and further away into the dark. She did not know what to do but to hold him close. And the closer she held him, the further away he went. ‘Let go!’, someone in the crowd shouted. ‘I can’t, he needs me.’ ‘Let go of him. You have to.’, they shouted again. ‘I can’t leave him alone. He’ll be so afraid.’ Her tears were falling on his face.They came closer now. Their hands held her shoulder, ‘We’ll be here for you. He needs to come back alone. You must leave him now. Trust, dear mother. Trust him. Trust yourself. Trust us, your community. There is nothing you can do but trust that he will come back, but you must let him go.’

‘Can you help me let him go?’ ‘I can stand by you, but I cannot remove you. You must choose to get up. You must choose to stand separate from your son until your are distant enough that you cast no shadow onto him.’

And with all the love she could find in her heart for her little boy, the mother stood up slowly, as though she was a toddler standing up for the first time, not knowing whether to trust gravity yet. And as she returned to her tree-like posture, stable, standing and grounded, she carried her legs with all the power she could muster, for they were the heaviest three steps she would take in her entire life. Now standing away and across from her son, she no longer cast a shadow on his heart. There was a long silence. The silence of waiting. Tears still rolling down her face, puddles forming at her feet, now at her knees again, all she could do was think, and when she thought, she doubted. She doubted herself, she doubted her son, she doubted her community. But her community stood by her, reminding her they were still here, reminding her to trust, ‘Trust does not betray those who make space for it in their hearts, so make space, dear mother.’ 

And as she drew in one more breath and exhaled another, she looked over to her son. His eyes were beginning to open. She almost ran towards him, but a hand held her back and whispered gently in her ears, ‘I know it is painful, but that is what we must do. We nourish them until they can nourish themselves. We support them until they no longer need us. You see, dear mother, it is our duty not to smother ourselves onto our little ones. It is our duty to let them grow into their own being, that is our role ― to teach them how to fill their space, to show them that boundaries are essential so they can spread roots and reach the light themselves without help from any mother or mediator.  You see young mother, if our shadow remains cast on their bodies, we are no better than weeds whose shadow and needs kill all that is around it. Parenthood is a journey very few endure in truth. It is the hardest lesson to learn. It is one intended for the growth of the mature spirit, and the subsequent survival to youth of the infant soul. So rejoice my daughter, your pain will transform you. And soon he will have grown into a parent himself, then he will come to you for guidance and support, for his turn too will come when he will have to let go of his young ones. So let your child go, give him back to the universe, let him scour for his food, hunt and grow, and as the cycle continues, he will ask for your hand one day as you have asked mine. Do you remember me now? I am your mother from long ago. Today, you have passed the most difficult test of all. Today, you have truly mothered your child into being. Today, you have let go of your attachment to your child. Now, you are both free.’

***

Thank you for reading. Thank you for accepting this invitation to contemplate.

With love and peace,

S.A.