I wasn’t in a hurry. I wasn’t multitasking. I wasn’t tired. I was just a dumb-ass for a few seconds.
Since November, I’ve been collecting ideas for a project in a tab of a spreadsheet. When I sent the spreadsheet to a designer, I deleted that tab because it wasn’t relevant for him. Then, I saved over the original.
(Here’s the part where you ask me if I tried the sixty-five ways to recover an old version. Yes.)
I was furious, pacing, red-faced. Three months of ideas, creative randomness, middle-of-the-night-inspiration, vanished.
I tried breathing – ‘inhale for 6, exhale for 8.’
I tried coaching myself – ‘let’s reframe this as an opportunity to think about the project in new ways.’
I tried rationalizing – ‘these are my ideas, I can always recreate them.’
I tried stepping away – ‘I’m going to enjoy this lunch with my friend Chris and I’ll sort it out later.’
The tactics failed. A growling, critical, internal voice overwhelmed these efforts. Do you know that Voice? Its the one that does not tolerate an honest mistake, assigns meaning to a simple error. That Voice reminds me of past failings, present stupidity, and idiocy yet to come. It’s a harbinger of gloom – particularly fond of the refrain that my best days are behind me. Because, you know, I didn’t exercise proper version control.
I’m trained to recognize the Voice, gain distance from it, evaluate its rhetoric and help others do the same. Today, I became entangled. I thought “crap, this is going to sandbag my day.” And then I had an idea…
I’ve know one of my best friends, Mimi (*not her real name), for more than half of our lives. She is one of four humans who are uber-special to me.
Mimi is not an alpha. She is a thoughtful woman who doesn’t start fights or bully others. She thinks and feels deeply and still manages to give people the benefit of the doubt. She does not need my protection but I have always (and may forever) feel compelled to defend her from even minor threats.
During college, we attended a party at a good friend’s. The other revelers were friends and acquaintances. Except one idiot who kept hitting on her. She was polite, then not so polite, but his behavior escalated. Thoroughly irritated, she came to find me.
I asked her to point him out in the sea of drunken partiers. I found him and asked him to leave. He sneered and disappeared into the crowd so I turned off the music, stood on a chair and asked for everyone’s attention. I pointed to him and people began to back away, forming an empty space around him.
(In my camp counselor voice – friendly, loud, commanding):
“Is this guy anyone’s friend?”
“Does anyone want him here?”
“The people have spoken, dude. You gotta go.”
A path to the door emerged and fifty pairs of glassy eyes watched (there may have been some slow clapping) as he stumbled out of the party. The music came back on, the dancing continued.
Today, when the Voice began to berate me, I thought about how I would feel if it were directed at Mimi. How stupefied I would be at the inaccuracy and unfairness of the accusations leveled. I thought about how, if someone said the things to her that I was saying to myself I would stand on a chair, look him in the eye, and make him leave.
And just like that, welcome Silence replaced the Voice. Also, I found a printed copy of the deleted tab in my file cabinet.