Thursday, June 17, 2010


There wasn't anything I had to say today. I'd had a lovely (not) incident of saying too much, in the wrong way, to the wrong person, and the wrong time, at work today and rather got it out of my system. Or so I thought. Then I read Jenny Crusie's blog about her novel about revisiting your childhood from the perspective of an adult. I'm sure I've talked about this before with reference to a Suzanne Brockmann novel Into the Storm, but it came pouring out again, and instead of blather in someone's comments, I moved it here.

I had one weird incident as a 9 or 10 year old kid back before microwave popcorn and before air poppers where I caught the pan of popcorn kernels and oil on fire. I screamed and screamed. Fortunately my dad was there. I clearly remember him taking the corner to the kitchen so fast he was at an angle. He came up to me, reached across me, grabbed my hand, and lowered the lid onto the pot, putting out the fire. From that, I figured I wasn't very good in an emergency.

For the point

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Years were spent thinking that I would fail at something obvious at a critical time. Good came from it - I practice emergency actions like using fire extinguishers and CPR and first aid. I know how the safer ways to retrieve drowning victims, or pull you out of an icy lake. I take fire drills seriously. I was even able to calmly put out a fire a disgruntled neighbor lit in our building's hallway as an adult. But I didn't really lose the shame of not putting the lid in my hand on the popcorn fire until I "babysat" my friend's 8 year old and realized that almost no one would expect a 10 year old to be prepared for all emergencies. 25 years later, I finally trusted myself more. I have learned from my mistake and forgiven myself for actually (gasp!) making a mistake.

And I heartily recommend that everyone practice using a fire extinguisher because they feel different than you'd expect and it's hard to convince yourself to aim for the base of the fire. Spend an extra $10 and get one for practice.

Another big thing was realizing in college at my first softball game since the 6th grade that I could hit a ball. Not only that, I could see it all the way from the pitcher's hand to where it came over the base! I'd spent years thinking I was uncoordinated and unathletic, when in truth, I just couldn't see. Puberty hit and my vision got significantly worse - quickly enough that I noted losing ability over one year - but slowly enough that I didn't realize from day to day how severe my issues were and didn't ask for help. (Apparently I also passed the school vision test for 2 years.)

Then, in 6th grade I got demoted from 2nd base to right field. I had no hope of catching anything in right field when I couldn't see if the ball was headed toward me until it was more than halfway there. Coaches kept saying "keep your eye on the ball!" when I was at bat, and I thought they were insane. There was nothing to see until the ball was maybe 10 feet away. I had no idea at all how other people could do this jedi trick. Maybe 3 or 6 months later, I got my first pair of glasses, but I never tried to play softball again until my senior year of college, remembering it as a futile exercise in embarrassment.

In high school, I was in volleyball until I gave that up for the swim team. Honestly, part of my inabiltiy to progress in volleyball was almost certainly my inner critic telling me how I wasn't athletic based on that final grim softball season. I spent more than 8 years believing I was not athletic and allowing myself to not push for physical successes. Then one day I got conned into an intramural softball game and hit the first ball that was pitched to me. Being able to see the ball made a world of difference. I watched them catch my pop fly and readjusted my inner calibration. Being half blind didn't help my coordination (and having small feet doesn't help my balance) but I suddenly didn't feel inherently uncoordinated anymore. I have since done any number of mildly athletic things. I'll never be the fastest or strongest or most coordinated, but I do ok.

As an adult, have you changed some wacky belief about yourself that you'd held since childhood? Have you forgiven yourself for a mistake? Like me, do you feel more at peace because of that revelation?

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