Remember when we were kids and we would reach an impasse in a game being played? Probably a question about the rules, where the ball landed, or whose turn it really was. Then someone would suggest a do-over. Tension and voices would fall and the fun would begin anew.
Can do-overs be applied in adulthood? My opinionated response is a “yes, but . . . ” Yes, but the timeline may likely be stretched out. Yes, but it may not include all involved in the original situation. Yes, but don’t overuse do-overs.
What maybe took seconds or minutes in childhood games can take far longer now. And they really aren’t do-overs as much as they are opportunities to do differently next time. To learn, grow, make better choices; do more building up and less tearing down. Of ourselves and others.
There are life’s moments I wish I would have had a rewind button. Times when I kicked myself for what I did or did not do, for what I said or left unsaid. We have all had these moments.
The ones with the people closest to me are ongoing do-overs, with progress and compromise.
The ones that will circle around in my mind from time to time are ones with people that I interacted with for a limited time or in small ways. But what played out stuck with me and taught me.
There were a couple awkward moments when hugs were going around and I didn’t extend a hug to someone. It had more to do with my own comfort level than anything, but maybe in all honesty it had something to do with my judgment of the other person to whom I didn’t extend a hug. I don’t even know if they noticed, but I can still see and feel those awkward moments in my mind’s eye. My do-over would have been to give those hugs.
It is not likely I will ever see the two people in particular that I am thinking about regarding hugs not extended. But these days I rarely miss a chance to give a hug or receive one.
Another wishful do-over surrounds an insensitive request on my part. It involved a fellow breast cancer patient who has since died of metastatic breast cancer. I let my budding activism get ahead of the compassion and consideration the situation really needed. I never met this woman, but I try to carry with me more patience and tact when my writing pursuits involve others.
There is one last example that was a little different. It involved a conversation with a co-worker in the early years at my current job. I sent an email that was turned on me. Typically careful with tone and content, this email of mine was no exception. But words are open to interpretation and one’s own perceptions and emotions factor in.
The other person asked to speak with me. Making it about power, she “put me in my place.” I was nearly in tears and I let her run me over. That conversation left me angrier with myself than her. I didn’t stand up for myself. I got pulled into her power trip. Just what she wanted or needed I suppose.
Time went on and I never revisited the conversation with her. Today, I wouldn’t let her have such an easy time of building herself up at my expense. I wouldn’t apologize because I wasn’t at fault. I would have stood my ground and if she didn’t like it, we would agree to disagree.
Today, I don’t let others transfer their own emotional mess to me. I’ll help you, but I won’t further enable you.
That conversation never got a do-over. The co-worker, who I had considered a friend, has long since left, but I learned much. I am stronger and more confident today because of conversations like that one when I was neither.
Sometimes that means saying less in a conversation. Sometimes it means saying more. And there are times I can choose to not even engage the other person because I know I am not ready, my motives are off, or my emotions are still too prominent. These are all good things to know.
Do-overs aren’t often possible in adulthood. Doing better next time is attainable though. This late bloomer and slow learner strives for just that.