Most human characteristics are a double-edged word. Take ferocity. My daughter is fierce – which is good. It should serve her well in this wacky world of ours. But, it can be bad – I worry that her Fierceness may be the death of me while she seeks to establish her individuality. Then, there’s compulsion. Compulsion is good. For the most part. I am compulsive, so when I say I’ll follow up I will … in part because I won’t be able to sleep until I do. I take my ‘To Do’ lists – both written and mental – very seriously. I like my lists – and the sense of accomplishment I get when they’re completed, a lot. I might like them too much.
For example, at my kids’ annual Field Day, I stuffed my purse – and it was a large one – with items from my ‘to do’ list—things to be returned, payments for events past and future, etc., etc., etc. I was laser focused on leaving the event devoid of these items so I could gleefully cross them off the day’s ‘To Do’ list. In my compulsion, though, I may have missed being fully present for some of the more ‘Hallmark Moments’ that nurture parents through these turbulent tween years. Did I stab myself with the other edge of that double-edged sword?
‘Back in the day’ – aka decades ago when I worked full time in the entertainment industry – I was determined to get everything on my lengthy producer’s checklist ticked off each day. Given that I worked in independent film, this included giving the actors their per diem checks, which I did once — and only once — at a party. I had been on the set all day and was consumed with the next day’s schedule so there were bold quotation marks around the word ‘party’ for me. I handed the semi-known actress her check, which she took ‘reluctantly’ telling me that my timing sucked. She wasn’t carrying a purse so had to ‘ruin’ her pant line by stowing the check in her pant pocket. I’d thought that she’d be happy with extra cash. Turns out not so much. I learned my lesson.
But then I forgot it.
I was at a lovely celebration by the beach recently. In my large purse was a hostess gift … and a long-promised trinket for another party guest. A twofer; an errand checked off and a milestone celebrated. A Compulsive’s delight. Then there was wine – which I wish I could blame – laughter and lovely people. And there was that pesky trinket in my bag – that for reasons that escape me thanks to rational hindsight – had to be delivered then and there. Yup, I delivered it – awkwardly, dropping it into my pal’s lap after I interrupted her discussion with a former pal of mine with whom the trinket recipient is still friends. I was so caught up in my own need ‘to do’ that I forgot ‘to do’ it right. So what if I no longer give a hoot about how my once-friend, now estranged acquaintance, feels about me or her enjoyment of the party? The trinket recipient does and I created an awkward situation for her. My compulsion interrupted a conversation between two people, which was impolite. I hold myself to a higher standard. But not that night. Instead, I let compulsion overtake my highest self. Who am I? Ancient Caveman guest? No, because I do understand our ‘strange social ways’ and I live by them… most of the time. Except last weekend when I acted as Ancient Caveman party pooper.
My friend is gracious and she said I had nothing for which to apologize and that she was not offended by my sloppy delivery. I’m relieved by her grace. She even complimented the trinket. But I know I let my own need ‘to do,’ ‘to tick’ and ‘to move through’ trump the more important need to be present and mindful. I only hope that I’ve learned my lesson again – hopefully for good this time.