Thursday, September 30, 2010

Mistakes vs. MISTAKES

Hi everyone,

Thanks to the Pens for inviting me back!

I think the basic question here is:

Is a mistake a bad thing if you learn from it?

And my answer might surprise you – especially after reading all the wonderful posts before mine. ‘cause I’m going to say yeah, some mistakes are truly horrible things, even if we learn big lessons from them.

In other words, there are mistakes and there are MISTAKES...


Letting my ex-husband cut my son’s hair when he was about five (my son, not my ex).

(this isn't my son or my ex but I couldn't resist -- a true rat tail!)

Reading a romance novel when you’re already lonely.

Painting the bathroom ceiling bright pink.

Doing a Japanese hair straightening treatment that left me looking like a scarecrow. (We make so very many mistakes in the name of vanity!)

Buying a house so close to the airport you could actually read the word “UNITED” as the plane passed by the kitchen window, shaking the house.

Calling your husband the wrong name during sex. (hey, I’m not saying these are all mistakes I’ve made!)

Missing your exit because you’re texting while driving. (ditto)

Telling your mother “maybe” when she asks you to do her a favor (ahem, my sweet child).

Eating the whole bag of BBQ potato chips. Again.


Spending a half million dollars (did you know credit cards could even go that high?!) on a remodel – which ended my love affair with the house, and my love affair with my husband (or maybe it was that name thing).

(yes, this was the outcome of my remodel -- so beautiful -- but do I miss it, what I now call my "marital house?" No, I really don't. Happy in a sweet little cottage now...)

Okay, I’ve been joking around here. But seriously, there are some mistakes that are almost impossible to get over. And I can think of a few of my own (besides the remodel from hell) – mistakes I TRULY wish, with all my heart, that I had not made. That I would like do-overs on. (Even though the lessons were good ones.)

But the examples below are even bigger mistakes, and much better than mine:

I’m sure you read earlier this year about the woman at the Metropolitan Museum of Art who lost her balance and fell into the Picasso painting “The Actor” -- lessening its value by literally MILLIONS of dollars. I’ve tried to imagine how that would feel. I can’t.

And in 2006, casino nut Steve Wynn, during a private showing of Picasso’s “Le Reve,” put his elbow through the canvas. This occurred just after he had negotiated a deal to sell the painting for $139 million (the deal fell through; go figure).

And even more serious and heartbreaking mistakes than those having to do with art and money… Like the kid who finds his dad’s gun in the closet and unintentionally shoots his friend. Or you lean down to pick something up off the floor of the car and swerve into the oncoming traffic and kill another driver (this happened to a friend of mine). Or a story I read in the paper years ago about a ten-year-old who went hunting with his parents and shot his mom in the face at close range.

Now I know these could be called “accidents” – and I admit that this topic got me wondering about the difference between a “mistake” and an “accident.”
According to Yahoo! Answers, there's a difference (I loved this – it was in response to a woman who asked if cheating on her boyfriend was a mistake or an accident):
“An accident… is something unavoidable. A mistake is something done consciously, intentionally, that doesn't seem like it will lead to trouble until after it's too late to correct it. In short, your cheating WAS a mistake. Now, if you - in some outlandish, unrealistic scenario - were walking around naked & you tripped, & another guy's penis broke your fall, then that would be an accident :).”

But seriously, in the “accidents” above, it was a MISTAKE for that stupid father to leave a gun where his child could get to it. And a MISTAKE to not pay attention while driving (ahem, texters). And a MISTAKE to take your child hunting before he is old enough to know what he’s doing. I mean good freaking grief!

Okay, enough! Hope we have all learned some big lessons from all our mistakes – and those of others. I have. I just added on a beautiful (little) addition to my cottage and paid cash for the whole thing. And I walk very, very slowly in art museums.



Rachael Herron said...

OMG, falling into a priceless painting would be something I would do. Now I'm going nowhere near art.

Sophie Littlefield said...

Maddee, you're right about the big ones, the little ones, and the ones that are truly horrible. I've seen examples of all of them in the last few years. The heartbreaking ones really rattled my foundation and I'm still trying to recover from some of them. The big ones...well, I know we grow the most during the hardest times, but sometimes that just doesn't feel like enough justification - I feel like waving my hand and going "isn't that enough learning for now? Puhleeez?"

And the little ones? They make me smile later. I could fill a giant album with all the dumb things I've done as a parent. I never made my kids' hair into a rat (WOW!!) but Sal is convinced that the darling bowl cut I gave her until she was ten was practically criminal.

Carla Buckley said...


It's hard to imagine YOU, clearly so gifted and talented, ever making a mistake.

Sometimes I think my entire life is a series of mistakes (aka, things that happened when I wasn't paying attention.) The skunks that found my dogs when I let them roam leashless. The refrigerator that leaked water over my wooden floor for 24 hours before I realized it wasn't from my kids' spills. The eight books I wrote before I figured it out.

But I like to think that there's always a positive side to mistakes if you can learn from them. And thank GOD no one's ever died, or a priceless work of art ever been ruined, from a mistake I've made. I tell myself to Pay Attention in case someday I do make a terrible mistake. And sometimes those mistakes do lead to a great idea for a book :)

L.G.C. Smith said...

Thanks for another great post, Maddee. You provide a good balance for us on this topic, and you did it with panache and wisdom. :)

Martha Flynn said...

omg, that another guy's you know what breaking the fall had me in tears! TEARS!!

Pens Fatales said...

Rachael, I think you're safe to go to museums - just wear good shoes.
(come to think of it, I never wear good shoes anywhere so who am I to talk?!)

Sophie, I can't even tell you how many times in the last few years I have wondered how many more lessons I need to learn. I would say one of the biggest changes in my life since dropping religion is I now truly believe that life isn't fair. I used to think it was. Now I have accepted that it's not.
Bowl cuts were pretty hideous weren't they? Ronn actually cut Ry's hair so short that it was bald and almost cut into the scalp in some places. I wish I could find a photo. He looked like a convict, at five!

Carla, thank you. But I have made some big ones and again, though I learned from them, the fact that I hurt others weighs on me so I'd rather I hadn't made them. I think Pay Attention with capital letter is a good thing --to say that to yourself on a regular basis is smart. Too often we sort of glide through our days and those where I wake up and think: I'm going to Pay Attention today - I have to say that sometimes really good things have come from it.

Lgc, thank you! I actually loved your post -- I wrote a comment and then closed my computer before I sent it and lost it. My daughter and I play the "privately rant at others" game all the time.

Martha, leave it to you to laugh at the penis part. :)

Thanks everyone-- as always, it's been fun!

x maddee

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

A mistake, huh? Yes, as a reporter, that's almost the worst possible word--right before "LAWSUIT," which sometimes comes after "mistake."

When you make a mistake on your bills, you still have to pay. But when the bank makes a mistake, they take the money back. Hmm. There was a guy in the North End of Boston who--after the water dept corrected a "mistake" on their meter reading--sent him a bill for 40 thousand dollars.

Their mistake! But he had to pay.

In other mistake news, the really narrow pants and oversized boyfriend jacket I just bought--ooh. MISTAKE. Back they go.

Love love love you, Maddee! and xoxo to the dear Pens!

Pens Fatales said...

he didn't really have to pay 40K did he????? That makes me glad I'm on a well here in the boonies. Wow!

and sweetie, I hate to ask... but what's a boyfriend jacket????

xxx maddee

Gigi Pandian said...

Oh Maddee, it's always so entertaining when you stop by!