As my skills grow, my self-confidence fades. Why is that? When I was young, I learned quickly. My brain was an empty sponge; easy to fill. I forgave my mistakes with no self-flagellation. Now, mistakes send me into a tail spin – a pit of self-doubt and second guessing. Living in a strange place with few English speakers doesn’t help. I blunder along and mentally whip myself each time I mess up.
I’m not alone. Saturday, Pat showed a friend around Budapest. When they returned to our apartment, Pat timidly knocked on the door, “Can you let us in? I’ve lost my keys.” As soon as I opened the door, he bemoaned the loss, speculated where he must have left his keys and agonized over how this happened. Then, he slapped his forehead in that international signal of I’m a
What’s going on here?
My entire life, I have forgotten things. I have left my keys pretty much every place keys can be left: at the bank teller window and the grocery store checkout; on a stack of books at the library and on the top of the toilet paper rack in a public bathroom. I left them a few places I never did figure out. My forgetfulness extends beyond keys. I have driven away with my purse, a cell phone, and a friends dinner platter on the roof of my car. Perhaps most notably, I left my eldest, as an infant, in a Meyers Thrifty Acres Superstore. In each case, I swore, shrugged my shoulders and moved on (though in the case of Mike, I ran around the store screaming like a lunatic). Never did I equate my mistakes with some acute mental problem.
That was then.
Running for the tram, I hopped on board just as the doors closed. I grabbed a seat and looked out the window believing it was my lucky day. As we took off in the wrong direction – at least wrong for me – I sat dumbfounded. I replayed the mistake in my head, searching for what went wrong. And, as I invariably do, I blamed my age. I’m getting older and less attentive. My destiny is to move from one wrong way tram to the next. I returned home and googled “assisted living facilities”.
My husband isolated his keys to one of three places. He phoned each and found them at the museum housing the Robert Capa exhibit. “We have them. You left them on the counter where you bought the tickets.” Pat reacted as though this was the mistake of the century. “How did I possibly do that?”
Of course when I was young, all my angst and self-doubt swirled around my appearance. Why did I eat a super sized piece of chocolate cake the day before I planned to wear a body hugging dress? I laughed off my mental mistakes, but woefully bemoaned any physical aberrations.
I guess we always have insecurities. They just change with time.
Pat ran back to the museum, picked up his keys and made it to the restaurant in time for our dinner reservation. Now, every time he leaves the apartment (or leaves any place for that matter) he does the airport security pat down. Starting at his shirt pocket, moving to his coat and finally pants (front and back), he pats while executing his checklist: “glasses, wallet, keys, tram pass, do I have everything?”
There is a white noise of stress and uncertainty in our lives. We make mistakes. These mistakes stem from not understanding the local environment, being distracted (or being human), and aging. Let’s face it, we are more forgetful. Then I remind my older self that my younger self left a three-month old infant in a super store….. for an hour.
I live in a place where cafes are ubiquitous and cake is consumed for breakfast. I indulge once or twice a month, savoring every bite with all the pleasure of a condemned man’s last meal. I no longer worry about form-fitting dresses or ill-fitting pants. Over the years, I’ve accumulated pants in a range of sizes.
Thank goodness insecurities tend to run their course.