I have the privilege of blogging for ChicagoNow, which is a platform for a huge group of bloggers. We have a wonderful community that inspires writing, in no small part because of Community Manager, Jimmy Greenfield. Among the many strategies he uses to inspire us is our monthly Blogapaloozhour. He sends out a prompt at 9 p.m. and we post exactly at 10 p.m.
I usually participate, but last night Jimmy’s prompt was like a trapdoor that opened and I dropped through it. I’ve been wandering around below ground for most of the day trying to figure this out.
His prompt was, “Write about something in your life you’d like a second chance at.”
It took me back to 1992 and a fight I had with my mother, just a few weeks before she unexpectedly died. It was the last real conversation we had, and I was angry. I can remember all of the details, where we were sitting, what we said, what it felt like.
If I had a second chance, I’d do it differently. Even now I feel justified for being angry, but it was our last conversation and there’s no way to resolve it. I can’t go back and be calmer or kinder. I can’t listen better or accept her as she was. She’s gone and our last conversation will always be what it was. It’s a done deal.
Last night I was taken by surprise by the sadness I didn’t realize I still felt about that night.
The hardest part is acceptance. Life is just like this. You can’t live every moment as if it were your last. You can’t get it right all the time. And, you don’t always get second chances.
I have screwed up a lot of things in my life, failed spectacularly and failed in boring, common ways. I’m not sure I want a second chance at all those things because they are so woven into the fabric of my life. I ended up here with my husband and daughter, with a job I love, with my writing and reading. Maybe the screwups were necessary.
But I also know that life is one moment after another of second chances. REM says, “Every day is new again. Every day is yours to win. That’s how heroes are made.”
Life doesn’t depend so much on getting it right as it does on being deeply engaged in the process. Failure is guaranteed. Struggle is part of the process.
I don’t get a second chance at being kinder to my mother. I can never undo the hurt I caused her.
But I do get a second chance to accept myself as a work in progress. Every day I can learn and try again. Every day I can remember that the ways I fail are the ways every one fails.
When I reflect on that conversation with my mother, I realize that I have learned a lot about compassion since 1992, for others and for myself.
I am learning to be more curious and less critical, learning to accept others in their imperfection alongside my own.
Read about my fellow bloggers second chances here.
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