How to recover when you screw things up

yodaSoooo…I didn’t show up in the best way a few days ago {tail between legs}. My partner and I had a blowout. We were both sleep deprived, dealing with catching up with logistics after being away from home for a month, and simultaneously planning to host Thanksgiving dinner at our house.
But even deeper than that, I do know that the issue ultimately stemmed from me not caring for myself.
Let’s rewind.
As we know, its never about what you’re actually arguing about. When you get to what the real issue is, there’s nothing to argue, because you begin to acknowledge the true feelings and desires at hanf, and that opens our hearts instead of shuts them down. But until we dig deep, we argue, and it’s about something way more trivial than your feelings.
Case in point: my husband made a request. The request pissed me off. You’d have thought he asked me if he could live in polygamy for a year. But that wasn’t the request.
He was asking me for something he wanted and needed – and the time to do that.
I felt like I would certainly LOVE to be able to do that too, but here I was barely getting in my little bits of me-time and how freakin’ audacious it was that he ask me for even MORE time for himself!!!!
And suffice it to say the timing of the request pretty much sucked. Royally.
In the end, I had an out-of-body experience and was lit into an angry rage. I yelled. Loudly. I was so angered and hurt. Then I started sobbing because I realized I was yelling in front of my baby, and I felt ashamed. I grew up in an abusive situation, and I did not want any of that energy to enter into the family I was creating.
I stopped. I asked that he not speak to me so that I could calm down. I went into my bedroom and cried with that ugly crying face we get when we are truly sobbing messy sobs. I called a girlfriend and asked if she could listen to me. Not help. Just listen. And she did just that.
I hung up the phone. Took a deep breath. And splashed cold water on my face.
I walked out into the living room, still angry. But not full of rage.
Doesn’t it suck how when we are overtaken by our emotions, it is so much harder to remember that they are simply energy, and that we can allow ourselves to simply observe them first and not act on them???!!!
After some time had passed, my husband and I reconnected. I realized that what I was angry about was that I was not asking for the same kind of time for myself. That I was feeling hurt and unloved because he wasn’t advocating for my self care, when I spent so much time supporting his.
I requested that I needed more from him than just encouraging me to go to a yoga class or for a run when it was convenient for him – I needed him to be willing to be inconvenienced (at times) by my self-care in the same way I allowed myself to be inconvenienced for his. This would allow me to make requests for myself more often, rather than editing out my feelings when I thought it would be inconvenient.
I wanted to be able to ask for what I needed when I knew it would be inconvenient for him, and to know that there would be times he’d happily support me in that.
I apologized for yelling – to himself and my 7-month old. He thanked me for doing so, and apologized for not being more thoughtful in his requests.
I felt disconnected from him after that emotional blowout, and didn’t know how to bring us closer again. You see, when something like that happens, there is a breach of trust on both ends.
Here’s what I learned helps to reconnect after big screw ups like that one:

How to Recover When You Screw Things Up

1. Be sincere in your apology – don’t just say “I am sorry.” You can help increase your sincerity by imagining what it was like for that person, and really trying to step into their shoes so you can try to feel their suffering. This will help generate compassion, and help you apology be more sincere.
2. Resolve to not do it again. There is no sense in apologizing for yelling or being rude or being late or any other offense that pisses off someone you love if you continue to keep doing it. If you repeat the behavior over and over, your apology was full of shit. It is not enough to regret an action – you must also work on improving! This will also help your self-esteem and sense of integrity, so ultimately you benefit from it too.
This doesn’t mean you are going to be perfect. It does mean that you set the intention, regularly, to improve – and do so. My favorite Yoda quote, “Try not. Do…or do not. There is no try.”
3. Apply an antidote, which is often an action that is the opposite of what you did. That doesn’t mean that in my example, I need to talk sweet nothings because I yelled. But it does mean that I speak with gentleness and go out of my way to build emotional trust (both of us are to do this, by the way!).
4. Investigate what your trigger was. Was it a word? A situation? Fatigue/hunger/pain that was going on in the background? For me, it was the perfect storm of sleep-deprivation, stress from having to catch up on a month’s worth of mail/logistics/house stuff AND hosting Thanksgiving, and the lack of adequate self-care.
5. Make it a practice – no…a DEVOTION – to attend to your triggers, and to do the work to improve your character. We don’t get to say, “I’m a yeller. Deal with it,” or “I’m kind of selfish. You know that about me.” Nuh uh. For me, I scheduled yoga classes until we fly out of Anchorage again. I negotiated that I have regular time on vacations to do whatever I want whenever I want and not have to wait to see if it is convenient for my husband’s next adventure. As a couple, we are working on speaking to each other with the same kindness and patience that we would with our friends, and not take our proximity and intimacy for granted.
6. Be kind to yourself. I felt deep shame when I saw myself yelling in front of my daughter. I give deep thanks that I have done the work for so many years that I know I AM NOT MY EMOTIONS. I am not my body, my thoughts, or my emotions. This allows me the space to do the work, to know I am capable of it, to be able to create a longer pause between trigger and response. And I know I will continue to improve. This doesn’t give you free reign to do whatever knowing you will eventually improve. But what it does mean is that we don’t get to be stuck behind stories of being incapable of change. We are capable of anything!
So there it is. Doing the work is messy. Welcome to my mess – and my mop! Share with me below how you clean it up in your life. We are all in this together!