The One Percent

Nothing makes me lose my sanity like a good fight. Especially the good fight I have in my head. Which accounts for 99% of all the fights I have. They never leave my head.

The dreaded 1% does leave my head, usually through my mouth, on other occasions through a strategically chosen action or inaction. Within seconds of launching my missile, I know I’ve stepped in it. In that moment, time freezes and the world around me swirls in slow motion as I wait for the response, powerless. 

And then it comes. And then I have a choice. Do I justify myself, fight back, let it escalate out of control? Rarely do I ever take that approach. At my core, I’m a lover, not a fighter, which is why 99% of the fights stay in my head.

Do I try to take it back? Will I spend the rest of my life trying to erase the mistakes I made and the words I said? When I’ve done this (and have I ever!) it has lead to a much deeper kind of insanity, the insanity of trying to change what cannot be changed – the past. It is fruitless and denigrating.

Do I retreat? This was always my go-to “solution.” Hide within myself. Deny. Play dumb. Toss an apology like a grenade, then duck and cover. Stay far, far away from the object of attack, indefinitely. Isolate from anyone or anything associated with said object. Stick my head in the sand like an ostrich and hope that time heals it.

Sometimes time heals the outside. The other side may even have the grace to let it go and forget. But I don’t. There are land mines there, and I don't dare go back and dig them up. But I can’t not. And that, too, is insanity.

Today, I freeze. Initially this was a fear response. We learn in school there are two fear responses – fight or flight. But “deer in the headlights” is a cliché for a reason. Sometimes we freeze. And when I freeze, I listen. I really listen. I look at my feet. Where are my feet? They are here. I remind myself I’m powerless over the past and what I just did. I let them rage. I take the blows in silence. I let them talk themselves out until they’ve given themselves enough rope to hang themselves with. Or not. Maybe they just needed to get it out, like I did. I give them what I most needed when that 1% was still in my head – a listening ear. I say, “Thanks for sharing. I really appreciate and respect what you said, and I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

Because of course I was wrong. Maybe not factually wrong. But wrong to complain to the wrong person. Wrong to retaliate. Wrong to punish. Those things are insanity. I make amends to myself for being insane. It is better to be sane than to be right.

Today I get to be wrong. I get to learn. I get to grow. I get to choose sanity. And I remember how much I need to find a listening ear, even if it’s just myself in my journal, so the other 99% of the fights don’t accidentally push the “launch” button.

 

 Mechanicsville, VA