A very happy new year! I hope all of you got to cuddle with someone special (and fluffy!) over the holidays.
The new year always has me thinking about the past – things that I’m proud of, things that I wish I could change, decisions that were made, things that were said (or not said), and people who came into my world or moved out of it.
This year, I’m thinking about some of the mistakes I’ve made. Growing up, my parents used to advise me and my siblings, “Always learn from your mistakes.” I also remember some of my elementary school teachers using the phrase, “Never make the same mistake twice.” I can’t count the number of times that I’ve failed that second piece of advice – and not just in the past year. I’m constantly making the same mistakes over and over again, but with different people, in different circumstances, and in slightly different ways.
I see other people around me doing this too. It doesn’t seem possible to learn everything that we need to know from a mistake the first time around. The complexity of our mistakes and their lessons often requires us to repeat many variations of them – at least, until we’re able to understand them in their entirety. Until we’re able to fully comprehend them, we continue to attract the same kinds of relationships, fall into the same habits, pursue the wrong career paths, misuse our time, sacrifice our health and happiness, etc. Such repetition isn’t simply human nature – it’s necessary.
Every time I make a mistake that I’ve already made in the past, I learn something slightly different from the situation. I come to recognize new warning signs that were displayed early on; I see subtle similarities between my contributing behaviour in one situation, and my behaviour in another; I suddenly understand and accept my emotions around certain decisions or outcomes. Every mistake – and every version of a mistake – has its own unique purpose.
Animals are accustomed to this aspect of human life. They know and accept that we’re slow learners. It takes us some time to finally get that we need to play more, spend time in nature, not take life so seriously, eat better, establish regular sleeping patterns, let go of our anger, be friendlier with our neighbours, explore the world, share our toys… Our animals have signed a spiritual contract that they will keep teaching us the same lessons as many times as we need them to. They will continue barking every time we sit in front of the tv; they will continue begging for food and becoming obese; they will continue developing cancer; they will continue racing out the door every time it opens; they will continue shredding every newspaper that we leave within their reach… They’re patient little monsters.
I try not to beat myself up about it anymore, this repetition of history. There’s no human on this planet who is enlightened enough that they’re able to learn everything they need to know from their mistakes the very first time around. Such a human simply doesn’t exist at this point in time, as far as I’m concerned. (Maybe it’s one of the reasons we’re given one hundred years to live, and not just ten or twelve.) The healthiest thing is to learn from your mistakes – as my parents used to say – and move on. On to the next one, or the next version (whichever one you’re ready for).
Wishing you many old mistakes – and a few new ones – in the new year!