When I realized the colossal nature of my stupidity, it sat swirling in my belly for four days. Four days of palms to the forehead, sleeplessness, and some pretty self-depricating inner dialogue. I went through a whole gamut of emotions about it:
Clearly this person knew I didn't mean to....
I must be blowing this out of proportion, right?
I mean, I wouldn't be terribly mad if someone did that to me... would I?
A woman in her thirties goes through these emotions all the time, but in this case I couldn't do what I'm conditioned(?) to do when I screw up, which is just sweep it under the rug and let it go. It nagged at me, brought tears to my eyes. I couldn't believe what an ass I'd made of myself.
Right around 3:30am on the fifth day, I had an epiphany. I remembered an absolutely life-changing TED Talk I'd heard awhile back, on the power of vulnerability. How we live in a society where we never admit wrong doing because we're terrified of being perceived as weak. How you cannot have true, healthy relationships until you own up to your mistakes.
I didn't have to let it fester. I could do something about it. I could apologize.
So I did. I wrote a long note to the person and didn't mince words. I owned it. 'I feel like such an a-hole,' I said at least twice. 'I didn't mean to.' 'I'm so, so sorry.'
I hovered over the 'send' button for awhile. What if there was no response? What if this only made it worse? But I had to send it. I couldn't take another minute of doing nothing.
Within thirty minutes, I got a response. 'I'm so glad you said something... didn't even realize it had happened... never would think you would intend to... no worries at all.'
And ah.... BREATH!
In the last few days, I've thought about it a lot. The stupid thing I did doesn't go away (unfortunately-- facepalm!) but now when I think of it I remember that gracious response. How my relationship with this person is now more 'real' because I-- and then we-- were honest.
And how now, when I tell my kids to apologize to one another, it's not just another rote activity. It's something I've modeled, even when it was hard.