After You’ve Blown It

I’m pretty good about rolling with the punches, and I’ve had my share of mistakes at work. But this was different. Worse.

After landing in LaGuardia, I checked my email messages as we prepared to de-board the plane. A note from a good friend inquired, “How was that conference you spoke at today?”

Huh?

“No, the conference is tomorrow.” I typed back. “I’ve just landed in New York.”

My friend responded back right away. “Um, you might want to check the brochure, because I think it was today.”

Radio silence.

Beads of sweat started rolling down my forehead as I headed to baggage claim, rummaging through my briefcase for the conference material—the same conference that was advertising Yours Truly as a key speaker. I finally found it and stopped short, looking at the date in disbelief. “No. No! NO! This can’t be right!” My heart dropped into my shoes. I had missed the conference by a day.

I wanted to crawl out of my skin right there in the middle of baggage claim. But I couldn’t. So I let out the kind of scream that no one sees—the kind that turns your stomach, rips your insides around, and then ties a double knot so you can’t breathe.

Mortified, I remembered that some of the top lawyers in my field were among both the panelists and guests. People were paying to hear me speak. But it was too late now, and there was nothing I could do about it.

My first reaction was to find someone else to blame.

I’m sorry, but you must have sent me the wrong date.

Don’t you people send out reminders? It’s not my fault.

My secretary booked the wrong flight.

I even thought about telling a teeny tiny lie—you know, the kind that is partially true.

I came down with an unexpected illness. (No kidding, I was feeling really sick.)

I had an emergency come up. (It’s called a brain lapse.)

I got stuck in traffic. (Just on the wrong day.)

But all I could do was say, “I’m sorry,” so I picked up my phone and made the dreaded call. No excuses. No lies.

I quickly reached the conference organizer and apologized. As it turned out, she was genuinely worried about my safety and said she understood the mix-up. She even promised to include me in next year’s program. I knew I would have to make further amends—like apologies to the conference panelists, something I wasn’t looking forward to. But I’d have to deal with that later.

I had blown it, and I desperately needed God’s grace once again. As much as I try, I just can’t keep it all together on my own strength. Grace wipes my tears and reminds me of my humanity. Grace is the hard floor that catches me when my knees give in. It’s the net that holds me, keeping me from falling into the endless abyss.

I sat down in LaGuardia airport and cried.

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  • JimH

    Argh!

    I think we can all take heart that, no matter how badly we stuff up, someone else has *always* done it worse!

    Commiserations :)

  • http://thecatholicgiftshop.com cathid

    Thank you Susan for writing about this. I truly appreciate your honesty. As a mother I too often look for excuses when I mess up. The well you didn’t remind me is big one. I expect my kids to grow up not needing me to remind them of everything but I don’t listen to my own advice. We’ve come to rely a little too much on reminders.

    Stuff happens and you did the right thing!! Maybe it was God’s way of giving you a day off?? You never know, do you?

  • Mary

    There are those moments in everyone’s life when our minds don’t function properly. Thankfully, most of them are minor – but there are occasions when the unthinkable rushes into our awareness, and all the emotions you describe crowd out all others.

    Some days I can only pray,”Oh Lord – deliver me from myself!”

    Years ago, I was introducing my mother to someone of her own generation. I didn’t want to say, “Susan – this is Mom,” – I wanted to use her first name – but, I forgot it, until I finally had to ask my own mother what her first name was! The next day I made an appointment with a physician to find out if I was entering an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

    I’m sure my mother forgave me – but I never quite forgave myself.

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