At the Sandhill Crane Festival, a woman who seemed to know the refuge well told us about a pond that was supposedly a short walk away. She advised us to follow the rope that had been erected to keep people in the viewing area from wandering too far into the refuge.
When we reached the end of the roped-off area, a gravel road led in the direction the woman had indicated. I had a moment when I wondered if we were supposed to go down this road or not and thought briefly about going back and asking one of the wildlife officers, but I reasoned that walking a road with no sign and no rope in front of it would be OK as long as we didn’t stray off the road.
We went about 200 yards when we suddenly heard a fast-moving vehicle approaching. It was coming in so fast, we moved off the road in fear of being run over. It slid to a halt on the gravel and two wildlife officers jumped out of the truck. One was moving with the energy of someone in the midst of a flight-or-fight adrenaline response. He looked irritated and sounded angry. I don’t remember what he said, but what he communicated was that he viewed us as either idiots or criminals for not realizing we weren’t supposed to walk on this road.
We responded amicably, but felt obligated to explain. No matter how pleasant we were, his accusing tone did not diminish. Afterwards, for my husband, who felt like he had pushed the point home that it was not unreasonable that we would think it was OK to walk down a road, the incident was over within minutes.
I, on the other hand, felt like I was a bad person for not asking first. Feeling bad quickly turned to anger, “Why would he think it was obvious we weren’t supposed to walk down a road? Why was he so angry about it? It was a simple mistake–he didn’t need to be so upset!”
I played this scene over and over in my mind, thinking of different things to say ranging from sarcasm to empathy that either ended in cutting him down to size or connecting with him and having him understand that I’m a nice person who made a mistake.
In the end, I realized that, of course, this is really about an inappropriate need to please others.
Feeling like there’s someone out there who will tell a story about me being stupid (or worse) hurts. I want to take the story out of that person’s mouth and rewrite it. But the only person who suffers is me as I waste time inside my head writing a script for a new exchange that will never happen. That time would have been better spent enjoying being with my husband, my dog, the sunshine, the glory of life.
After all, I am enough. Mistakes and all.