GIFs of Mortification

Today, friends, I’m going to do you a huge favor. Three favors, in fact. I’m going to let you know that you’re not alone. I’m going to give you language that lets you re-name something, and thus get some ownership and control over it. And I’m going to forgive you… and myself.

Every so often, with no prompting and no relationship to what’s actually going on around me, I’ll recall some moment of my life where I was stupid or thoughtless. Sometimes I’ll actually moan out loud at my dumbassedness, ashamed all over again of something I said or didn’t say, something I did or didn’t do, forty years ago.

The worst of those are in the middle of the night, where I wake up at four in the morning for no discernible reason, and one of those will run me over and I’ll lie there for half an hour thinking about it. But although we have that stereotype of the churning, sleepless night, these moments can come to us any time. While we’re chopping vegetables for dinner. While we’re driving. While we’re waiting in line at Panera.

You too, huh? Thought so. And there’s favor number one. You’re not alone. This is a normal experience.

And although these kinds of moments of mortifying remembrance happen to us all, and always have, we don’t have good language for them. I’ve heard them called “cringe attacks,” which isn’t bad. But I think that the 21st century has finally let us see those cringe-worthy memories for what they really are. They’re GIFs. They’re little snippets of the movie, pulled out of context and set into a loop. Your head is its own little Pinterest board of GIFs, its viewership set to “private.”

So there’s favor number two. GIFs are fun, right? They’re dumb little moments that exist outside our present selves, that make us laugh. We don’t look for them, they just come to us in e-mail blasts from our friends or our moms. We look at them for a few seconds and then go on to what’s next. Your little cringe-GIFs can be the same, passing by us as we move along our day. Let ’em go and get back to work.

Favor number three is a reworking of an old folk saying: You’re gonna eat a peck of dirt before you die. Well, you’re gonna be a bunch of memes before you die, too. We all are. We all say stupid, insensitive things. The questions are a) were they accidental or ignorant, or cruel and purposeful? and b) are we trying to grow past them? You are bigger than your memes. You are more than your GIF pinboard of mortifying errors. It’s okay to have been wrong. Just try to be right next time. And know that you won’t, always.

You’re welcome. Go be strong, okay?

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