Sometimes I really hate being so damn critical of myself.
This character flaw really manifests itself in social situations, not so much at the time of the actual social interaction as afterward, when I tend to replay the conversations of the evening and critique myself, remembering what I said and then getting pissed off at the way things might have come out, how they might have been perceived, or things I either wish I'd not said or wish I'd gotten around to saying. I spend an inordinate amount of time trying to read between my own lines, worrying at how comments might have been interpreted or misinterpreted by the people I was talking to.
It's maddening. And pointless, really. But there it is -- I've done it as long as I can remember. I sometimes replay conversations months, years later, reworking them in my head, saying the things I wish I'd said, feeling fresh embarrassment long after the fact at the faux pas and gaffes.
Most often, though, I tend to realize that when I'm talking to a group of friends I have trouble getting to the point. I tend to meander, conversationally, zig-zagging around my point, going off of little topical side-trips and ducking into the occasional self-referential cul de sac for comedic effect. I think it can be entertaining, but I also tend to get a little lost in the process.And then, hours later, I'll realize that I kind of never really got to the point I was trying to make in the first place. And then the worry begins, and I start to think I gave the wrong impression, or didn't actually make the point I was trying to make. Or, worse yet, that due to my habit of frequently dropping into sarcasm I have in fact given the exact opposite impression of the one I was going for.
So this morning I'm thinking about a conversation I had with my Tang Soo Do instructor, Sa Bom Nim Nunan, and several students from my dojang. We went out for a few beers after training, which was awesome, and I dropped quickly into chatty conversational mode, rambling on at length and trying really hard to not stomp all over other people when it was their turn to talk -- that's a bad habit I've picked up from trying to be heard in my family. My mom and brother tend to drop into lecturing mode and sometimes the only way to get your point in is to just interrupt.
So at one point, after Master Nunan had told us some stories about some of the choices he made in getting the dojang set up over the years (including choices that really hurt him financially, at least in the short run, but which also ensured that the dojang hewed closer to the traditional martial arts that he loved) we got off on a tangent, all talking about the ways we wound up finding our way to Tang Soo Do Academy. One of the students talked about how she'd done extensive research of dojangs and arts in the area, and because she'd studied in other arts previously and had some bad experiences with non-Asian instructors (attitude and arrogance problems, not training quality problems) she originally planned on training only with an Asian instructor, period. But that when she met Master Nunan his attitudes about the arts changed her mind.
So, I hopped in at this point and told about how I found Tang Soo Do Academy completely and totally by accident. That my kids had been in a Tae Kwon Do summer camp with a really crappy local belt-mill that tried to run a hard-sell on my wife, who promptly said that they could go screw themselves, pulled the kids from the program after two lessons, and that was that. No more martial arts camp. But after some discussion we thought we'd give martial arts training for the kids a try again, and we just sort of wound up at TSDA because it was close and convenient. And that months went by where I was sort of completely uninvolved, never actually attending one of the kids classes because they occurred at times when I was in the office. And that I had a real attitude about the martial arts, thought it was dominated by overly testosteroned former drill-instructors, and that there was no way I would ever consider training in something so strict and rigid. How I had this mistaken idea that Master Nunan was stand-offish and distant. And that what totally changed my mind was when I wound up -- quite by accident -- at a dan promotion ceremony where I saw much Master Nunan truly cared about his students and how proud he was of them and of his role in their lives, and how there was no attitude and no arrogance at all.
But today, all I can think of is how I feel like I didn't wrap things up properly. I wanted to say how truly seismic an impact finding this art in general and Master Nunan and Tang Soo Do Academy in particular have had on my life. How I regret waiting so long to open myself up to this training. How important this has become to me, and that, for all my joking about the events leading up to my finding the dojang, that I honestly and truly have come to believe that God or The Universe or Fate or Whatever intervened and put me in the dojang that night, to show me a path, to show me a way to fix myself. That this is, in fact, for all the self-deprecation and goofing, really just that big a deal to me.
And that I'm so grateful for this.
Sometimes I forget that the best stories don't always end on a punchline or big finish. It's the denouement that can make them meaningful, worthwhile. Grace notes on the bold strokes. By not getting around to these parts of the conversation, I feel like the story was only half told, that the part that really mattered got left unsaid. Perhaps saying these things would have come off as mawkish, even a bit embarrassing. But they're true things and they deserve to be said aloud.
Maybe next time.
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