A patron had a complaint about a book, and suddenly she was talking about book burning. (She thought it was a good idea. She wanted to throw the book into the flames herself.) I didn't know how to respond so I got up and walked away, leaving my partner at the information desk to deal with the situation. Then I spent the next three days replaying the encounter in my head. What I could've done differently and where had things gone wrong in the first place and what a crappy co-worker I'd been and why hadn't I called forth my customer service training—
(It sounds like you're upset. I'm so sorry you had that experience. Is there any other library-related business I can assist you with?)
I'm reading a book about obsessive thoughts. It's called Can't Stop Thinking: How to Let Go of Anxiety and Free Yourself from Obsessive Rumination by Nancy Colier.
Are these thoughts serving you? the book asks.
Well, no, of course not. Because I can't go back and redo the interaction. And never mind all of the time I'm wasting, replaying and replaying and replaying, on walks with the dog and waking up sweating in the middle of the night.
So, just notice the thoughts and let them go.
The book makes it sound easy. Apparently, there's a You who is thinking the obsessive thoughts. And there's a You who notices the You who is thinking the thoughts.
I long to be this larger You. Float above all of my past, imperfect interactions. Offer myself a smile and a hug. Say what I might say to anyone who is feeling awful and ashamed.
You did the best you could. Tomorrow, you'll do better. And even if you don't, it's okay.
I'm not sure how to do this yet.
But last weekend after my son's wedding, we all went for a walk at night down to the beach and lay on our backs on a dock that jutted out into the water. I looked up at the stars and my mind was so calm and clear and vast.
Remember this, I told myself, and then I promptly forgot.