There is one phrase that I find myself using more and more as I get older. I can’t remember the first time my Father said the words, but it must have been after I’d made some kind of mistake. It is a proverb that has become a part of me.
My sons are probably tired of hearing me saying the words over and over again, but I feel it is my duty to keep going like it’s some kind of mantra. Work colleagues have heard me say it – and returned the compliment with glee after spotting my errors.
“Measure twice, cut once”.
Simple don’t you think? Honest, pure, direct and profound. I think my father meant it in its literal sense. He would say it to me if I were doing something like hanging wallpaper or sawing a piece of timber. He taught me so many things, but I’m sure he would have admitted that he wasn’t the best teacher. He had taught himself everything he knew, and I think he believed that everyone could do the stuff he could do. After all these years I know that he had talents that went unrecognised and unrewarded. I, on the other hand, prospered with a fraction of his skill.
Over the course of my life, I’ve made many errors. From small slip-ups to full-blown disasters. From minor faux pas to major fuck-ups. Let me be clear, there is no blood on my hands, and no one has been physically hurt! Some of my more significant blunders have had significant consequences, but most of the time no one noticed and I just shrugged my shoulders, cleared up the mess and moved on. The feeling I get when I make a major boo-boo is like no other. I get sick to my stomach, I cold-sweat, my face turns scarlet as my heart rate hits techno-speed. I’ll attempt to apologise. I’ll squirm, not for the benefit of others, but out of physical necessity. I generally want to get up and walk out and keep walking until I find a place to hide, to remain invisible until the fuss dies down. Then I will skulk back in, head tipped slightly, to begin the grim task of making good.
“Measure twice, cut once”.
The more you reflect on the phrase, the better it gets. I guess it works best if you act on the wise words before committing the transgression. But then to err is human, to forgive divine.
Do you have any inherited phrases, proverbs or wise words that have become a part of your life? Are you someone who never makes mistakes? Or maybe you won’t admit to them?
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