There is a scene in Bridget Jones Diary where our heroine is on-scene at a firehouse for a feature on “Sit Up Britain”. Her boss tells her to slide down the fire pole to meet with the firefighters. Unfortunately, she mishears her cue and comes sliding down the pole before the camera goes live.
Bridget pulls, struggles, and strains to climb back up the pole, but she cannot quite reach the top. She is simply not strong enough. When the camera finally goes live, she is halfway up the pole and slides haphazardly back down, landing flat on her backside. Well, she lands on the camera, her panties in clear view of all Great Britain.
How many times has a mixed signal or a “miscommunication” made you feel … exposed?
1984 and Animal Farm. I truly believe that reading the classics helps you to grow as a writer. Could there be a better time in history to read George Orwell? To be honest, I have struggled to deal with the hate and constant outrage all around me in this new political climate. An issue or event doesn’t have to target me personally to take its toll; I feel it in my bones. Instead of meditating on how to deal with the cacophony, I heightened my anxiety by reading dystopias. Talk about sending yourself mixed signals!
Cabin fever. Puxatawney Phil predicted 6 more weeks of winter. For me and my kiddos, that meant more than 20 inches of snow, 3 school closings, and 3 delayed school openings this month alone. More than that, it meant stir crazy 6- and 10-year-olds who didn’t hear their mother say “settle down kids”. Instead, they heard “please wrestle around like Hulk Hogan and Rowdy Roddy Piper in the classic days of wrestling” and “oh, please be sure to jump off the sofa!”
The GI bug and a head cold. A two-for-one special! This February, I caught a delightful GI bug (I will spare you the gruesome details) followed by a head cold that crawled its slimy way into my chest. All things considered, I sounded a bit like Satine in Moulin Rouge minus the tuberculosis. My head said “make sure to exercise because exercise is your therapy”, but my body said, “do it and you will cough up a lung”. I was forced to limit my physical activity to walking but I am proud to say I didn’t give up.
Spicy soup. I am ashamed to admit that I, a Portuguese woman, had never made kale soup until now. Using memory as opposed to a recipe, I chopped up some chorizo with the kale, added some tomatoes and potatoes, and added salt and pepper. Far too much pepper. When I took my first bite, my eyes watered and I immediately started coughing. It wasn’t from my pseudo-tuberculosis either. Apparently, my memory mixed signals with my reality.
This is all minor everyday stuff. Who doesn’t send a mixed signal every now and again? Maybe at work, you misunderstand what your boss is asking you. Maybe when driving, the car that flashes its lights to let you pass instead speeds right by you. The list goes on and on.
What really matters are the mixed signals that hurt people.
Have you ever felt hurt by a situation until you see that same situation through someone else’s eyes? And that even though you struggled through a bad experience, someone else had it worse? I had that experience this month, and it was a serving of humble pie, the whole damn pie.
I was hurting, but until I reached out to say how I was feeling, I did not know what my friend was going through. The failure to communicate can be cutting. I waited too long to talk about things, and in doing so, I hurt someone I care about. My heart is ripe with apology. With the air clear, I am happy to say things are now back on track.
Despite it all, February was a good month.
Because mixed signals give us an opportunity to grow.
When everything is going right, we have a tendency to take things for granted. When things go awry, it catches our attention. We learn how to be better listeners. We learn how to see what is happening around us. We become a better version of ourselves, at least in the moment.
I am not saying that Bridget was a better person for showing her underwear on public television. But she may pause the next time she slides down a firehouse pole. Better yet, she can build up her strength to climb back up that pole and start fresh. I plan to start doing some weight training soon myself.
Starting over is brave.
Let’s rise again, Bridget!