Surprise!! Here I am blogging on a Friday night. While you, on the other hand, are probably out partying and enjoying your life, and not going to see this until tomorrow. But it will be here when you return! Just like me…
Of course, the other people who are sitting all alone tonight are doing what I’m doing: trying to decompress from the week. It takes awhile, and it isn’t a pretty process. (Mostly because I wear pants with ducks on them and repeatedly rub my eyes until they are bloodshot.) De-stressing can take even longer when you are finally laying in bed at night, moving over the details of the day, cringing at every embarrassing moment, chuckling at every sarcastic thought. All of those unspoken words. All of those moments that passed without a second glance. All of those missed opportunities. The pain is suddenly physical when you think of what you should have said to your boss, partner, friend, etc. and what you only muttered in your mind.
The French call it L’esprit de l’escalier or “elevator wit.” It describes the feeling you have when you leave a situation and think of the perfect comeback or the most succinct line. Of course, the rest of the world is a bit more uncouth and imprecise when it comes to this emotion. We call it regret. Our lives are full of it, moments that we wish we could take back, do over, and replay in our minds.
Except, life isn’t a movie or a filmstrip. You can’t cut it into pieces and edit it together the way you want it. You aren’t delivering lines from a script. You’re speaking. And while it feels good to tell someone what’s on your mind, sometimes it has real consequences. For example, instead of sashaying away with a renewed confidence after telling off your ex (like every romantic comedy ever), you might find that you feel just as empty inside as the day he or she left. Only worse because you just verbally abused someone who once cared about you.
Or what about telling your boss exactly what you think of your job? Sure, it is momentarily satisfying. Until you get in the elevator by yourself. And you replay all of that “wit” you had only moments ago. And you realize that you have to return to face your problems all over again tomorrow. No “exit stage left” like on the big screen. (However, the crying into a tub of ice cream is very, very real.)
The point is, nothing is perfect the first time. That’s why they call it a second chance. You’re allowed, and encouraged, to try again. So, if you’re having a bad case of l’esprit de l’escalier at night, and you can’t sleep because what you didn’t say is tormenting you, write it down for later. You may find that your snarky comeback will finally have a time and a place someday. Or you may find that it never really applied to the situation at all. Deciding which course of action to take is called wisdom. And that translates in every language.