My great-aunt Emma told me a story about the sprites and fairies when I was a little boy. I was sad because mom had scolded me about tipping over my glass of milk at dinner. Emma said I should not worry about the milk that had to be mopped up because I had just made an offering to the little fairies.
She said that, in the old country (Sweden) that times were very difficult and that is the reason why our family moved to America. Even after settling in this country, times were harsh and that wasting any food was not acceptable because it was much more difficult to provide food for the family.
Then Emma said that if somebody accidentally wasted a glass of milk, the accident was seen as a gift to the sprites that watched over the garden. While the fairies’ favorite offerings are lingonberries and honey, their favorite food is cold, creamy milk. The person who scolds a child about accidentally spilling milk is seen as being ungenerous because of an unwillingness to give the offering to the fairies. If the gift is only grudgingly given, then the fairies will be sad and angry. The lack of generosity will bring bad luck to the family.
I don’t remember mom’s response to the story, I’m sure she was less than happy to overhear what was intended for my ears only. I do remember that I thought aunt Emma had just told me something very special and wise. The depth of the wisdom of her little fairytale didn’t dawn on me until many years later.
Today is a good time to tell you about Emma’s story and for you to remember it and pass it along to children and friends you know. It’s a charming way to help celebrate National Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day. The unofficial holiday is an opportunity for us to remember that getting worried and upset over every little problem will keep us unhappy.
Have you committed a little goof recently? It’s OK to acknowledge your slip-up right away, apologize and take ownership of it, then move on. This is a good habit to encourage for children and adults alike. This habit will then make it easier to admit to or accept the major mistakes that inevitably happen in life, as well. The pain will still occur, but will also pass away more easily when we remember to accept the lesson and to learn from it. The homily, “Life goes on, so mourn your losses and mistakes, then forgive yourself and others” is true.
I’ve found that even when I forgive myself and let go of the self-blame and self-pity, there is still the issue of regret. We all have regrets, some of them have been with us for many years. This is where careful contemplation is helpful. Being mindful of not falling into the habit of ruminating over the past, we can enhance the chances of avoiding the mistake. Then we realize that when we discover a genuine insight into the causes of that mistake and why we made it.
Once you have the realization, you will find motivation and energy to form new habits and greater awareness. This is the positive use of regret. To remember our basic goodness and humanity we must not push our regrets aside. If we fail to regret a terrible mistake, we risk becoming heartless, cold, and mean. If we own up to the mistake and offer sincere apologies, and encourage insight, we have the chance to become more whole, authentic, generous, and kind.
I hope you will deeply celebrate today’s holiday and carry the spirit of it with you the rest of the year. Happy Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk Day to you.
The Blue Jay of Happiness says that mistakes are the fairies that offer us the gifts of growth and wisdom.