What to Do When There’s No Undo Button
My husband and I are big fans of musical theater, and on Saturday, as a belated Valentine’s Day celebration, we went to see the show “Hadestown” at the Academy of Music.
The music was incredible, and the story was more than a little relatable.
Inspired by Greek mythology, it centers around two young lovers, Orpheus and Euridice. Euridice is held captive by the underlord Hades in hell (“Hadestown”), but Orpheus manages to find a “backdoor” in, and attempts to rescue her.
He tries to persuade Hades to set her free, and Hades reluctantly agrees… but with one tiny condition:
Orpheus must walk in front of Euridice to lead her out, trusting that she truly loves him and will follow him; but if at any point he turns around to check and make sure she’s still there, she will be instantly condemned to Hadestown for eternity.
Easier said than done. Along the route, all the demonic voices in his head whisper to Orpheus, making him doubt he could be capable of success, doubt whether Euridice could really love him and be faithful, doubt if he could trust her or even himself, and more.
(Apparently even Greek gods aren’t immune to head trash and imposter syndrome!)
At the end, just as they’re about to reach the exit and find safety and eternal bliss, the voices become too much, and Orpheus turns to look. There is Euridice, right behind him all along… for one split second before she disappears back into Hadestown for the rest of eternity.
And Orpheus spends the rest of his life wishing he had a giant UNDO button.
(Okay, that’s a slightly anachronistic metaphor, but go with it…)
In the same way, how many times have we sabotaged ourselves, then wished we could go back in time and hit the UNDO button? For example, have you ever
- hit “reply-all” by accident, before sharing confidential information or an unkind opinion of someone on the list?
- made the emotional, angry phone call to someone instead of waiting until you cooled off and could be a bit more diplomatic?
- got romantically involved with someone you knew was bad for you?
- agreed to have “just one more drink,” (“and this time, I mean it.”)
If you’re human, at least one of those has probably happened to you. But the last one, in particular, hits home for this week’s episode of Speaking to Influence.
My guest this week is Dr. Joseph Garbely, chief medical officer of Caron Treatment Centers, which offers world-class rehabilitation and treatment services for people suffering from drug and alcohol addiction.
While there may not be an “undo” button for addiction, one could argue that Caron Treatment Centers offers the next best thing: a second chance.
But sometimes there’s no second chance either, such as in the ICU, when he needs to tell a family that their loved one didn’t survive a car accident while under the influence. What do you say to someone on what is likely the worst day of their life?
In these worst-case scenarios, Dr. Garbely shares that there’s only one thing to do: don’t avoid the conversation, and deliver your message with the greatest amount of compassion and empathy possible.
We also discussed the importance of choosing the right medium for a particular conversation, and the dangers of electronic communication. Even though we might want to avoid the discomfort of a topic, and hide behind a perfunctory text or disembodied email, it’s crucial to know when to pick up the phone, or better yet have a face-to-face conversation, whether via Zoom (cameras ON), or in person if at all possible.
Listen to the conversation here or watch it on YouTube here.
Whether it’s truly a life-or-death situation, or one where you just THINK you're going to die of embarrassment, there is a path to recovery. It starts with overcoming the urge to hide, and having the courage and integrity to face the other person, acknowledging the truth with honesty and empathy.
If nothing else, take a cue from Orpheus: when it seems darkest and the voices of fear and doubt creep in, keep your eyes on the road ahead and persist toward the goal; don’t look back — it's not worth it!