Not a Failure

When have you felt like a failure?

I awoke this morning from a terrible, vivid dream. Obviously, the dream’s dystopian events are fictional, but the feelings it evoked linger like creepy-tingling nightmarish fog fingers from a supernatural horror movie.

I know exactly what the dream meant: I feel like I’m failing. I feel helpless to do anything more or differently than we’re already doing, and all our efforts might not be enough.

image from Canva

After years of being told I’m too sensitive, I’ve come to recognize my sensitivity as a gift. I’ve learned to trust my gut. So while the dream may have been awful, in the waking light I hear what it said: this particular struggle is causing an inordinate amount of stress.

I’m not a failure, and I could slough off the bad dream with the bed covers. Yet I’m choosing to pay attention. To study this feeling, turning it this way and that as I examine it from new angles. I’m leaning in to receive any wise whispers while rejecting any shaming nonsense.

Here’s a neat trick: while I refuse the shame-label “Failure!” I’m actually a fan of failure itself. To have failed means to have taken a risk that didn’t play out as you’d hoped. Failure means you’ve tried – try, try again. The only way to move forward is to try new things, and as you try things you’ve never done before, you will most likely be bad before you get better. Beginners are meant to be bad, and it’s always worth it to be a beginner if you find joy in the process. Try, fail, try again, fail again, get back up… Persistence is the name of the game.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Our immediate next right step meant taking the dogs for a long stroll on a beautiful morning. Along the way, I blurted thoughts related to the dream and asked for my husband’s input. Thankfully, he gets it. He shares my frustrations and feels similarly stymied. Since the struggle itself won’t disappear anytime soon, at least we’re in it together.

A couple blocks from our return home, we encountered a neighbor we’re friendly with but don’t know well. And wouldn’t you know, during our brief chat she offered a balm-compliment that soothed our sore spot. A lovely little grace gift.

I don’t know your struggles, just as you don’t know the specifics of mine. But I know that so long as we’re breathing we have work to do. I, too, occasionally need some spiritual ibuprofen to soothe the aches and pains caused by the heavy lifting life requires. I can make a solid guess that, so long as you’ve picked up the tools you need for today, you haven’t given up. You are not a failure. And I’m cheering you on.

Cover Image by Игорь Левченко from Pixabay

Life Well Lived

How do I measure my life?

I saw a documentary a few weeks ago at the California Independent Film Festival called Lives Well Lived. The filmmaker, Sky Bergman, was inspired by her 99-year-old grandmother lifting weights at the gym. As she shot some video footage, she spontaneously asked Grandma to share words of wisdom; later, editing her short video to share with family, she realized she had a project. Bergman set off on a five-year quest to collect the wisdom of 40 people between ages 75 and 100. This film is the result.

I felt awed by their lived history: the Japanese internment camps, Krystal Nacht, the KinderPassage train, extreme poverty, losing parents and spouses. They worked hard, kept their spirits up, followed their passions, made their lives successful.

What struck me most was how positive, happy, they were despite the unbelievable hardships they had faced. They didn’t let circumstances level them; they showed no symptoms of trauma; they had grit and kept going.

They talked about staying in the present, living fully, expecting something wonderful to happen every day—holding on in faith that, though sometimes the wonderful is delayed, it will happen. A few mentioned 50 as a turning point, and never growing too old to try something new. That age is an irrelevant number. They encouraged younger people to stop worrying: the past is over and the future is coming no matter what, so enjoy right now. One said, “Work a little less, spend a little less. Enjoy life a little more!”

Recently I came across this article by Darius Foroux about how to measure success. So many people measure success by their bank accounts and investments, their houses and cars, their exotic vacations. From his extensive reading by foremost experts in business, management, personal development, and health, Foroux found something surprising: the most successful people measure success by their energy, work, and relationships.

Okay, so maybe that doesn’t sound so surprising. If you have sufficient energy, you work harder and have more to invest in relationships. Yes, and that’s not all.

Energy: how do I feel? If I want to feel better, the equation is pretty simple: eat healthy and exercise. Do this most days, if not every day.

Work: what else can I learn? It’s not about a paycheck as much as engagement and curiosity. Since I am in a work transition period, this one particularly resonates with me.

Relationships: how am I giving to the most important people in my life? I can’t control how others do or don’t regard me, but I can control how much I invest in my people.

Control is a key word. For the most part, I control how I feel in my body, mind and soul; what I will do about those things that pique my curiosity; and how I choose to offer myself in relationship. Hopefully some of that will also pay off in a paycheck, but there’s more to life than money.

And still, gentleness, grace, and gratitude in all things. As SARK reminds us, healing and growth often happen not in forward motion but in spirals, in layers. Sometimes we loop back a time or three before we develop the strength to conquer the next hurdle.

And that’s just fine. I’d like to imagine I’ll still be hitting the gym when I’m 99, but for now I’ll remember: the past is over, the future is coming, so I’ll enjoy this moment.

 

Image by Bruno Glätsch from Pixabay