Learning not to Fear Failure

“When we begin to take our failures non-seriously, it means we are ceasing to be afraid of them. It is of immense importance to learn to laugh at ourselves” — Katherine Mansfield

In any given day, we will succeed at some things and fail at others. Failure happens to some degree every day. Over time, If we lose our sense of humor, we can begin to feel badly about our failures, letting those feelings compound into a statement about our self-worth. After all, who wants to fail?

There are times when a failure seems too big to make us laugh, and indeed some mistakes aren’t that funny. In those cases, does it make sense to continue to wallow in self-loathing, or to earnestly move forward in a new direction. Every moment offers us a chance for a new direction, and if we are mired in self loathing about our failures, we lose the chance to see the new opportunities that are available to us in the present moment.

I am resisting the temptation to see my move into a job that didn’t suit me as a failure. It was a learning experience, and I do not regret making the decision to change directions after several attempts to make it work. Resilience is one of my strengths. Having gone through much harder times, bigger failures in my life, I remain an eternal optimist, with a healthy dose of sardonic cynicism to keep me from being too naive.

Early in my recovery from an eating disorder, I had a sponsor who gave me a stuffed, quilted pig she had lovingly made for me. It seemed rather ironic, given my condition, but the words she said when she presented it to me have always stayed with me, even 35 years later. Her words were simple “Don’t wallow in it!”

I don’t expect everything in life to work out, and I don’t expect myself to be perfect. I know I will make mistakes, fail, fall down, and do dumb things. Sometimes I will be able to laugh at these things, and sometimes I will need to take a moment to cry.

Life itself fails us at times, and all we can do is decide, and decide, and decide again. Where to next?

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Winsome Days

via Daily Prompt: Winsome

img_3652The most winsome I ever felt

was on my wedding day

Thirty years later I awakened

Not knowing where I was but

knowing where I wasn’t

I changed my course and

the winsome smile returned

“You can’t not work…” and other Holiday Greetings

“People are… Full of contradictions. They’re lonely. And then they’re not. They’re missed. And then they’re not.”
― Kou Yoneda漂えど沈まず、されど泣きもせず [Tadayoedo Shizumazu Saredo Naki Mo Sezu]

The holiday season has never been my favorite. Mainly because I can only handle so many social gatherings before needing to retreat into my own space. This is a relatively new discovery about myself, rather, a part of myself that I am just now allowing myself to acknowledge. When I get together with a group of people, I can handle it for about two hours, and then I am ready to go home. It doesn’t matter whether I am having a great time or not, I just don’t have the capacity to do it for much longer than that. I suppose this has to do with my anxiety levels, and even though I don’t struggle nearly as much with it as I used to (thanks to years of therapy and a little medicine), I am careful not to exceed what I know is my limit. When I exceed those limits,  I tend to overeat, over drink, and become hyper-focused on things that bother me.  It is funny though, that once rested, I am ready to do it all over again.

Since quitting my job at the beginning of December, I have had a surprisingly full schedule of traveling, babysitting, spending time helping my friend through a mental health crisis, hosting my fiance’s (I’ll call him Alto) family and then my family, and going to many holiday parties. I am not sure how I ever would have managed all this if I was still working. In the past, going to work was my excuse to get away when I had exceeded my limit of tolerance. Usually work was quiet during the holidays, with many people taking off; and going into an empty, quiet office was a welcome escape.

Not working has been a blessing this year, though it was challenging listening to everyone’s comments about it.

“Why did you leave such a great job?”

“Are you looking for another job, you’re too young to retire?!”

You can’t not work….”

“What are you going to do now, isn’t it going to be hard to find a job at your age?”

“It must be nice to not have to work! I’m the only one in my family who works…”

“Wish I had the luxury of not working”

I’ve become particularly prickly when Alto says things like, “what do you mean you didn’t have time to go grocery shopping?”, “you slept til what time?”, or “what did you do all day?” The good thing about him is that all I need to do is tell him how I’m feeling and he listens and responds kindly. Indeed he was the one who supported my decision to quit the job and seek other opportunities; so it is mostly my own guilt and insecurities causing me to react the way I do to his comments.

The best part of the holiday season for me is having both of my daughters and my grand-daughter staying at my house this week. It was wonderful waking up and seeing their adorable faces. We haven’t been able to all be together in one place in over a year. When everyone departs, I’ll be sad, and the quiet house will be both comforting and a poignant reminder of how much I’ll miss them until next time.

Practice Accepting What We’re Given

“The reward for practicing accepting what we’re given is we become intimate with everything that’s not us. We become intimate with the nature of life.  And it’s the rhythm between our own nature and the nature of life that allows us to find the thread we are — the thread we are in the unseeable connections that hold everything together.” – Mark Nepo

I love the concept of finding the “thread we are” in nature.  Sometimes I find it hard to get out of my head, especially when I am trying to make a decision or solve a problem. It seems counterintuitive to simply let go and accept where I am in the moment, not to mention incredibly difficult given my obsessive compulsive personality.

The other day I decided to take a walk and as I strolled along, I realized I was stuck in my head, oblivious to nature around me.  I remembered what Mark Nepo said in his Book of Awakening about dealing with difficult thoughts and emotions by finding something in nature that most represents how you are feeling.  I started looking for things during my walk, and slowly I was able to stop the obsessive thinking.

I would recommend giving this approach a try, and remember to go easy on yourself if you have trouble letting go of your thoughts — they are part of nature too.

A Life Lesson for All Ages

Yesterday I struggled to see the good in my day. Everything was harder than normal, and I was feeling just plain gross and out of sorts. I was frustrated with my job and annoyed that I am not an expert at it yet. I missed my old job, but at the same time cursed it. I wanted to throw my uncooperative laptop out the window, and on the way to my doctor’s appointment I missed my exit. I was disappointed to find I hadn’t lost a pound despite eating a healthy diet and was reminded by the well-meaning doctor that my age was a contributing factor.

On the way home the contents of my purse spilled all over the floor of my car, and I was honked at several times for my distracted driving. I felt needy,  weepy, and isolated from my friends, whom I  haven’t gotten to see as much lately. I almost canceled a dinner because I didn’t think I was invited, but traffic was so bad I went any way. I’m glad I did, even though it felt a little awkward.

When a bad day is happening, I don’t always realize the reasons why I’m feeling out of sorts until it has passed. Today I am fairly certain most of it had to do with being tired and not knowing when to slow down and take it easy. Today I’m finding it a little easier to lighten up about things, probably because I’m not trying so hard.

Over the weekend I read a book to my grand-daughter called My No, No, No Day by Rebecca Patterson. After I finished reading, she looked up at me innocently and said, “Why was she having a bad day Mimi?”

My daughter, who was folding clothes on the bed was quick to remind the sleepy toddler of the bad day she’d had recently, after she missed her nap and threw several temper tantrums. What better way to let a small child know that bad days happen to everyone than by telling her a story.

Thank goodness there are books like this one and the popular kid’s book, Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst, that provide valuable lessons to children about life’s ups and downs, and thank goodness for the reminder to me as well.