Tuesday, January 3, 2012

It is Good to Fail

failure: noun

1. the nonperformance of an assigned or expected action

I have been thinking a lot about the subject of failure.

Last year brought some failures with it. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact some of the failures have turned out to be good.

I have come to realize that sometimes by just going with the flow, letting things run their course instead of trying to be in control, a greater plan unfolds. When I can allow things to just happen without judgment or panic, I can focus more on being on course as opposed to steering furiously down a path that probably isn't going to make things a whole lot better anyway.

Sometimes what makes things better is being the best me, right where I am planted, as opposed to seeking loftier ground when I am uncertain. I liken this to building a house, if I don't have a strong foundation, then the stories built upon it will be unstable.

It is futile to fight failure when we have tried everything and nothing is working. Failure teaches us some of the truest lessons. It knocks down our defenses, causes us to reflect and take inventory on what is important.

We can't really know our self until we decide to just be with our true self--failures and all--no covering up. Covers are masks. Failures bring us to the truest places; the vulnerability of failing awakens us from a state of being on auto pilot.

Sometimes things that we think are failures, turn out to be our greatest gifts.

Case in point: the middle school years. From a parenting point of view they have been a huge challenge. In fact, on any given day, I can honestly say they have sucked. I have drained my battery many times trying to navigate a course that definitely has an undercurrent that I do not feel stable in. Many days I would think I was preventing failure, as I read the daily computer-generated reports of my son's missed assignments. I would then make the proper follow up emails to teachers, then schedule meetings, and try to share my point of view as a parent, desperate to come up with some sort of plan to keep my son on track. But I felt alone in a  system that was already put in place and would remain in place, regardless of my sons needs. Deadlines were deadlines, I was told  test scores were high enough, so he didn't qualify for help, late work piled up, no exceptions would be made.

Performing these tasks took so much energy, brought so much stress, it has literally made me sick. I short-circuited. I was placed  on proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medication) for  three months to heal a bout of gastritis.

I blamed coffee, my doctor blamed 'middle school'. She listened to me spontaneously unload school stories as if they were just unimportant side notes, while at my visit to address weeks of nausea. She told me this stress was the direct cause for the acid increase in my gut.

I took the reflux medicine home, read the slew of disturbing side effects, took them anyway, and set about to heal. After three days of worse gastric disturbances, and with a holiday party to attend, I decided not to take one the next day, vowing to return to them the following. But I did something different that day too; I listened to my gut, quite literally. I ate what made me feel good, drank what felt right and by the next morning I was feeling better. This happened again the following day so I didn't medicate that day either, now almost a week later I am feeling better than ever, without the medicine.

You know what else my gut told me? It told me to give in to the failure, failure to control my son's destiny. Let him fail if he needs to, it may be a necessary lesson for him. He needs to find his own way, I heard my gut say.

But my failure became my success. Because now I am no longer drinking acidic coffee the first thing in the morning, I have returned to the gluten free diet I am healthiest on, and as I walk daily I listen. I listen to myself. And I hear myself say, "Let go, you are on the right course, just stay with it and love yourself along the way. The rest will fall into place."

You know what? Releasing the pressure of fighting the inevitable, the necessary, has freed me up to be a far better mother. Who can live under the stress of going against the grain day in day out? And as if to prove my point, my dear friend, who has been following my every twist and turn, with the support of a saint and the insights of a sage, called me a few mornings ago to tell me about this dream she had of me:

She awakens within her dream, startled, looking out the window of her bedroom onto the (actual) river that runs along her home, she sees me on the water. I am at the edge of the rushing waterfall in a tan mini-van, getting ready to go over. We make eye contact and she stares at me in disbelief as I fly down the massively flowing fall. When I get to the bottom, I look up at her and smile, pumping my fist as if to say, "I made it, and I meant to do that."

The Actual Waterfall