We are a culture of success. We want everything to be perfect, dialed, and done right the first time.
My father ingrained it into us as kids “do it right the first time.” I do not know if that was ingrained in him as a kid or if it was after being in the military, but he was hard-core and would often yell if we did things (mostly chores) and our results were not up to his standard. Imagine over time knowing that if it was not perfect the first time — you would receive his anger and frustration. Yet, it meant that we only learned to fail with negative consequences.
When I heard about Pema Chodron’s book: “Fail, Fail Again, Fail Better: Wise Advice for Leaning into the Unknown” I knew I had to read it. It is the transcription of her 2014 commencement address at Naropa University in Boulder, Colorado. Her granddaughter is in the graduating class. It is a quick read (a book with text on only the right side pages, and small, so it can be read in less than an hour), but a powerful message.
I love this idea she shares:
“‘Fail better’ means you being to have the ability to hold what I called in the talk ‘the rawness of vulnerability’ in your heart, and see it as your connection with other human beings and as part of humanness. Failing better means when these things happen in your life, they become a source of growth, a source of forward, a source of, as I say in the talk, ‘out of that place of rawness you can really communicate genuinely with other people’.” Page 115
To think about failing and being vulnerable — that is where we learn. There is so much I can take from this in work and home life, and especially with this ‘lil man that is going to soon join us. I vow to let my son learn in his own way, fail, and be vulnerable. Hopefully it means he will not have the message that has haunted me for years — that I always had to do it right the first time.
People come into and out of our life and sometimes we do not have a choice. At times their lives are too busy for us, or maybe we are too busy for them. Often we do not know why we no longer connect, hear from, or are a priority for others. There might not be a malicious reason, life happens, shit happens. Maybe the famous line: “It’s not you, it’s me” really is true in friendships and working relationships. I have had a few frustrating conversations over the past week and I continue to wonder, was it me, or was it them? Should I have handled things differently? Should I have been more patient, or more direct?
When we do not receive direct feedback from others, the “It’s not you, it’s me” line does not answer our questions. We might agonize over whether we have alienated someone, pissed them off, or made them feel tiny. Sometimes we will never know what we did (or did not do in a situation). Our agony is not really worth the time, especially if we never receive answers to our questions. We must move on and continue towards what is next.
There were a few individuals that I especially was looking forward to having in my life in the near future. Sometimes the roads that we think will meet are just a mirage, we dream of where they could lead, and somehow when we get closer to where we think they meet, we realize it was all just our eyes playing tricks on us. Or maybe we allowed our mind to dream and wonder where this moment in our life could take us. Whether it was not meant to be, or it was not meant to be at this moment in our life. We can be grateful for what we learned in the process. I know that sounds cliché, but really each step we take, leads us to the next opportunity that awaits us. We just might not see it clearly at first. I am having such moments. Was it me, or was it them? What I thought I would see on the other side is different from what I am seeing now. I have to clear my mind and be open for the true picture that is before me.
Definitely not easy, but maybe the true adventure is not knowing what we will see on the other side. Maybe when our imagination runs wild, we can put a picture together and even when it does not turn out like our dreams, sometimes when we wait patiently and long enough the end result is better than we can ever imagine. I am willing to wait, maybe less patiently over time, but I have seen it before and I know my imagination is sometimes not large enough for what is possible.
I do not really think about the idea of feeling mothered too often. Until a few weeks ago. I met a woman who calmed me. It was not anything she really did, but I wondered if the vibe she gave off was one of a “mother.” Random I know. This woman is slightly irrelevant to this post as I may never see her again, but the hour I spent with her began a chain of events in my thoughts over the course of the next few days. Mothers. Mothering. Lack of a mom. My mom passed away 20 years ago. I have lived more of my life without my mom then I did with her.
Yes there have always been individuals in my life that have “mothered” me in different ways. I have tears in my eyes as I remember the ones that had a lasting effect on me. And, while many of those that mothered me are not deeply present in my life today, they are still in some ways always present with me. I saw how they mothered their own children, how they loved me, or how they taught me to love. It is interesting for me to look back over those 20 years of the diverse mothering in my life.
Jump to today. I am a bit of a hard-core person. I go all into a project. Usually it is hard for me to stop until I am done. You know you can count on me, trust me, and that I will not let you down. But with being hard-core there is an intensity that I exude that sometimes is well: intense. This woman a few weeks ago calmed me for that hour. I have no idea why. I have no idea if I would like her, or if she would continue to have that effect on me. It makes me wonder about all my friends, family, and co-workers who have lost parents, siblings, friends, co-workers in their life. How do they continue to feel fathered, mothered, taken care of? Why did this women calm me?
Is it that I need more mothering in my life? Do I need to let go a bit and allow myself to be mothered? I guess it depends on what our definition of mothering truly is. Sometimes I think it is knowing that I could pick up the phone and cry, share of my day, or ask for advice. Other times it is to tell me that everything is going to be okay, or to tell me how proud she is of me. Whatever the definition, I imagine a good amount of us could use a bit more mothering in our life.
Sometimes Oprah just nails it. I saw this quote from Oprah and Elizabeth Gilbert on Facebook over the weekend. There was one of her big mega events in New Jersey and author Elizabeth Gilbert joined her for the event. Oprah said:
“YOU DON”T GET WHAT YOU WISH FOR; YOU GET WHAT YOU BELIEVE.”
Wow. That really made me think: Do I wish for things, or do I believe in them? Then my mind goes in a few ways. See, I have had a lot of anxiety going through my thoughts these last few days. I have had this flu bug thing for literally an entire week and when you get slow and spend a lot of time on the couch, your brain slows down. For me that means I think about each and every little thing, but in slow motion. All the events happening in the next few weeks, and all the things I have to do for those events. Both in my professional and personal life. Let me just say that it is a lot. To get it off my chest, I shared the list with Chris on Saturday night. In between blowing my nose, coughing, and snuggling into my pillow and blanket.
“Lay your wishes aside for a spell, and look deep into what you believe about yourself. Make sure your beliefs about your own life are anchored in greatness, in holiness, in worth, in grace, in joy, in excitement —in internal certainties rather than external circumstances. Because that belief? That’s where you’re heading, no matter what it may look like on the outside.”
So — then I should err on the side of leaning towards the good. I should be excited for what is before me, regardless of whatever might make me anxious at that moment, or about what I anticipate. Instead, believe it all to be good. Believe in my own worth, in my goodness, and greatness.