Fail again, fail better

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.

Administrative Caca

Last weekend I was a book-reading fiend. I finished about four different ones over the weekend. One was short and the other three just had me completely sucked in. It was a gorgeous weekend with warm weather and sunny days which meant that other than errands, house chores, and yard duties, I tried to sneak as much time as possible to hide in between the pages of the books that captured my attention. The shorter one (at about 75 pages) is a book by Calvin Trillium who has been with the The New Yorker since 1963 among many other noteworthy achievements and books written.

Many of his books somehow connect back to his wife Alice. In the book I read over the weekend, “About Alice” it is a modern-day love story, but not in a cheesy, romantic style way. It is a genuine over-the-years deep love for his wife expressed over the 75 pages of this book. It is a quick read, but it left me with a deep contentment that love can and does last for that long, and only gets deeper with each passing year. I loved this idea on page 24:

“When we were in our early thirties, it occurred to me that one way to divide people we knew was that some of them were still dependent on their parents—financially or emotionally or some other way—and some of them had seen that role ended or even reversed. I never embarked on a study to see if that distinction was a predictor of how people handled what has to be handled to get through life—the small matters of logistics and maintenance that were known around our house as Administrative Caca, or serious issues of, say, catastrophic illness or financial disaster—but I suppose I always assumed that Alice’s early responsibility for her parents had something to do with her tendency to sit down and systematically deal with whatever problems came up.”

I obviously have never embarked on such a study, but for someone who began taking care of my mom at the age of twelve, I saw early on what it was like to have roles reversed. At twelve and sixteen respectively, my older sister and I were the mother to my mom at too young an age. When she passed, that role was then passed to my grandma who was in her nineties and needed more care than she let on.

I do think the shit life throws at you, as Trillium says the “Administrative Caca” (which is a new phrase I think I will adopt in my own vernacular), is telling to how we handle and manage our lives day-to-day. Maybe that is why I am a take-no-shit, deal-with-it-as-it comes kind of woman. I do not like things to fester. I like to deal with it and move on.

How do you divide? Have the roles reversed in your life?