Just read about this group of people who get together now and again and talk about their failures over a few drinks – sharing where they’ve messed up, telling what they learned, if anything, sharing that’s okay to make a complete mess of things.
Here’s the article.
I think this is a great idea. Ever since we told our first lie to our mothers about how well we did in school, or our school friends about how well we live, we’ve been told to emphasize the positive. We become great at rationalizing. “Yeah, I failed the exam but that’s because I was helping starving orphans – no really!” Or, more likely, “I didn’t get the marks I wanted, but it was the professor’s fault.”
We graduate to hyper promoting ourselves in job interviews because we cannot be seen to show weakness. We even get into the (gasp!) fradulent Christmas letter writing, the tremendously successful social media posts, the endlessly cheerful selfies, carefully staged. And don’t get me started on the dating site posts. Lying abounds. No one admits to failures in their broken marriages, no one admits they can’t maintain a relationship for more than fifteen seconds (or that that’s about the amount of time they take for sex).
Eventually, this can change into the toxic mess of really thinking that any failures really aren’t our fault and then we get the bizarreness that is running the USA at the moment.
But here’s the thing – failures are the BEST. That’s where the rubber hits the road, where you are forced to think about things, where you confront the actuality of your existence. Where you learn. Heaven knows I’ve learned a lot from my multiple failures …(#humblebrag)
Gosh, see how that slips in? I can’t even honestly wallow in my failures without having to come up with some fraudulent positive to hold forth like a shining light like I’m better than everyone else because I’ve THOUGHT about my failures…
And truth be told, there are lots of failures I just haven’t learned from. Like:
Weight management. (chocolate calls to me like a seagull, persistent and loud)
The need for exercise. (Again, it feels good when done, but that chair and book are so cozy)
Humility. (Though thankfully I get slapped with that one on a regular basis, so it’s harder to forget)
Relationships. (Though I heard that men, apparently, don’t like it if you seem willing. Who knew?)
Forgetting to put lipstick on my aging lips, so I look like the undead. (Though I can rationalize about the chemicals in lipstick, it still doesn’t prevent me from looking like a
Dressing for success. (I dress for comfort and often get followed around by staff in stores)
Writing. (I can’t even discuss that one)
Oh, gee, there are so many.
I try and make a joke out of them. I tell myself they don’t matter. Most of the time they don’t. Truth is, what I may see as a galling gaping hole of embarrassment doesn’t even touch the outside world. No one is looking at me, or if they are, they take me for what I am or judge me and it means nothing. Either they are friends or they are not.
The problem with this not acknowledging failure thing is that we become perfectionists, hide what we attempt. Once I took a pottery class, throwing endless cylinders on the wheel. Every one I threw I sliced in half to see how thinly I was able to throw the walls, the bottom. I failed to make a pot every single time because I’d cut it in half. I left the 6-week class with nothing to take home. None of them were worth keeping, in my perfectionist mind. In a way that was freeing (I do so HATE to finish projects (see unlearned-from failures)), but I could have learned a lot more if I’d accepted the good enough and just pushed forward.
For awhile, I was published a lot. I’d write off a short piece, polish it, and send it in. Get paid for it, even! Lately, I have been holding onto my pieces, sure they are secretly horrible. They pile up, sliced in half like my clay cylinders. I’m holding back, refusing to throw myself into the world, “be seen”, as my friend Bonnie used to say.
Fortunately, I make weird felted animals, and I have a wonderfully supportive group of female friends who told me they were good enough, so I dared to toss them into the caring hands of the people at Argyle Fine Art, and they have accepted them, welcomed them, given me street cred. I have been seen.
I still fail at them regularly, and a wise friend from my knitting circle told me yesterday, “But maybe that’s why people like them?” So…who knows?
Now, if only I can do that with my writing. I have many a project that needs a little fluffing and then releasing. They aren’t perfect, but maybe, like my animals, people will like them more for that? I dunno, but if nothing else, I’ll have more failures to add to my pile…and that’s a good thing.
Because failures mean that I tried.