Tag Archives: failure

On living a small life

3454-dreamsWhen I was a kid, my parents told me I could be and do anything I wanted (as long as it required a college degree and wasn’t embarrassing). As a graduating nursing student, my prof leaned into my ear and said, “I know you’re going to set the world on fire!”

I don’t think she meant arson.

So I grew up with these expectations that if I worked hard enough, the world was going to be my oyster and I would rule all with my kindly queenliness. I would MAKE A CONTRIBUTION.

Didn’t help that my mum was one of the first female lawyers to graduate from UNB, and that she was smart as a whip and so obviously not happy with staying at home, her intellect stuck in neutral.

Not only would I rule the world, but marriage wasn’t really important, and boys less so, was the message.


Well, I AM small!


I did my degree, went out to work, only to find out that I wasn’t particularly good at bedside nursing. I had chosen nursing because I knew I didn’t have the commitment to be a doctor. But nursing demanded odd hours and racing about and constant fear that I’d screwed up somewhere or that I would be asked to do something I had no idea how to do.

I got married. What the heck? I had absolutely no diagram about how to be married. I didn’t even know people who knew how to be married. Ergo, I ended up in the nursing scenario again, always afraid I was doing something wrong.

That’s okay, I thought. I’ll parent. I’ll be the BEST parent. I’ll BE INVOLVED, but not smothering, funny but not mean, perfect in every way. Well, my kids will tell you how that turned out. I was INVOLVED but a lot of parenting is simple boring drudge work, interspersed with those moments of glory that make you do it. There’s a reason babies smile at 6 weeks. I didn’t much like that job, either, though I do like my kids.

I moved to public health. Felt a bit more certain there. I’ve always been able to talk myself out of situations, so teaching about healthy habits came naturally. And then I learned I could talk myself INTO situations. Uh oh.

_12Every time I had one of these deep “whoa can’t do that” experiences, I stepped back, further into the introvert world. I felt like Tigger, wanting only ‘haycorns’ and then deciding he hated them.

I’m coming to realize that I am meant to lead a small life. One where successes are small, often almost invisible.

One where when I leave it, the obituary will likely be a three line one. “Mother of three. We have NO IDEA WHAT SHE DID WITH HER TIME. It’s possible we’ll miss her.”

But maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe I should learn to settle in, be my little person, grab the joy I get from making people laugh or when they see my little critters or watch me make a fool out of myself. Maybe life is in the little things, an ear for a friend, a pair of socks for a cold kid, a smile for the bus driver, a warm ginger cookie like the ones I just baked for my sister.

Or maybe…..maybe….maybe I could just finish this book and…

The dreams of bigness die hard. Yes, they do.

PS: I did learn how to be good at boys, but too late, she cried, and waved her wooden leg….



Revolutionary regrets, I’ve had a few…

my-arms-are-tired-protester1Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the oppressed of the world could actually succeed in overthrowing the oppressors? Everywhere there is seething, but the outcomes are minimal, except for those killed, beaten, and imprisoned in the protest. Tyrants become stronger. It breaks my heart.
I remember travelling to Havana last Christmas, eager to see the Revolution’s results, knowing, of course, that it is hard to succeed when your nearest trading partner insists upon standing on your neck – but Cuba broke my heart. Such wonderful people, such beautiful art and music and talent and strengths and yet, so many slowly starving. Even the museum of the revolution was dusty, uncared-for, grim. It made the part of me that longs for some reprieve from the outrageous me-first greed and capitalism sad and sorry.
Are we destined to lose everything we have to the powers of the shareholders? Will we be discount-stored into non-existence? And will our world leaders continue to usurp our freedoms in the Orwellian name of “security”, while we dither about and do nothing?
It horrifies me, more than the destruction of the planet, even, for without power, we as citizens of the earth can do nothing to stop that destruction.
But we’re all too comfy, or too busy, or too hesitant to speak out.vote-the-bumsout
Or we do speak out, risk our lives, and make no progress against the juggernauts who shoot us, gas us, imprison us. And eventually, we have to get back to work. At the jobs they graciously allow us to keep as long as we keep our mouths shut.
My son has been reporting from Istanbul for the past several days, and now, as things quiet down, he wonders if anything was accomplished. Like the Occupy protests – masses of people rise up, make a lot of noise, get coverage for a few minutes of our magpie-news coverage, and then once the real messages come out, the media turns to the next shiny thing and the pressure goes off the leaders.
I used to feel I didn’t believe in armed insurrection, that peaceful protest was the right way, that working within organizations was the best way to change things.
Then I tried to change organizations from within, and every time I was broken against them. I’d get a change to happen, however minuscule, one that benefitted people, but as soon as I left they slipped back into the old ways, ways they didn’t even like but which they were used to.
So how do we change an outrageous paradigm?
Maybe it’s time to link Brazil and Turkey and Occupiers and the French (who are very very good at driving the dialogue) and those rabid footballers in various places, and pull together?
I don’t know.
I’m tired.
And here we have an admitted fraudster telling everyone he will run for office again, and people saying yeah, sure, I’d vote for him.
I give up, disgusted, and pull my covers over my head.
At least, for a moment.
I need to regroup. I’ll be back.Gandhi-368x378


Feeling a fraud…

I’ve been talking with my galpals about this creeping sense of fear we all experienced at one point or another. It’s that feeling that you are merely playacting in your role, that sooner or later you are going to be caught out and proven to be completely inadequate.

The funny thing is that it happens so often that, really, we should be able to tolerate it. But it still seems a terribly frightening thing.

When I worked as a nurse, I lived in horrible fear I’d make a stupid mistake and it would be revealed that I really hadn’t done all that well in nursing school – in fact, struggled through until we got to the policy things, where I was able to cope. Sure enough, I did, I was, and eventually I moved into health policy positions.

Where I worried that I’d been promoted prematurely into management, that I was only faking competence, that sooner or later I’d blow it and I’d be caught and tossed out on my ear. Well, it was a near thing but my MS attacked before I could actually be tossed and so I was able to creep out before the tarring and feathering as my fraud was detected. (not real fraud, I hasten to add. I am nothing if not honest. Sometimes painfully so).

So now I try to write, and people tell me I can write well, but I know I’m just faking it, as I do with so many things, just faking it until someone catches me and says “Fraud! Fraud!”

And now I help with all sorts of projects, offering my expertise, but feeling as if I am playacting there as well. I am still gobsmacked that anyone would appreciate my advice, that they are not merely putting up with me so I will go away and they can talk about me behind my back. I find it hard to believe I have anything of importance to offer. And yet I keep putting myself out there, so there must be some part of me that feels I do.

Perhaps it’s paranoia, perhaps I need treatment, but I suspect there are a lot of us out there that feel the same way.

My excellent mother told us we were special, that we could do anything we wanted, that generally we could rule the world. As we went out and found that perhaps there was a teensy bit of maternal exaggeration in these statements, I think I developed this inner shadow that told me that no, we weren’t all that and a bag of chips. In fact, we weren’t even that bag of chips. The undercurrent of how we weren’t all that special after all plays in my head. Fortunately we banged into reality often in our early years and got some of the “you’re special” banged off of us before it really counted.

I can’t help but wonder about this generation of kids, who are told everyone is so special, who aren’t allowed to fail in school, who are given prizes for even showing up. How are they going to feel when they are being tested in the real world? Will they be stronger for all the lies they were told, or weaker? Or will they be tempted to brace up their feelings of superiority with real fraud?

Ah well, maybe it will all work out and they will be cheerfully, healthily competent.  Or at least much better at fraud!

International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award – or check here to depress yourself about a writing career

Wow. Just pulled up this list, as my favourite author ever, Helen Humphreys, is on the long-list, for her wonderful book, The Reinvention of Love.

GAWD it’s depressing how many really truly good books there are out there.

It’s not that I feel envy, no, it’s just that when I read them I realize how far away my little dream of writing a really good book is. (See, even that sentence structure should tell you I am a rank amateur, unworthy of attention).

I mean, can’t you glowing wonderful, fabulous writers take a holiday or something? Just for a couple of years or so, until some of us catch up?

I am going to go drown my sorrows in a cup of eggnog latte at the delightful Cafe Brea and review my options. Perhaps I’ll give up and do needle felting for a while til the desire to write passes.

Meanwhile, have a look at the list (click the link). Every book on it is worthy of a read.