"You have to keep breaking your heart until it opens" -- Rumi
I had been failing a lot lately.
That may be a bit over-dramatic. It's more like I had been falling short or things weren't going as well as they could be. However, when you're in the midst of these mini-disasters, it sure can feel like you're falling on your face in a big pile of failure shit time and time again.
Luckily, in my near thirty years of experience, I've acquired some tricks of resiliency.
There were little teaspoons of failures spattered throughout the week. The recycling bin was overflowing; I forgot to take it home, but I told myself: It's okay, there's always next week. I "accidentally" ate ice cream for dinner, but I told myself: It's not like it happens all the time. I was rushing to prepare my morning coffee for my commute to work...only to leave it on the counter and make myself late. I told myself: You're only a few minutes late, it's not the end of the world.
Then there are those stupid failures, which shouldn't bother me as much as they do. I told myself, You're no athlete. Games aren't really your thing anyway when I was the teammate who failed to sink any bags in corn hole. I laughed at myself when I realized that I misused the word "impressionable" when I meant that to say it left a great impression on me. I took some deep breaths and said, You're not doing this for anyone but you when my article wasn't 'shared' or 'liked' as much as everyone else. For the small things, I'm usually able to bounce back quite readily with my overcorrecting statements. They might sound like excuses, but really they're encouragement. And for the most part, I believe them, because deep down I know that it's true and that these aren't really what define me as a person.
But what about when you fail at something that does define you?
These are the scary failures. The ones so monumental they shake your foundation and have you questioning your worth.
A group of local philanthropists meets quarterly to give a sum of money to a local program or organization. This past week three organizations were invited to give a short presentation to the group and I was one of them. The program which I presented is an electronic literacy program implemented in various local after school programs. We currently have 200 licenses which are set to expire in November and are $17,000 short of the renewal dollars. I was feeling the pressure to acquire these funds. I'm not a good public speaker, but I spent two days preparing and practicing and was feeling confident that I could deliver.
I didn't. I failed. I thought my presentation went well and for the most part, I clearly delivered the information I set out to, but I wasn't chosen. Even worse, I had to leave the presentation and instantly return to deliver the bad news to my boss. I sat in the parking lot thinking about all the things I had been failing at lately and how each thing has taken a little part of my self-worth with it. I had been working extra to make up hours and consequently neglecting my friends, my family, my home and my husband. I had been working when I should have been studying for my comprehensive exam for my licensure. I had been robbing Peter to pay Paul when it came to time and was hiding behind the thought that I was finally doing something that I love and was good at...only to fail. I felt like a failure at everything that I once identified myself with and thought:
If I haven't been a good friend, a good wife, a good student...and now I'm not even good at my job...what am I?
In a strange paradox, it hit me... I am me...and I am enough.
As I emptied out all of the things I thought I needed to be in order to be a successful person but wasn't measuring up to, I realized that I didn't need to be any of that to feel any more of a valid and viable human being.
I was still me and even without needing to be anything, I was still enough.
Sometimes we can get too caught up in titles and accomplishments, in awards and recognition, in successes and triumphs. Sometimes we forget that we don't need any of that to be valuable. Sometimes we need to be reminded of who we are at our core is just as beautiful as who we are at the top.
Sometimes, we all need to step back and say.... I am me and I am enough.