Let’s Redefine Failure

Where to start?  I think, at least in my experience, we have a horrible view of failure, a negative view of failure.  We are worried to try something for fear of getting it “wrong” the first time.  We study, we observe, we try to be sure we are going to get it right before we even attempt something.  From riding a bike to being a doctor to going on an adventure to starting a business and, most importantly, to chasing our dreams.

I was watching a movie the other day–a Christmas movie–and paused the movie to talk to my youngest son about failure.  I started to talk about failure, but stopped myself and asked him how he felt about failing.  I actually couldn’t believe how that sounded.  How do you feel about failing?  What the hell?  He said he wasn’t too concerned about it and didn’t really want to talk anymore; could he get back to his school work?  I continued talking and really thinking through the problem, reiterating at every turn that it was okay to fail.

Finally, my epiphany came.  It’s all because of grades that we have this unhealthy perception that failing is bad, that it’s the opposite of success, the opposite of good.  So, because of our grading system, we are afraid to fail.  This has transferred into all aspects of life for many, many people.  Possibly–and I am just throwing this out there–for everyone except those who got F’s in school and survived.  Getting F’s in school doesn’t actually measure ones intelligence or chance for success in life.  It measures your ability to memorize, sit still, conform, test well, follow the rules of an establishment, conform (did I say that already?), regurgitate information and suck up to teachers.

I get back to Christopher and detail my new-found knowledge with him; and I am angsty that this is a thing.  He’s supposed to be the angsty teen, by the way.  I tell him that I am happy he seems to not be negatively affected by this phenomenon.  He’s not devoid of concern about failing; it’s just more subtle.  He says to me that he was always a good student in elementary school and has been home schooled in middle school so he hasn’t had to deal with “failing” grades or that possibility.  For this, I am actually relieved. Next year, he goes to high school and we will definitely have a much different perspective on grades than we have in the past.  I have always told my kids we expect them to do their best, and I mostly still believe that, maybe with a few modifiers.

So, what are you not doing because you are afraid of failing?  Do you measure your life, successes, progress, etcetera on a grading system?  If so, who decides what constitutes an A or an F or a C?  How can we change our outlook on failure?  How can we raise our children to not be concerned only with grades, with getting A’s in a significantly subjective world?

Maybe we take back the word: give it less weight, less value or importance.  Next time I forget something at the grocery store, maybe I will say well, you failed at that shopping trip!! Forgot your coat: fail.  Burnt the cookies: fail.  How about every year that you don’t do something you love, want to, dream of doing; you say I failed at not going back to school or to grad school, or I failed at not going on that tropical vacation, or I failed at not taking care of myself?

It’s not super easy to change your perspective, especially when it’s ingrained so deeply, but it is certainly worth a try.

Silver Linings~UGH!

I’m usually a silver linings kind of girl.  Really, I am.  I also prefer to be happy.  Doesn’t mean I don’t get angry, sad, frustrated, irritated or disappointed, I just prefer to get through that quickly and get back to happy.  So, I often look for the silver linings.

When it comes to death, I usually try to find the “positive” things that are a result of said death.  Like Aunt Betsy isn’t in pain anymore or Uncle Jack lived a long 93 years and had a great life. Or Jeremy wouldn’t have wanted to be on hospice so it’s good for him he went quickly.  You had a chance to say goodbye to Aunt Janet, that’s really important. Etc.

What I know now is that these sentiments don’t always work or apply or you just don’t feel like looking for the bright side.  It happens.  It’s okay.  I do think it’s better to not unpack your bags and move in to this spot, that eventually you have to move, even extremely slowly, forward.

I also know that depending on your relationship and closeness to the person who died, you may very well not know how to move forward like you used to.  I know that it is extremely possible that you will be a different person, not exactly the same “you”.  That is okay.  YOUR people will still love you, they will get to know the new you.  It is okay to be changed by this trauma that has happened to you.  Keep moving forward, slowly.

I started out not wanting to find the silver lining.  I couldn’t think of anything positive.  F*$K Cancer was about all I had.  However, even this time there is a silver lining so to speak.  My friend died and left me new friends, her friends.  Somehow they knew, she knew, God knew, the Universe knew…..and my new friends reached out to me and I felt not alone.  I hope to meet them all some day, but even if I don’t, I know they are there and we share an extremely strong common bond.  We all loved her and she loved us.  For that we are so lucky.

So, I end with a little Monty Python “Always look on the bright side of life.”  Easier said than done sometimes.  But always worth a try.

I Am Lucky to be your Friend

If you were lucky enough to know Ellen, be friends with her, and be loved by her, you were loved by her unconditionally.  I was that lucky.   I am not sure if loving unconditionally is the greatest thing about her, because I don’t even know where to start with all of her amazing qualities.  She was so much fun and could also be so level-headed.  She wanted the best for those who she loved.  She would be so excited for anyone who got to do something they dreamed of doing.  Genuinely pleased and happy for them.  She’d tell it like it is, because she cared about you.

Ellen and I were closest when our kids were little.  Life was crazy.  She was there when I had a miscarriage.  Had my third child, who just turned 14 yesterday.  She was there when I was so sick.  So sick I almost missed out on life-saving surgery.  She was with me through it all.  We went through it all, together.  The memories of so many beach trips and hanging out, abound! I am so lucky to be her friend.  There are a whole lot of people in this world who never even met her.

Ellen was a sort of interesting combination of my dad and my husband, the really great parts! Music, books, that loving unconditionally thing, smoking pot. (That could be Ellen blog #10 😉 ) Interestingly enough they both adored her and she had quite a bond with them too.

Ellen, of course, had a love for music.  Especially Phish.  I have a wide, wide range of music I listen to and concerts I’ve attended.  Some of them I would say…..endured.  Ellen forgave me my desire to listen to country music.  I did see the Grateful Dead in concert afterall.  I also remember asking her if she had that Greenday music.  Of course, she’d get that for me! We really listened to so much together and yes, she was great at expanding my horizons! There’s that one line in Juno when Ellen Page says “I bought another sonic youth record and it sucked.. its just noise” I cheered in the theater.  Yep, I saw them in concert too.  So she loved me even though I would love some top 40 hit.  I would call her and leave a message because Brass Monkey came on the radio and it just made me think of her.  Ellen and music could be blog #13.

Death is a crazy thing.  We seem to avoid dealing with it head on.  We don’t say “I’m sorry your friend died.”  We say “I’m sorry for your loss.”  Which is true, the loss is great, but also seems to imply something can be found.  I have been trying to respond to people dying more head on and still I am pretty sure I wrote “I’m sorry for your loss” to someone close to Ellen.  I am sorry to everyone that was close to her.  I know how broken your heart is.  I know you wonder why her, even for a second.  I know that every third day is worse than the two before, because something happens to remind you of her in a big way.  I am so sorry our friend died.  I also know that we are all so lucky to be her friend.

Nothing prepares you for how you will feel when someone you love dies.  Even if you’ve been through something similar before.  You don’t know how you will feel, even from day to day.  So collectively we all navigate every death we experience in our own way, with no real tools or rule book.  A few important things to remember are that we have each other, it’s okay to be sad and it’s okay to reach out.  We also will survive, however, we might be just a little bit of different person.  It’s okay.  Your true friends will love the new you too!

I am just so lucky to be her friend.  I plan to remember that as often as possible when the sadness comes by.

I am so lucky to be her friend.