Drama Cleanse, the End: The Function of Failure

  1. 5-minute Journal- every day
  2. Podcasts:
  3.   Beautiful Writers Podcast: Anne Lamott & Glennon Doyle Melton: Hallelujah Anyway; Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: Brene Brown; Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert: Glennon Doyle Melton
  4. Visualize for 5 minutes – Everyday, this morning with quick meditation
  5. Exercise: Bar online (20 minute version) and 4 mile run; track workout; rest day; 4 mile run
  6. Goal- submitting revised article to 2 different journals
  7. An item off your shitty things to do list: Still checking off…
  8. Do something fun: Friend came to visit…so much fun was had.

Well, we made it. I was really hoping that I would arrive on the other side of this happy, healed, and heartbreak free. Not quite there, but I guess I am 30 days closer to getting there.

As far as ‘drama’ goes, I was relatively successful. In comparison to the past year, specifically the past 7 months, it was a bubble of all things good and beautiful. But it wasn’t, really. Life just doesn’t work that way. But ,there was still a lot of both of those.

Podcasts:

The first podcast I can’t recommend highly enough. I was an interview with Glennon Doyle Melton and Anne Lamott. I literally could not stop listening until it was over. These two, especially together, were riveting. It is centered around their writing careers, but everything they discuss is applicable to all- everything around facing your fears, pursuing your dreams, etc.

So Glennon Doyle Melton is my new hero. She is just so unbelievably real and raw, and also funny, charming, strong and bold. I think I wrote about her last week. Lamott is a bit older and so incredibly wise but without the least bit of pretention. She, like Glennon, is extremely raw an honest and, yes, a little crazy.

The second and third podcasts were Glennon again, and then Brene Brown.

Takeaway:

All of these discussions each woman’s path that led to her need to write and the way it has impacted her life, as well of those of her readers. The themes that kept surfacing in all three of their stories were fear and failure…which I am finally figuring out are one and the same.

Each woman had to do the one thing that scared them the most. They had to accept that they had failed. They had to look at all of their pain and shame and guilt and fear, all their demons, and not only name them, but expose them and identify exactly where they came from.

Failure. That is always the source, right? Our pain, our guilt or shame…it comes from a deeply ingrained fear that we will fail or that we did fail. It makes us completely powerless because we have no control over it. ‘They’ do. We are afraid of failing ‘them’- our parents, our children, our partner or boss. We fail because we believe they think we failed.

One of them asked a seemingly simple question that proved to make the most powerful point in the podcast.

When was the first time someone told you couldn’t do something well or made you feel like something you created or did was bad?

I feel like every one of us can quickly conjure up this memory- your art teacher, parent, sibling, or ‘friends’ at school. You proudly, or timidly, offered up your talent, and they laughed at you, ridiculed you, embarrassed you, and/or hurt you. I thought of mine and was kind of embarrassed that it had such a lasting impact. But when you are little, you have no choice but to use others’ thoughts and opinions to form your frame of reference, and this includes your identity, even if it is only their reaction to your precious drawing.

I was in the first grade and we were given a picture to color. The best one got a, no idea, a sticker or eraser or something. We all handed them in and the teacher put them up on the wall for everyone to see. I have no idea what the picture was or what mine looked like, but I remember that I was proud of it and actually thought I might ‘win’.

I didn’t. She even selected a runner-up, but it wasn’t me. I went up to the teacher after and asked her why mine didn’t win. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but something to the effect of I didn’t stay within the lines. (such a metaphor for my life right now). I remember being so embarrassed and furious at myself for not knowing what the rules were.

I know I kept coloring, probably compulsively until I learned to do it like everyone else. But it’s not about ‘coloring’, is it? She planted a seed. I wasn’t good enough, or worse, there was something wrong with me. So I had two choices: I could either kill myself trying to be better, or I could just stop trying all together. This message started a viscous cycle that became a life-long battle.

I’m not saying this event was the only contributing factor to one of my most relentless issues, but I definitely can see how it helped set the stage. You can’t be perfect if you color outside the lines. And you can’t be celebrated if you aren’t perfect.

It’s crazy, right? Are demons are born from our innocence. Our naive tendency to trust ourselves and those around us with our safety, our love, our confidence and self-worth. We are completely oblivious to the fact that our unconventional drawing will manifest into a never-ending battle to be good enough- a battle that most of us don’t even know we are fighting.

I was very clear that I wasn’t in a battle, I was in an all-out war and I knew exactly why. But I truly thought I was winning. I was winning because I was achieving. – college degrees, great jobs, athletic endeavors, exciting travels. What I was actually doing was running. They were forever closing in, but I was always 2 steps ahead. It was exhausting, but it was so much easier than trying to disarm them.

To be clear, I don’t think setting the bar high and achieving your goals is a bad approach to life, not at all. This is what makes us human and why we are here- to experience, to achieve and evolve. Anything living has to grow, right? Otherwise it dies.

The problem is when we are doing what we do as a way to prove our self-worth, prove being the operative word. If we interpret success as ‘how much’ or ‘how well’ we do something, and those quantifiers are determined by others’ standards, then we will never get it right. We will never own anything but our failures, and any of our successes will be theirs.

So while I was running full force, stacking up one accomplishment on top of the other, I truly thought I was successfully building up my credentials. But what I was actually building was a fortress. It was a seemingly good strategy. I still didn’t have to face anything. But I now had this extremely powerful weapon- an impenetrable wall to keep the demons at bay while keeping ‘my good enough’ safely inside.

Herein lies the tragic flaw, right? All the things I accomplished now defined me and you got to decide if I they were good enough…if I was good enough. My carefully constructed walls were a very convincing façade that became my prison. I was forever afraid of failing ‘you’, so you stayed locked out, while I remained trapped inside. I unknowingly granted a safe haven for the very demons I was trying to eliminate. They grew steadily in both strength and numbers, leaving no room for anything good.

This has became far more exhausting than running. The prospect of remaining invisible and far removed from all the things I love and want is far more terrifying than facing the shit that has sucked all the joy out of the things I am most proud of.

So here is the crux. Lamott so eloquently reminds us, ‘failure has its function’. You failed. Your worst fear came true. But so doesn’t that mean that you just did the scariest thing you will ever do? You already survived the scariest, so anything that happens now can’t be worse, right? You are still standing and now you have the most powerful weapon of all.

Knowledge.

What is fear, exactly? It’s a belief that something is dangerous. It’s not knowledge of what is inevitably going to happen, it’s a belief of what might.

There is the function. Failure makes us disarm fear with the knowledge that, even at its worst, it can’t destroy us.

I think  I’m finally getting to the place where I don’t give a shit if I fail anymore. I already have failed, in so many ways, none of which were small. So, that’s out of the way. And yes, I am embarrassed, ashamed and angry. And yes, I still feel fear. But it is not the fear of failing you. It is a fear of not doing all of the things I still want to…I being the operative word. I just want to do all of the things I want to do because I want to do them. So maybe it’s not fear exactly. Maybe it is something entirely different that just feels similar, physiologically speaking.

Maybe I’m just really excited?

I think that is a good note to end our little experiment on. It has not been a perfect 30 days. But I feel like some destructive patterns were interrupted and some new ones were implemented. That was the goal.

Thanks for coming along for the ride and for your all of your support and wisdom. I send all of you lots of love and wish you an endless string of happy, exciting, and peaceful days

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2 thoughts on “Drama Cleanse, the End: The Function of Failure

  1. Okay, I am a complete nitwit because I realized I am reading the wrong direction. *insert eye roll* I am a slow learner sometimes. ANYWAY. This is everything…

    “But it is not the fear of failing you. It is a fear of not doing all of the things I still want to…I being the operative word. I just want to do all of the things I want to do because I want to do them. So maybe it’s not fear exactly. Maybe it is something entirely different that just feels similar, physiologically speaking.

    Maybe I’m just really excited?”

    YES! I love your words here so much. What a feeling it is when you finally realize you are doing things for you, and nobody else. I could give a fuck if I fail, as long as I am always reaching. When I turned 40, I was talking to my stepmom excitedly about my dream to live in NYC as a writer. It has been my dream since I was 12. She looked at me and said, ‘Tanya, you are 40.’ And in an instant, every bit of confidence and belief was drained from my very soul. That was 6 years ago. But, when I started to rebuild myself almost 4 years ago, I did it without the opinions of others and became the person I have always longed to be. Her words don’t hurt me anymore. Well, that’s not true. They do. But her words no longer make me question who I am. I know exactly who I am, what I stand for and what I am capable of. And what I have discovered, is that she now senses my strength and knows her efforts to bring me down would be futile. I won’t let her. I proudly wear my strength and the scars that changed me. And you do too. You have been through so much, but it has been a most painful gift, hasn’t it? You will never be the same, and you see so much more clearly than you ever have. You Brooke, are going places and I can’t wait to see where you end up! It’s going to be epic. I know it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, if I could only sit your stepmom down…the things I would say in my most self righteous manner I could conjure up and ask her, point blank, if she is happy? Did she follow her dreams. If when she is lying on her death bed (which I hope to god isn’t any time soon) if she won’t have regrets about the things she DIDN’T do. Because I can say this, with certainty. I would much rather regret something I did do, than didn’t. This guy the other day, who turned out to be yet another bad decision, said to me in utter amazement, ‘why would you move to Texas for a guy who was married and clearly had a huge mess to sort out? Did you not stop to think that maybe that might be a bit too risky, that maybe it most likely wouldn’t work out?”
    I didn’t even hesitate. “Because it was magic. Because it was the most real and amazing thing I have ever felt. Because what if it would have worked out and we were that story that everyone wants to tell and can’t because they didn’t risk it”. So now I know. It was a bad decision. I was too messy. It didn’t work out…in the worst possible way. But it WAS magic, at least it was for me. And when I’m on my death bed (which I hope to god isn’t anytime soon), I can say I found magic, and I did every single thing I could to make it last. And I found the truest of love, at least that I’ve ever experienced, and I did everything I could to embrace it and make it work. I think that is two things most will never experience, because it’s too risky, it might not work, they could get hurt. But, my god, what if it did work? What if the love story of a lifetime? Wouldn’t that be incredible? Or won’t it be?
    I want to find my person. I want to write. I want to have adventures, the fun kind, and I want to have them with my person, and I want to write about them. And I want to have a community of beautiful souls like you around me. And I will do whatever it takes to make all of those things happen, so when I am at the end of my days, I will know that I lived all of them, as many as I possibly could, fully, honestly…that I ‘summoned magic’ and weaved it into every moment of every day.
    So, if we have to take an extended trip to New York, my girl, that is exactly what we will do.

    Like

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