May 20, 2007


Earlier this week HomefrontSix had a great post up asking about Failure. How to define it, how to keep it from defining you. It's a very thought provoking post, please click on over and read it. (you'll need to scroll down, since I can't find the permalink) Then, as usual, I have something to say.

Failure. Shit. I sometimes feel like I wrote the book on that.

Let's see.....I dropped out of college. Doesn't matter WHY, I just did. Strike One. Hmmmmm I got married-----------and divorced. Doesn't matter WHY I got divorced, I just did. Strike Two. I've bounced around all over this country, in and out of jobs, houses, towns. Wanderlust? No, not really. Just looking for......I don't know what. I just hope I'll know it when I find it.

If you look at my life in the way so much of society does, I'm nothing. I have nothing. I've accomplished nothing.

Let's look at the definition of failure I found on (emphasis mine)

fail·ure –noun
1. an act or instance of failing or proving unsuccessful; lack of success: His effort ended in failure. The campaign was a failure.
2. nonperformance of something due, required, or expected: a failure to do what one has promised; a failure to appear.
3. a subnormal quantity or quality; an insufficiency: the failure of crops.
4. deterioration or decay, esp. of vigor, strength, etc.: The failure of her health made retirement necessary.
5. a condition of being bankrupt by reason of insolvency.
6. a becoming insolvent or bankrupt: the failure of a bank.
7. a person or thing that proves unsuccessful: He is a failure in his career. The cake is a failure.

Hmmm.....yeah, that hurts.

BUT....explain to me. Why I don't FEEL like a failure? Why I don't THINK of myself in that light? Am I blowin' smoke up my own ass, or am I simply delusional? I don't think I'm either. I think I'm on a journey, and as I do so often, I took some wrong turns. It happens. To all of us. If we take chances. If we push the envelope.

If I never failed at ANYTHING, I would be a pretty pathetic person. I'd have no understanding of the difficult things in life. I would have no way of connecting with anyone in pain, or sitting in the dark. I know what it's like to bottom out. I know what it's like to not be able to face people because of embarrassment. But - I also know what it's like to fight back. I know what it's like to work three jobs to pay the flippin' rent. I know what it's like to eat rice for a month, because there is no grocery money. I know what it's like to NOT have a roof over my head. I understand loss. Of people, things and situations.

But I decided a few years ago, that I wouldn't let my journey in life define me. I would define the journey of my life. It's the end results, and the HEART you put into getting those results that we should be judged on.

I could be considered a failure as a parent. My step-kids, the center of my life for 11 years, hate me. HATE. They tell their children, my grandchildren, that I am dead. Nice. But you know what? They don't stay out drunk all night. They have nice homes. They have manners. They don't beat their wives or their children. I did that. I taught them a different kind of life. Gave them higher standards. I'd say, even though I miss them, that "project" (as it were) was a HUGE success.

Failure is just a word. An ugly word, but a word none the less. If you have done the best you can, if you have tried to make decent decisions, if you KNOW in your HEART that you have NEVER tried to hurt someone, then you are NOT a failure. The situation is NOT failed.

So I guess my take on HomefrontSix's post is simple. You look inside. You are completely honest WITH YOURSELF. If you did your best at the time, with what you had to work with, it is not a failure. If, by chance, you can't do that....then, what I do is rip off the bandage. Say your heartfelt apologies, do what you can to rectify and then MOVE ON. You do not dwell, you do not wallow. Because, you see, you can't go back. What's done is done. Good, bad or indifferent. It's done.

And remember - this is important - you cannot hold yourself responsible for other peoples expectaions. THAT is not within your control. So if someone feels you've failed them, no matter what the situation, it goes back to the question - did you do the best you could at the time, with what you had to work with? If so......then you have nothing to feel guilty about. And if you can't say that honestly.......then it goes to doing what you can to rectify and apologize, and moving on.

Life is not perfect. WE are not perfect. It's what we do with that imperfection that matters.

Posted by Tammi at May 20, 2007 08:12 AM | TrackBack

I do not think of the word "failure" and you in the same breath. Heck, they don't even enter the same solar system...and I don't say that to brown nose you or try to be trite because you are my friend. I say that with true and honest sincerity.

The best definition/explanation I've heard for failure is one that I'm going to adopt. "I'm not a failure. I'm a great success at knowing what doesn't work." It's all in how you look at it, and if you change the perspective, you'll see where you've succeeded and learn where success was more challenging then maybe it needed to be. But the bottom line is true. I'm not a failure, I'm a great success at knowing what doesn't work. More accurate!

Posted by: Lee Ann at May 20, 2007 02:52 PM

Amen sister! You preached it.

Posted by: michele at May 20, 2007 05:06 PM

If I ask myself, "Did I do the best I could with what I had at the time?" then the answer is yes. I did the best I could. And the outcome was acceptable. Like you said about your stepkids...the "project" was a success.

Thanks for the insight. You're wonderful. Truly.

Posted by: HomefrontSix at May 22, 2007 02:28 AM

This is one time when you should NOT consult a dictionary.

Personally, I think you still set the bar a little too high. My definition of failure is "refusing to learn from an experience".

The great thing about THAT definition is that you can "unfail" afterwards simply by accepting the lesson that the experience had to offer.

Not saying that's necessarily easy, though :-)

Posted by: Harvey at May 24, 2007 08:21 AM
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