Have you ever failed before?
I know that personally, I fail very often. I fail in my attempts to be a better person. I fail in achieving my goals in the time I set to achieve them. I fail at changing unhealthy attitudes. I fail at realizing how often I fail at things. I’m pretty much the worst. Woe is me, and how bitter such woe!
This is why I don’t write poetry.
That word failure has a great power over us, doesn’t it? It’s as if the very pronunciation is like speaking with a tongue from Mordor. In Lord of the Rings, when Frodo asks Gandalf what the ring says, Gandalf replies that some words should not be uttered in certain places. Could this be one of those words? Is it a Familiar, haunting it’s victims like a lurking demon?
According to the masses, we know that failure is a dirty word. At its weakest, it insinuates the absolute collapse of an attempt—at its strongest, the collapse of a person. I have come to believe that most of all, the word is dirty because it brings us down to reality—a reality that is utterly contemptible to our fragile, self-destructive egos. The reality is that we are not gods of our domain and what we have willed has not come to pass. We are not the morning and the evening star like the great Pharaoh’s thought they were, we are more like… well, human beings, for lack of an adequate example. We have limitations, we have weaknesses, and we have temptations. Are the stars tempted to become less than a star? Of course not. But we humans can be tempted to be inhuman.
But though we fail, perhaps it is too strong a word to call ourselves failures. Maybe it is dirty for a reason.
If you, like me, have failed at something recently, how do you reconcile yourself to a brighter future and get past it? I won’t be so bold as to say that the answer is mind-numbingly simple. No, us adults are attracted to complicated ideas where we can hide from simple things. I say that the answer is simpler than you might be thinking it is. It has to do with children.
See, when children fall they cry, brush themselves off, and then get up and keep going. At least eventually. When adults like you and me fall, we either break completely or just lay there for a while in stupefied contemplation. Will we ever get up again? we wonder. Who knows?
We have to be like children. This should be doable considering we are all just big kids. We should start by acknowledging our failures in brief tears (which are natural and should not be stifled), proceed to brush the dirt away with determination, and step onward as if the fall was always part of the journey.
And it was.
That’s the simplicity of it. How to get up after you fall is simple. It involves “getting up”. Two words is all, really. You want to know if you’re a failure? You’re only a failure if you’re too busy thinking you’re a failure up to the point that you die. So you tried and it didn’t work out—better take some time mull over how much of a failure you are, right?
You get up.
Stop worrying about how to get up and start getting the hell up from where you have fallen. Getting up is an action, so believe it or not—it is only done through action. I think therefore I am? No.
I do therefore I am.
And that is the secret. Failures are part of the journey, simply by happening. By definition they are part of it because they happen along the way of your life. Did it happen? Then yes, it was part of the journey, provided you are still journey-ing. Are you dead? If not, then you are still on the journey. I’m really trying to hammer this home, can you tell?
There is an old proverb in the Book of Wisdom that says call no man happy until he is dead. This is a holistic approach to life. We are characters who wander through a story book with no idea how it is all going to end. When the hero fails to save the damsel from distress, that doesn’t mean that the story is over. There is other distress, there are other damsels. He thinks that he failed, and indeed he has failed to do what he set out to do, but that doesn’t mean he is a failure. He isn’t dead. There is life left in his veins. His failure may work together for some greater good.
No acorn turns into a tree without bearing many pounding rains.
I hope you get the impression that I’m being sincere. I’m not saying a platitude. I’m not patting you on the back and patronizing you, what I am doing is telling you the plain truth of things. Bad things can work together for good in reality, not just in fantasies. Failing to see that is deadly.
I’ll end with this: if you ever feel that nagging feeling, that onset of depression, that “I am a failure” starting its repetitive rigmarole in your head, do me a favour and go to a mirror. Look yourself in the eye and say “I am an acorn.” Say it until the words don’t make sense anymore. Say it until you cannot think anything else. Say it until your voice is gone.
Only an acorn that knows it’s an acorn will know how to drink when the waters come. So be one.
Acorns grow out of troubled waters.
So can you.