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Thursday, January 05, 2012

Why It's Good to Fail

By Kellie Meisl

I have been thinking a lot about the subject of failing.

Last year brought some failures with it. But that is not necessarily a bad thing, in fact some of the failures have turned out to be good.

I have come to realize that sometimes by just going with the flow, letting things run their course instead of trying to be in control, a greater plan unfolds. When I can allow things to just happen without judgment or panic I can focus more on being on course as opposed to steering furiously down a path that probaby isn't going to make things a whole lot better anyway.

Sometimes what makes things better is being the best me, right where I am planted, as opposed to seeking loftier ground when I am uncertain. I liken this to building a house; if you don't have a strong foundation, then the building you put upon it will be unstable.

It is futile to fight failure. Failure teaches us some of the truest lessons. It knocks down our defenses, causes us to reflect and take inventory of what is important.

We can't really know ourselves until we decide just to be with our true selves -- failures and all -- no covering up. Covers are masks. Failures bring us to the truest places; the vulnerability of failing awakens us from a state of being on auto pilot.

Sometimes things that we think are failures turn out to be our greatest gifts.

Case in point: me dealing with my son's middle school years. From a parenting point of view these middle school years have been a huge challenge. In fact, on any given day, I can honestly say they have sucked.
I have drained my battery many times trying to navigate a course that definitely has an undercurrent that swamps me. Many days I would think I was preventing my son's failure as I read the daily computer-generated reports of his missed assignments. I would then write the proper follow- up emails to teachers, then schedule meetings, trying to share my point of view as an educator turned parent, desperate to come up with some sort of plan to keep my son on track, despite his major organizational issues.

But I was one person in a system that was already operating according to a finely-tuned plan. Deadlines were deadlines, test scores were test scores, and there were no exceptions made.

Performing these tasks took so much energy, brought so much stress that it has literally made me sick. I short-cirucited. I was placed on proton pump inhibitors (acid reflux medication) for three months to heal a bout of gastritis.

I blamed coffee, my doctor blamed 'middle school.' She listened to me spontaneously unload school stories as if they were just unimportant side notes, while at my visit to address weeks of nausea. She told me that this stress was the direct cause of the acid increase in the gut.

I took the reflux medicine home, read the slew of disturbing side effects, took them anyway, and set about to heal. After three days of worse gastric disturbances, and with a holiday party to attend, I decided not to take one the next day, vowing to return to them the following. But I did something different that day too; I listened to my gut, quite literally. I ate what made me feel good, drank what felt right and by the next morning I was feeling better. This happened again the following day so I didn't medicate that day either. Now almost a week later I am feeling better than ever, without the medicine.

You know what else my gut told me? It told me to give in to the failure, failure to control my son's destiny. Let him fail if he needs to, because it may be a necessary lesson for him. He needs to find his own way, I heard my gut say.

But that's when my failure became my success. Because now I am no longer drinking acidic coffee the first thing in the morning, I have returned to the gluten-free diet that keeps me healthy and as I walk daily I listen. I listen to myself. And I hear myself say, "Let go, you are on the right course, just stay with it and love yourself along the way. The rest will fall into place."

You know what? Releasing the pressure of fighting the inevitable, the necessary, has freed me up to be a far better mother. Who can live under the stress of going against the grain day in day out? And as if to prove my point, my dear friend, who has been following my every twist and turn, with the support of a saint and the insights of a sage, called me a few mornings ago to tell me about this dream she had of me:

She awakens within her dream, startled, looking out the window of her bedroom onto the (actual) river that runs along her home, she sees me on the water. I am at the edge of the rushing waterfall in a tan mini-van, getting ready to go over. We make eye contact and she stares at me in disbelief as I fly down the massively flowing fall. When I get to the bottom, I look up at her and smile, pumping my fist as if to say, "I made it, and I meant to do that."

Writer and artist Kellie Meisl, of Pittsfield, MA, keeps a blog called WALK; this piece appeared first there. A visual artist, she works out of waking and night dreams to produce her marvelous paintings, one of which appears on the cover of the novel, Seeing Red.

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