When Everything Looks like Failure

When Everything Looks like Failure January 20, 2015

You all are so wonderful. Thank you for the comments, emails and general love after my earlier post. It was a relief to write it and push “publish”. And in case anyone was in fear of missing me too much, here I am, back again. It’s been a long week and I am, once more, struggling to make everything fit, and falling far short.

It started Monday with a weight watchers meeting where I walked in feeling so defeated by my food choices that I couldn’t even bear to weigh in.

Then I forgot to call the coffee shop for our book club on Tuesday and it was closed when we arrived.

Maggie is going through something right now, and she needs to be with me every waking moment of her day when she is not at school. I find myself hiding in the bathroom just to get a minute alone. “Yes, yes I am peeing for the 35th time today.” Finally, a sharp word said and a little face crumbles. She loves me so much, so fiercely, and her need is endless. I end each day feeling like I’ve been bled dry, yet knowing it is insufficient.

All I have been thinking about for the last two weeks is cleaning and staging. We had a family express interest in our home, which we are preparing to put on the market. They have done two showings in the last two weeks, and are considering an offer this week. This has meant scrambling to get the house showing-ready a full month earlier than we had planned.

It means I’m frazzled.

I’m walking from room to room, and all I can see is what’s wrong.

What I need to dust, mop, arrange, pick up, fix.

It means I’m stressed and when I’m stressed, I eat. Amazingly enough, not kale. I’d give anything to be one of those people who clean when they’re stressed. Or craves vegetables. Are there really people who crave vegetables?

Remember back in the summer when I talked about how I decided to stop coloring my hair? Well, it’s gotten to the point in the process where you can really tell that my hair is actually, you know, gray. But only the top three inches. The rest of it is whatever boneheaded shade of chestnut brown I decided on way back in July. I have a haircut my husband doesn’t love, and as much as that shouldn’t matter, it does. I have two-toned hair and look like a sloppy mess, and as long as selling my home and finding a new one in the next six months remains a priority, I too will remain a sloppy mess.

I’m not taking care of myself the way I should. Yes, the food choices. But also getting quiet, exercise, time with Atticus, time with God. All of these things, representing the kind of person I want to be, float around the periphery of my everyday life. Mocking me with my own short comings. My inability to ever get “it” right.

Pregnancy announcements that remind me, even years later, of what my body struggled so much to do. Charts that remind me, in spite of the miracles, of how broken I still am.

Days when some twin is always crying because there will always be two of them, and there will only ever be one me. Vying for snuggles, playing, books, love. Who I am and what I can give are literally not enough.

I seek solace in connection, in community. In the safe space of other cathedral builders, struggling to be real. Most of the time that community and connection inspires and uplifts. Sometimes, you seek vulnerability and you get a high school popularity contest that you can’t hope to compete in, let alone win.

Today, I found myself crying in the shower, staggering under the weight of so much failure, so much inadequacy, and a veritable lifetime of looking in the mirror and only seeing lack.

I cried because I felt like a failure at my own chosen hobby, which is supposed to be fun and relaxing, not yet another source of stress and failure. Then I cried because of how absurd it was to cry over blogging. I finally laughed when I thought to myself, “I should change the name of the blog to “Fumbling Toward Mediocre” since that’s basically the tagline of my life.”

Then I said to God, with tears still stuck salty on my face, “I am so tired of hating myself.” So tired, my friends. I talk to myself in words I wouldn’t use on my worst enemy. It is exhausting to be at war with yourself.

I’m calling a truce. I don’t really know how. Or what to do next. Or how to undo 30 years of self-destructive lies played on repeat. God does. Somehow his absurd grace has brought me to clarity, and I know his Spirit will bring me to the other side, where surely acceptance and love must be waiting.

Am I crazy to share this in such a public space? Maybe. Probably. But it occurred to me that one of you beautiful creatures reading this might also be in a state of perpetual war with perfect, might be straining under the weight of failures real or imagined. Maybe my words can invite you call a truce with your own precious heart.

I don’t know what comes next, but I do know God is love and he wants us to love and accept ourselves for who we are, right this minute. To pray for the grace that comes next.


Mary Oliver

It doesn’t have to be

the blue iris, it could be

weeds in a vacant lot, or a few

small stones; just

pay attention, then patch

a few words together and don’t try

to make them elaborate, this isn’t

a contest but the doorway

into thanks, and a silence in which

another voice may speak.

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