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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  • onecatholicmama

    I can so relate and I so needed to read this today

  • You brought tears to my eyes this morning. I think so many women can relate to your honesty. We are socialized to hate our bodies and smother our needs and criticize our own voices. It is so hard to undo decades of the inner negativity narrative. But to start by imagining how much God adores us and what it truly means to be beloved – this is a gift. You are in my prayers in this stressful season.

  • eysaint

    Sarah, I have been there, believe me. Everyday abusing myself with words that weren’t originally my own but became mine own. It breaks my heart to read this post today because I know that you are worth so much more than you have described. You have to reject the negative words and replace them with words of love. You are right that healing comes from our heavenly Father. He loves you beyond words, gives you grace, and covers you with mercy. You are His smart, beautiful, and capable daughter. Forget the lies that have set up shop for too long in your mind and remember 1 Peter 2:9: ” But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

  • Julie

    I too was brought to tears by this post. Lately I feel so overcome with the weight of it all. I get it. I am not good at commenting and honestly not good at expressing myself when it comes to things of the heart, but I wanted to comment simply to let you know that you are not alone and that this post is beautifully poignant. Thank you for opening yourself up. I often find that the opening of the wound is what it takes to help it heal.

  • Beautiful and breathtaking in your articulate honesty. We can’t overcome our painful failures at loving ourselves without grace. And that’s why your blog has the perfect name because we are all doing this fumbling. So glad you’re here and sharing.

  • Thank you for being honest and sharing yourself in this post. I have felt this way since my twins were born. I am getting better but it doesn’t take much to send me back to that place where I am crying in the shower because I feel like I’m failing at all I want to do and am tired of being angry at myself.

  • Oh Sarah. Have you watched Jennifer Fulwiler’s Girl on Fire talk? I keep bringing it up everywhere I am but she talks about accepting and loving exactly who we are and instead of looking at how we fail to uphold the “it” we think we need to be, and instead how we should treasure where we are different and use it to love others and God. But she does it so powerfully I know you’d love it. I haven’t read why you decided to stop coloring your hair (I’ll go find it) but you know, you can always let it go grey …later. 😉 if a nice color would help boost you through growing out the cut you don’t like, goodness do it. It’s not fake, in my small opinion, it’s doing a small thing for yourself to build up confidence as opposed to stress eating or anything else you’re trying to avoid. Yes, we’re all fumbling but we don’t have to make ourselves miserable in the name of grace! …unless you’re truly feeling called to do that…and then I apologize for urging you the opposite way. 

    But I was reading more about St. Frances of Rome (Jen mentions her in her talk), who was given an archangel as a special guardian for he last half of her life, who reprimanded her after she continued to practice harsh penances on herself: 

    “”You should understand by now,” the angel told her, “that the God who made your body and gave it to your soul as a servant never intended that the spirit should ruin the flesh and return it to him despoiled.””

    Treat yo self a little so that you feel energized to work on the areas you need most. And I hope I’m not overstepping any boundaries with this comment, it’s not my intention. Prayers for you, lady.  Thanks your bearing your mama soul <3

  • Pat

    Thank you for sharing. The Bible tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves. I doubt that God wants us to do a bad job of loving ourselves. So much of Christianity relies on people accepting and loving themselves as God loves them. I hope that someday you will feel that peace with yourself everyday. It is what Christ wants for you. And what your family and friends want for you.