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The Gift of Being a Failure

Maybe you are a loser. And maybe you’re not – but if you are, you don’t have to continue in that mode.
Maybe you just have a bad habit. Maybe you’re even just a collection of bad habits. 

– Jordan B. Peterson

 

After almost a decade of writing regularly, I have detected a theme. Every so often I fall apart. Like bad. Sometimes I write about said falling-apart, and sometimes I don’t.

When I fall apart, I like to come up for air and write about what I have learned. Sometimes I post it, sometimes not.

Because otherwise, I don’t know what to do with that data.  The falling-apart is then a record on repeat if I don’t get it out, make it into a list, and figure out what it means.

Last night, the fall apart fallout was so bad that I couldn’t breathe. My eyes were swollen, and I felt as if I haven’t rested in years. I haven’t felt this awful since probably a bad booze binge and shingles in 2014.

My mom texted me.  “How are you feeling?”

I wrote her back, “I feel like shit.”  I don’t tend to use bad words around my mom, at least not as much as I do in real, real life. #SorryMom  But that’s when I know the falling apart is bad.

In other words, I believe this was a recent-record falling-apart.

With the falling apart, I note the following themes:

  1. I am a failure.
  2. I am a failure in general.
  3. Specifically, I am a failure at:  motherhood, writing, love, money, nutrition, crossfit, running, swimming, yoga, thinking, reading, existing, living.

In other words, my falling-aparts center around being a failure. And failing at, like, everything.

For those playing along at home, you can imagine that failing is not something that a wound-tight, Type-A like me takes very easily. Yet it’s something I do–and do often.

The funny thing is, though, I tend to handpick paths for my life that are ripe with failure–and then I get mad when I fail at them. Like triathlon. Like crossfit. Like practicing law. Like being a writer. Knitting. Yoga. Those are hard things that require a shitton of failure before success.

You better watch it, kid. I will take your ice cream.  

But those are LIFE things. Those are things that life has–in other words, life is just a Failure Battleground.

Where I am today is at a crossroad of True Truth.

And here’s where I came out on the other side of this fall-down. Here is where I landed. And here is where I will continue to land–on my feet–especially when I’ve gone down a deep, dark hole of Instagram comparison, or realizing that people are no longer in my circle, and that’s okay.  (A circle is not forever, despite it’s shape.)

  • Failure is the true test of who we are.
  • Failure is the opportunity to course-correct.
  • Failure proves what we do when we are knocked down–do we get up? Do we keep going?
  • Failure speaks volumes about character–how we handle it, how we plan our next move. If there is no next move, then that speaks as well.
  • Failure shakes things up and gives us a new vision.
  • Failure forces a new plan.
  • Failure is life’s free do-over.
  • Failing is the biggest gift of all.

I spent about 35 hours in a state of falling apart. That might seem long to some of you. But I assure you, this is a record rebound.

Failure, in order to be beneficial, requires the art of the rebound.

One of my athletes has been in the doldrums too.  I scrubbed her training plan, and I inserted two weeks of daily, one-mile runs.  And that’s it. With the description:  “If you don’t have one mile for yourself, then something needs to change.”

She texted me, “I need to make myself a priority and damn right I can find time for one mile And eff–if that wasn’t an amazing mile at a record pace.”  I could help her because I failed.  Failing is the biggest gift of all. Because I was right there with her–stuck and sad. Because of that, I  knew what I could do to help.

I realized that I had to let some things go. That the things I am letting go are not “failures,” but they are movements forward, not back. They are motions and places and this is MY LIFE, not a damn chess game.

Again. Life is not a chess game.  And I am tired of treating it like one.

I understood during this breakdown, maybe for the first time truly, that things change, people change–and hello, thank GOD for that.  Change is something I have always encouraged, but I am not sure I had fully embraced, not completely.

As for me, I am deep in my Year of No Nonsense—the more Nonsense I uncover and work through, the more I keep going. The tougher I get. The more sure-footed. The more my plate clears.  The more my emotions freak out–and then settle. The more breakdowns I may have, but this work on myself, on my life is some of the best yet.

Just sometimes we have to fall apart and fail to see what the truth really is.

Like I have said before–we can’t fill our cracks, and we don’t need to.

23 Comments

  • Kristie

    May 23, 2018 at 8:54 am

    Thank you for this. I’ve been in the midst of a BIG one of these for a while now and I think I may print out your list and keep it in my pocket to remind me. You rock!!!

    Reply
  • Judith Reilly

    May 23, 2018 at 9:00 am

    Thanks for being real, and for being on this side of the 35 hours. It is important, as you said, to acknowledge it and continue to live – cracks and all. Those cracks make us who we are. Well done.

    Reply
  • Tena

    May 23, 2018 at 9:09 am

    Meredith – I could not love you any more for posting this today!!! I have been in such a funk due to my own nonsense . . . . mostly work and injuries/sickness that have left me unmotivated and feeling like a failure. I am coming out of it finally, but reading this just makes me feel that I am NOT alone in how I feel! BIG (((HUGS))) to you!!! XOXOXO

    Reply
    • Jamie Kent

      May 29, 2018 at 3:31 am

      Thank-you Merideth for your beautiful honesty. I too have been stuck in a rut lately and my mind has taken me to some hard places, training for triathlon can be hard lonely journey and it’s hard to stay 100% in the zone (as much as Iwant too). It’s comforting to know I’m not alone and I’m not a crazy person xx

      Reply
  • Amy

    May 23, 2018 at 9:20 am

    First of all May is hard. Whoever invented May was a sadist. For me May is a series of days looking at calendars and saying … mmm hmmm … none of this fits here on this day and then marking off things I’m not going to do. Not going to make things for the bake sale, not going to the volunteer luncheon blah, blah, blah. Nope, nope, nope.

    Anyway, back to you, but really me. The greatest gift that my parents ever gave me was perhaps that they were complete train wrecks.

    The reason that this is a gift is just that I don’t strive for perfection and I grew up learning that life goes on after failure. I’m still a hot mess in a lot of ways but I don’t have this particular fear of failure being the end.

    You don’t need this but I’m giving it to you anyway. You have my permission to fail. It’s okay. It really is.

    Big hug (((hug))).

    Reply
  • Charlotte Johnson

    May 23, 2018 at 9:50 am

    Thanks for this….so timely! I had my own meltdown last week, and the bottom line is that I frequently put my own self-care last on my list:) Am working on changing that!

    Reply
  • Corinne Merten

    May 23, 2018 at 9:54 am

    Thank you for sharing. Comparisons – part of devils playbook – nothing good comes from that game. The key for us all – no matter where we are falling down – is to not get stuck. This is life – with the ups and downs. You are respected by many including this 43 year old WI triathlete who will do her first half ironman this year – who listens to your podcast in the car to retrain my brain into not spiraling down depressive thoughts while driving alone after shuffling kids. Your voice, message, guests, and final question – what do you do with your 24 hours … I truly enjoy my time with you – thank you for putting yourself out there. It’s never easy to lead, but gratitude and humility makes it possible to continue. Ignore the haters! You do you girlfriend!

    Reply
  • Jen

    May 23, 2018 at 10:11 am

    At some point, I’m going to stop being surprised at how in sync we are at times. I fell apart last week, biggest one in a long time. My rebound wasn’t as quick as yours, I beat myself up for days. Kudos to you and thank you for the reminders!

    Reply
  • Tiffany

    May 23, 2018 at 10:56 am

    Sharing your story is so important, and you are SO not alone. After the DNF in November at Arizona, I have been on the fine edge of a shear panic preparing for Texas. I couldn’t let go of anything – I had to finish absolutely everything, and it just about choked me. I went into the water on April 28 like a monster was chasing me, and, frankly, it was. I finished with time to spare, and the relief has been wonderful. But at the same time – trying to figure out if the fear of not finishing is done with me. Not sure about that one. Hoping it is more of a catalyst to keep going, but slightly less of a panic edge? We’ll see.

    Reply
  • Caroline

    May 23, 2018 at 12:34 pm

    In the immortal words of Leonard Cohen:

    Ring the bells that still can ring
    Forget your perfect offering
    There is a crack in everything
    That’s how the light gets in

    Reply
  • Lisa

    May 23, 2018 at 12:40 pm

    Thanks so much for your vulnerability in sharing this out to your community. I have the lacking self-worth/am I worthy enough spiral thing happening at times and it can suck. I so appreciate your words and reminders!

    Reply
  • Lynne Wardle-Ransom

    May 23, 2018 at 12:59 pm

    Thank you for this, it sure hit a chord with me. After 7 months off with a groin tear I am slowly getting back to being abke to “train” so that I can begin to train again. The froin has healed but In the last 6 weeks I ahve had shin splints, psoas issue, tear in the suoraspinatus, and now planter fasclitis from WALKING not even running. I am feeling like my body is a total failure and my athletic identity is taking a kick in the teeth. Emotionally, I am on this roller coaster where some days I can be rational about the ups and downs of rehab and other days I just want to scream “I want my life back” or worse I curl up and cry.

    Reply
  • Marjan

    May 23, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    I love your transparency. I was having one of those days too and wondered why no one at Target seem to notice I was falling apart. I ended up taking the long road home because I wanted to get out of myself by listening to something. Anything. I ended up turning on a podcast and what a podcast it was. Perfect for failure day. Tim Storey. http://www.podbean.com/media/share/dir-bjt93-3dcbee1

    Reply
  • Rebecca

    May 23, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    I’ve struggled with this whole no nonsense idea. Actually it’s the application I’ve struggled with. I’ve vested myself in this journey. identify the nonsense has been my focus. I read this and now wonder does nonsense cause failure. Does failure make us stronger? I think yes. “Success is failure turned inside out”, that I know to be fact.

    Reply

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