by Ali Valdez
Seldom does one boast of their failures. We focus on exciting, new ‘beginnings’ instead. Our egos are rebellious beasts, always trying to turn the tables on our shortcomings, dare I say at times, our very incompetence. At the end of the day, it is all about us.
Except for when it’s not.
Perhaps some our greatest failures in life have nothing to do with us. Let’s assume uncomfortably for a moment, we cannot control anything, and our failures come in our delusion in thinking that we do.
How did that feel inside your body conceptualizing your world that way?
Perhaps your greatest failures are indeed all about you: your selfishness, pig-headedness, ignorance, your desires. What if it’s all in your control, and you still continue to f** everything up?
Now, how did that feel?
Neither feel great to me. There are times where I know the universe orchestrates a bigger plan, one which I lack the skills to fully comprehend, so I need to participate in life with an eagerness to see it through. I would call this the part of my brain more receptive to creativity, working in ambiguity, being able to see a bigger picture and my place somewhere in it.
At other times, and maybe a bit kicking and screaming, I am hit in the face with my missteps. I would love to say I don’t have any, but inevitably situations present themselves reminding me that that simply isn’t the case. This is the part of my brain that self-protects, wants to be iron-fisted with balancing my subjective definitions of how things should be for my personal advantage and survival.
It’s rather personal; it has to do with my shortcomings as a parent. Frankly, I’m terrible at it. At least I tell myself that I am. Nothing reminds me more of my utter selfishness and childlike tendencies than managing my household.
Anyone else ever feel that way?
There is a nagging feeling about always having to chose between working and child-rearing. As a single working parent, and serious yoga practitioner, I am not clear why I hadn’t seen this coming. Blame it on the hormone injections perhaps to cloud my common sense. Every cry for attention is in competition with a need to work, execute and deliver. About eighteen months into the parenting “gig”, I broke down. I couldn’t do it all, and I chose to quit my career and focus on being a Mom.
We traveled through Europe and Asia. We ran (she rode via baby jogger) in half marathons around the country. We toured the deep south and spent July 4th on a rented boat in the Hudson to watch fireworks. I become the quintessential Kindergarten mom. You know the one that does everything AND volunteers kids’ yoga on Tuesday mornings? Yeah! That gal! It was a good run; I am thankful for the time.
Then I went stupid. I didn’t change anything during these years off. My failure was in the assumption that I would simply pick up where I left off…financially, professionally and otherwise.
But anyone who has a child knows, these changes are permanent. With time, my desire to be at home with my daughter directly competed with my lust to get back into the hunt with one fueling and the other losing to the growing need to start making money again. More importantly, a sense of loss was also looming: lost years of potential earnings, stocks, and titles. Admittedly, my emotions about this remain mixed.
If you care about the quality of your motherhood, not to mention the merits of career, these can also be terrifying times because you just can’t know how much EVERYTHING is going to change. Somehow this isn’t adequately covered in What to Expect When You’re Expecting.
A recent New York Times article came out, discussing the almost lose-lose balancing act between the hard realities of being a mother and managing a career against the torrents of escalating childcare costs and parental expectations of overachieving climbing the after-school ladder.
College-educated women assume a certain trajectory, that is why they assume debt of school, striving to crawl their way up a corporate ladder.
It hit me: my greatest failure was trying to be great at everything, instead of simply being happy with what was in front of me. Could I ever truly have both? I had lingering expectations, remained attached to something no longer plausible, but was too stubborn (or blind) to let go. This article scared the s*** out of me, plaguing me with newfound doubts about the direction I had taken.
As mothers, I agree, we are marketed an ideal that plays out in many ways from the agency to the buyer to print media- only later to be slapped with a cruel tug of the rug and vexing memento mori that no one can really “have it all.” The mom that does? Well, that’s apparently the stuff of urban legends.
Looking into the mirror, was I just the stuff of myth? Was I kidding myself? I had to wonder.
My failure lie in a lack of understanding that one can indeed have it all, just not the all it used to be. There is still ample room for expanding, growing and developing if one has a kid. The article’s comments seemed to state the contrary.
All of this concern ended up, subconsciously, becoming a distraction. It was more emotionally exhausting the last six months of my stay-home motherhood than just heading back into the office. This didn’t help my daughter and it certainly didn’t serve me. Furthermore, it didn’t help our future.
The yogi knows that always being present in the moment and practicing mindfulness clears away any doubts or misgivings.
The outcome was in order to make things works, I had to be innovative and create something that worked for both of us. Thus, I started my own business. We did great! Then I went stupid again and started more and more of them. Too many of them to be useful at the house- the sole intention for heading down this path in the first place. My ambitions, or desire to go back to the level I was at in some tangible way still piloted my life like an involuntary compass ten degrees of center.
My failure was a lack of self-control. I was a big middle-aged baby who hasn’t yet learned to self-regulate.
I cannot blame motherhood for that; however, I can thank motherhood for revealing this to me. I cannot blame walking away from a career for that; but I can thank motherhood for teaching me what’s important about career for me.
Either way, it’s all on me.
Here’s my dirty confession: more times than not, I will choose the work over the relationship. Work’s the easy part; my drive is unnaturally high and I tend to succeed. The human part is uncomfortable and messy, forcing me to be broken open and rebuilt again. It reveals in my interactions where my own bias surfaces, where my emotional self is screaming for attention. I just assume pile on more work, take on more responsibility, meditate longer, land another degree, than tread the path of humanity. As you can observe, my list, by design, remains endless. How sad for me, but I am not the only one suffering in this equation and limited mindset.
The most unstupid thing I have done of late is allowed myself to cross a few things off the list and halted adding more. This means no to the second studio lease I was about to ink, no to concurrent graduate school programs, and it means owning two businesses and managing one (ok, maybe two) client(s).
With some breathing room, I see where my daughter creates moments of discovery and pockets of playfulness. My success from my shortcomings is being committed to seeing a fuck up for what it is, trying again and doing things a little bit different. Learning as I go as a parent AND a professional doesn’t make me beholden to anyone’s point of view, as I clearly possess my own.
Thank you, New York Times, but I’m going to take a pass.
Part of acknowledging failure is being okay with picking yourself up, dusting off and starting over. This manifests in many ways, one not more important or meaningful than another.
There is no happy ending to this story. I am still writing it and have yet to figure out the ending—part of the anti-failure movement is, again, that whole mindfulness “thing”.
Each day I fail in some small way, but I learn stuff too and am having some fun with being wrong on occasion. Maybe things don’t always go as hoped, but if I can learn to be okay with that, it is my hope that you can, too.
If the universe is truly conspiring in our favor, then perhaps my life exists already authored somewhere in some ancient books as the rishis claims. So instead of worrying about making mistakes the inevitable mistakes of life, perhaps I will start focusing on simply living (and enjoying) it.