I fail a lot. In fact, I have failed so much that I have become ok with it. In fact, now (certainly not all the time) I can actually be grateful for the failure as I am failing. That is some pretty deep spirituality there!
I have known for some time that I learn best through subtraction. It is the things that are removed from me, the people, places and things, that are suddenly gone, that get my attention. I am far more likely to pay attention to the things I lose than I am to the things that are added. This doesn’t mean that I don’t appreciate the additions. But I tend to take them for granted, think that they are just supposed to be granted me and almost expect them. Things and people that suddenly and without ceremony leave my life, tend to get my attention in a way that nothing else will. And failure has become one of those things for me.
I have been lucky to have led a successful life by most people’s standards. I was good in school. I was easily employed no matter what the job. I have the things in my life that are indicia of success: car, job, money, education. But I fucked up a lot of shit to get where I am today. And I am so incredibly grateful for that.
In law school, I was a mess. I was not a good student. I was rarely there. I was drunk almost all the time. While I got through and by, I missed a lot of opportunities to learn, to participate. Even though I graduated, when I think back on my law school time, I see every failure. I see every time I missed class, didn’t turn something in on time, didn’t study, couldn’t engage in the discussion because I hadn’t read the material. I see every failure. And I learn a great deal from that time because of how much of a mess I was. It isn’t a shining example of my intellectual prowess. It is a sad time where I was a mess but I kept going anyway. People always say to me, “how did you make it through law school drunk?” I inquire back, “how did you make it through sober?!” It is all the things that I fucked up today that have the most value to me. Seriously the only thing I feel like I really nailed in law school was my persuasive memo...other than that, I am lucky to have gotten by and it was all a blur.
But it was this failure of mine that caused me to study for the bar exam super hard. I was sober and could finally think again. I studied and worked and committed all that shit to memory. Some of the material I was seeing for the first time. I was successful at my first bar exam because of my failures in law school. I worked hard because I was afraid to fail again. I had something to prove, if only to myself. So I did the work and I passed. It seems that success will always follow failure, eventually.
Failure has taught me so much in this life. Even to not be afraid of it anymore. I still fuck stuff up on the regular but it doesn’t get to me like it did before. Perfection, as a goal, lagging and being replaced by this almost morbid curiosity about all the ways that I still screw it all up.
I can, even today as I am failing, see it and appreciate it while it is happening. Which seems like major spiritual growth. I mean, well at least it is for me...
There is a lot to be learned in failing. Seeing all the ways that my own best efforts have let me down. Seeing that I do not know all that I think I do. Seeing that no matter what, I will always and forever have something to learn. In fact, I think it is easier to remain teachable when you know that and accept that failure is just part of living. There is no place where I get it all right, perfect, tidy. Life is messy and I am just getting used to that.
I know today that I needed every misstep, every failed relationship, every financial crisis, every health issue, every moral failing to get to me to this moment where I am relatively content. No longer grasping for things that I do not have, things that are out of my reach. Somehow, life has given me the vantage point of being ok with things being messy, unorganized, and a complete shitshow.
I am not always excited about my failures during, before or after, but I know that they are the lesson teachers, the way pointers, the path guiders. Failure is and has been my best teacher. Today when things start heading down a path that I would never select, I really am capable of just pausing, taking a deep breath, and saying to myself, “well, this is going to be painful...” And continuing when all efforts to select another path fail. I can just move forward in the indicated direction. And know that there is something vital that I need to learn, know and become in that next failure whatever it may be.
I don’t know that I am ever going to get to the point where I just love failing. But I am way better at it than I used to be and I want to move through it quickly so that I can learn the lesson wrapped within and get on with the business of living the best life I can. Failure is a process and I am pretty sure that process is called life. A delicate balancing of succeeding and failing over and over and over again. In the end, we all fail at living and if we are lucky we get a very long time to do so.