Since I last wrote a newsletter, I would venture to say that I’ve been engaged in a profound relationship with one of life’s least sexy topics.
In January I couldn’t bring myself to compose a newsletter, so deep in the belly of this particular beast was I.
Now, I have shifted somewhat in my relationship to the experience of failure. I am feeling grateful for it. The journey I have been on has brought me to a new appreciation for the bedfellows that are failure and hubris.
The truth is I like myself when I’m grounded, centered, enjoying the fruits of my labour, experiencing myself as someone with something valuable to offer, something that people seem to welcome and enjoy. I like the feelings that being in that space generates. And, I’ve noticed that the imperceptible slide into something akin to smugness can so easily follow if I’ve been in that place for a while.
It’s a kind of resting on my laurels…… a precursor to hubris.
For the last quarter of 2020 my personal world was upended by gut-wrenching conflict. The most precious work of my life, that of mothering, came under fire. Excoriating fire. All of my failings as a mother came home to roost. And I was devastated.
Fortunately, being a mother seems to have gifted me with that most inestimable power: unconditional love. And that love enabled me to listen and to hear. I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy, it didn’t look good. And whatever praise and appreciation had been bestowed on me seemed to dissolve and evaporate, to be replaced by the miserable experience of having failed.
In the depths of the journey it was all I could do to cling on to the notion that the contents of my mind were probably not to be trusted all that much. The narrative I was listening to became radically unbalanced. I could find nothing good to say for myself or to myself. The feeling of failure descended like impenetrable fog, thick and soupy, and it felt like it would never lift.
And in order to cope, I turned to an old ally. One that I have perfected the art of my whole life: my brave face. For to reveal the narrative and attendant feelings felt as if I would be going from bad to worse. I convinced myself that the only way to deal with it was to hide. In this regard, I suspect I joined the ranks of, pretty much, the entire human race.
We live in a Facebook world, where parading your best life is easy. Who shares their shame on their Facebook feed?
At the urging of a dear friend and mentor, I was encouraged to remember the liberating power of thinking sessions. This would mean, however, that I was going to have to let my thinking partners in on the journey. I was going to have to show people the real face behind the brave one, and share the pieces of my broken heart.
Well, I am a very fortunate person, far luckier than words can convey. I am blessed with thinking partners whose attention (and here that word also means love) can remain steadfast in the face of the ugliest of crying. Gathering up my courage, I emailed a handful of these dear friends and asked if they could help.
And session by session I replaced what was untrue and limiting with liberation, until I could trust myself again, until I could forgive myself, and until my inner narrative was able to access the many nuanced shades of grey that are reality, versus the stark black and white tyranny that the inner critic so loves.
The aftermath of my deep dive with failure has taught me so much. It has humbled me, softened me and opened my heart, not only to my own humanity but to that of others. No matter how hard the road to compassion can be, learning to become kinder and more forgiving to self and others is invaluable, and I have realised that some lessons are very hard to crack. The trick now is to pat myself on the back without getting on any high horse in the process!