Discover Your Biggest Failing
“Which do you need to learn most: patience, compassion, gratitude, strength or vulnerability?”
Oh no: what if I occasionally fail at all of these and occasionally master all of these? Does that mean I am master of nothing? Let me give you a peek into moments of failure and moments of mastery in a few of these realms. Maybe you’ll see yourself in some of these vignettes.
Patience Fail // My children are Montessorians. They both attend Montessori schools and one of the many beautiful pieces of education encouraged in their environments is the ability for the child to do things themselves, on their own, with independence. My three-year-old sweeps up his messes, slices his own pickles for snack, washes his own dishes, spreads his own cream cheese, zips his own coat, etc. The idea is that parents of Montessori learners extend these ways of being to their own home environments. Okay, I don’t know who these people are but if I was a true Montessori parent most of my afternoons would be spent painstakingly observing my dear son put on every article of clothing for winter playtime and it would take so long the sun would set and I’d lose the will to live. I have “patience fail” almost every single day. Look, I’m like really good at putting shoes on my kid. I’m like amazingly fast. I’m also a brilliant zipper-upper. We’re leaving, let’s do this thing. I don’t know if Harold will be in decades of therapy because I fail at everyday patience and I’ll support him if he needs to but until then I’m just like, “We’re getting your stuff on and we’re leaving the house in 30 seconds for the love of all things rapid!”
Patience Mastery // When I was pregnant with my first child I was in what some people might call a crisis, others might call a Dark Night (watch my Listen To Your Mother reading about it on YouTube here) but I did have a moment of patience mastery amidst the turmoil and here is how it manifest: My sister (who was my birthing partner since I was super solo) went with me to the big ultrasound–the one where you can learn the gender of your child. I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do about my baby because it was a crisis pregnancy and I didn’t know if I would keep it or place it for adoption. So I told the technician before she lubed my belly, “Could you just note the gender and I’ll call in to find out if I really want to know?” She said sure and then my sister and I ooohed and ahhhed at the wonder of the tiny heart chambers and the curled up legs and the little ghosty profile on the screen. Then it was over. The technician wiped off the goo and left so I could get dressed. When she returned a moment later she handed me a sealed enveloped and said, “Your answer is in here.” [insert dropped-jaw and extra long pause] I was holding an envelope that seemed suddenly on fire. But I never opened it during my whole pregnancy. Instead I propped it up where I could see it each night as I fell asleep and each morning when I woke up. And after I gave birth to my daughter and told the adoptive parents their child was born, I still didn’t open that envelope. It was only after I changed my mind and chose to be my baby’s mama at the last minute that I carefully unsealed the envelope and pulled out the small slip of paper that read, “Think Pink.”
Gratitude Fail // About two years ago my teenager told me she couldn’t read the signs outside the bus window. She needed glasses. Since I’ve never needed glasses I couldn’t completely empathize with what she was going through so we got her eyes checked out and got a corrective prescription. She was on her way to seeing clearly but then it was time to buy the frames and my world collapsed all around me. Or maybe it opened up, I can’t be sure. Turns out there are approximately 8.2 billion different kinds of frames from which to choose. After she tried on the 7.8 billionth pair my voice got deep and hungry while I said, “JUST CHOOSE A PAIR ALREADYYYYYY.” But no pressure. I get it. Frames are a big deal. They will be on your face every single day (on the days you want vision, I guess). Anyway, she chose a very cool pair. A very funky and awesome set of frames. I was impressed with her choice: blue metal with silver etched artwork in the legs. And then I bought them. And they were extremely expensive. They cost as much as what I spend a year on clothing. I thought at the time of checkout that our insurance would cover frames or at least a portion of the cost. One week later we discovered they’re not covered by insurance so I took Gloria back to the clinic to return the frames and start looking at the cheap row of frames–the plastic, milquetoast frames. Gloria was a good sport, though I could see she was disappointed by how she hung her head and how her heart wasn’t really drawn to any of the frames. Then a technician came up to us–the one who had helped us pick the original frames–and pulled me off to the side and said, “Look, your daughter is very cool, she is an artist and musician and the frames she picked out are very cool–very her. I won’t make money on this but if you’d like I’ll resell those frames to you below cost because I can tell she is being strong, but that she’s sad.” I started blubbering and tearing up and while I said thank you in person while I took her up on the offer I set an intention to write to her and I haven’t, yet. That was years ago and she still remains on that thank you list. Gratitude fail.
Gratitude Mastery // I’m pretty good at gratitude, in general. I practice a gratitude meditation during the week and when I pray I start with thanks before I dive into petitions. This gratitude mastery story is a little different, though. Last year at a week-long convention I attended I was the recipient of unexpected gratitude. I was working a booth that welcomed hundreds of visitors each day and one of the volunteers was so kind to help set up and hang with me and the other staff people during the week. She was funny and sweet and happily willing to join us in grunt work like stuffing envelopes or counting inventory or encouraging booth visitors to sign-up for our newsletter, etc. We took selfies together and talked about everything from the weather to our favorites lists. At the end of the week I gave her a big hug goodbye and let her know how nice it was to hang with her all week. Later that day her best friend came up to me and said, “Thank you. Thank you for being so nice to my friend.” I was confused for a second because you shouldn’t have to thank someone for being nice, necessarily. My friend went on, “Being overweight, my friend doesn’t expect people to like her but that didn’t seem to bother you, you just treated her like you treated everyone. Thank you.” And then I was stunned a bit. After all my counseling and work on getting out of my disordered eating during my teens I had this revelation about women: their physical bodies tell us almost nothing about their soul. I don’t even care that this sounds cliche. I had some sick ideas about who I was when I was anorexic and the way it manifest had some people praising my body and some people shaming it. It was a strange time. I decided 20 years ago that I was no longer interested in women’s bodies. I was no longer going to join the masses and judge women based on the shape of her body: skinny, fat, tall, short, wide, narrow. Gawd, who cares? Anyway, my gratitude mastery was in the form of being grateful for women no matter their weight and being kind as I should.
Vulnerability Fail // This is my biggest failure. I do not easily open myself up to vulnerability. It means this, according to Dictionary.com:
Vulnerability Mastery // That’s what this kind of blog post is: working towards mastery of a fail. There are windows of vulnerability. Moments. I’m not a completely open book, but I’m learning it isn’t as scary to be vulnerable as I once thought. Turns out most people like to connect with imperfect people because we’re all on the same train anyway.