Sunday, March 30, 2014
Finding Peace in Failure
Just some humor before moving on...that, by the way, was the light fixture in my bedroom. Kinda scary looking, huh? No worries, they fixed it ;)
What if I told you that I was a failure. Would you try to convince me otherwise? Would you list off either generic accolades or how you used to feel the way I did, and you no longer have those feelings?
Would you sit in silence, unsure of what to say?
Relax. Because I know, full well, that I am -- indeed -- a failure. In multiple ways, differing scenarios, ranging from the blunder to the Grande Epic.
However...I would have nothing, learned nothing, and would not be the person I am today if I were what most would call a "success".
For some odd reason we attach meanings to words that they don't carry. It's one of the most puzzling things about the art of language. Most were taught never to judge a book by its cover, but books are made up of hundreds if not thousands of words! When we look at a word like "failure" and carry a negative tone ringing in your core, how could you not feel the need to save me from myself when I call myself a failure? We are taught that certain words are verboten and we are bad people with no morals if we use them. We are taught if a person has limited vocabulary they are either simple or new to the language, ergo, not as good as us.
Don't lie to yourself. You know that's exactly what your mind conjures up.
That's why we come up with banalities of speech such as "don't judge a book by its cover".
I was meant to fail from the start! I've shared that I mainstreamed from special needs classes (the other children found out. Trust me. Adults have no clue what kids actually comprehend), and while this turned out that I did not need that particular therapy, there is a deep rankling to the core to this day about "short bus" jokes.
I had a hard time interacting with other children when I was young. I preferred to keep to myself, because every time I opened my mouth, I wish I hadn't. It was inevitable. For some reason, each time I tried to join in on a game, or complement a classmate about her tee shirt, it always ended with me in silent tears. The kind no one can hear, and I have not only the memory but the exact feeling in bones aching to belong.
In those years of failing to engage with others in conversation didn't mean that I had a distaste for words and language. On the contrary, I was enamored with the harmony of two people chattering excitedly about the weekend, their facial expressions bright, posture in a stance that let me know they were enjoying the moment so very much that at any moment they may levitate, defying the laws of physics and canning it -- re-branding it as theory...debunked.
My own failure to communicate effectively when I was small gave me an odd gift. As children, my brother Philip and I slept in the same bedroom, and from the age of seven until about age twelve I told him bedtime stories. But not out of a book...but made up on the spot. The stillness of dusk hanging in the air was perfect backdrop for all of my characters, which sprang to life as I spun the yarns of wild threads that probably were the equivalent of a child's picture colored only kinda outside the lines.
In any event, the fact that I had no confidence and saw myself as what other children would consider a failure -- I had no friends, I got good grades, I was the teacher's pet, I accidentally succeeded in all of the wrong places -- blossomed into something that I would trade for nothing.
The gift of pen -- written or spoken -- with my first audience being one.
But that one -- my brother -- was the one that counted the most.
Eventually as I got older, sixth grade approaches and I started failing by societal standards. First was the fact that my clothes were all wrong. They just were. Then came in the start of self injury. I had no real understanding of why I did this, just that "it helped". To this day, I do not know for sure how I got the idea or why it took so damn long to get a grip and stop.
Seventh grade I started to fail at being a good student. Did I understand the material? Plenty. In fact, in the rare moments of lucidity during my days, I was bored senseless. In American public school you learn the same junk over and over, just packaged differently, from kindergarten until senior year of college. Since there was no news under the sun, my mind crept back into its corner. I started dissociating and crying in class. My former step father used to get angry with me when teachers would call to report that I'd been in tears the whole day long.
No one knew how to help, so instead, it was just easier to shove everyone away in favor of choosing instead to suffer alone.
Enter severe eating disorder. Enter lack of direction, a mind that was driven...but going in reverse. Stalling, sputtering, and ultimately crashing.
I spent the first eighteen years of my life having the sense of utter and complete failure! Icing on the cake? Disability. Rush Limbaugh and Al Sharpton fans used all opportunity to point out that their tax dollars were going into my pocket (statistically, only 2% go to "entitlements". If you want to get nit picky, all income is coming from your own tax dollars. It's a stupid argument, and that money belongs to the government. It was never yours to begin with), I ended up in group homes, lived in hospitals...
...I should be ashamed of myself. I should feel like a blemish to to all that know me.
Well I'm not. And I don't.
Just like when my childhood failure to communicate effectively sharpened my skill at prose, subsequent ones also went on to teach me all that I am. If I'd never experienced injustices of being a psychiatric patient as an adolescent, I never would have any passion about mental health awareness today. If I'd never lived through anxiety levels that drove me into crying fits in school and exposed to humiliation, do you think I'd have the wherewithal to post to a blog like this?
If I hadn't lived the type of life I have been given, I wouldn't care. Period. Just like a lot of other people.
The reason this even came to mind was a conversation I'd had with my primary, a vivacious woman dedicated to the insanity that is healthcare in the United States. She was typing a note in the computer and had said to me, that "one day" she would like to see me able to walk again, take something in orally, go to school, graduate, and I would be absolutely perfect...
...then she looked at me, shook her head, took my hand, and said "You're already perfect".
*nota bene: the wording is unique to a person whose mother language is not Germanic, but Sanskrit. Translation may sound odd to the reader*
I'd been hinging my own success on all of the things that she said she would like to see for me to accomplish. But in that moment, she gave me something most doctors cannot:
In her honesty, she revealed that she really does think some wonderful things of me. Which is hard to accept on one hand, only because the lifetime of failure doesn't allow for me to take any sort of positive of myself since I am a failure by ALL other standards.
Those standards now also include physical health, common comments are usually "You're too young.."
EVERYONE IS TOO YOUNG FOR WHAT I'VE BEEN THROUGH.
I figured, since we never judge books on their cover, that words are subjective, today I would take "failure" off of the list of utterances I find offensive.
That I would take others at their word when they genuinely tell me that I possess positive qualities.
In this life, I will not allow myself to go back to this
Even if it means life that includes this
In a fight against this
And instead look up to see more of these
And no matter what...move on from here. I leave some of the more ominous detail out...because this blog and this life are not centered around that. The wolf that survives is the one you feed, it is often said.
No. No this...is me.
All of this...this glorious failure...
another element in thriving anyway