I am finally ready to fail. It's not a negative, I've decided, to fail. It's a positive. Like falling in an attempt to do a new pose in yoga or biting it on the ski slope, it is a sure sign of trying to reach a new level.
We are so often comfortable right where we are. We stay there out of complacency. "It's just fine here," we say to ourselves while knowing, in that deep, true part of our brains that we try to quiet that it's not what we really want, where we really dreamed we'd be if, in fact, we really let ourself dream. To be fair, information gathered over a lifetime can give one pause about dreams. Dreams come true can easily turn into nightmares, we see that every day on the covers of magazines that love to out the problems of the delebrities who have reached the pinnacle of what they's desperately hoped for only to find misery at the top. "Be careful what you wish for..." my mother always warned.
But you can't be too careful or you will stop wishing altogether. I have, of late, begun cautiously wishing for things and working toward them, knowing that in doing so I might be terribly disappointed but that I will be able to deal with that disappointment. I have put together whole chapters that I have then had to trash, put together proposals that take months only to be told they didn't quite work. While being told to change even a word used to wreck me, I am stronger now. I finally understand personally that it is better to have tried and failed than never to have tried at all and that trying is not just a one-time thing. It is constant, applied every day in a new way. Rejections will come often if you are actually ex/pending efforts.
I gave a gold star to a friend yesterday who is going with her gut and switching schools for her young son. She has grilled him, given him all the downside and still he has agreed. She is afraid he is doing it just to please her, but so be it. There is no way, now, of knowing the outcome. There will be drawbacks and great benefits to the decision, like all decisions. I sympathized. Change is hard, but you have to go forward and do those things that your strongest instincts tell you are the things that you have to do. Denial of those things will only lead to regret. We have to be brave enough to try. There is always a way out later, another change that can be made, you can always try something else.
What gets me is when people give up, when I give up, simply because the task at hand seems daunting. Like the story I have to edit, or like the bits of homework that my kids ask for help on only because they don't feel like thinking about it themselves. I try to prod the to do it themselves. I will not always be there, they have to build their own inner drive to push past the fear. All I can do is give them the tools, highest among them feeling good about themselves.
The other day, as Eli and I sat doing hebrew homework after school at Ladybird Bakery, we got on the subject of why a kid at school always acted out.
"He doesn't have the tools to express his frustrations, to feel that he can do things, maybe because people are always telling him about the things he does wrong, not the things he does well." I looked at Eli sadly "He maybe doesn't feel good about himself."
Eli nodded. "Well, I don't need anybody to tell me what I've done well, I feel good about myself," he said.
I could have cried. Now, to be fair, I've seen him flounder in moments, get defensive or push back. None of us feel good about ourselves all the time. But I love that he feels so strongly about feeling good about himself. It is no small thing. He may be ready, then, to face failure, a sure eventuality if he really tries. Trying, it turns out, demands a super strong dose of self-confidence. As with the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, it is all about inner belief: "I think I can, I think I can." I whisper that to myself often as I go through yet another round of trying.