It wasn't a win today. It wasn't even a partial win. It was a failure day. Here I sit, exhausted and emotionally drained, finding it hard to see past all the things that missed the mark today. There were good things and laughter but there were a lot of tears both public and private. It was a hard day.
We had to quit something today. We had to pull one of our kids out of their activities because it wasn't working. I had hoped that this would be the year that this activity would work. This would be the year we got to celebrate a job well done with treats and even a present. But not this time.
I watched my kid try so hard to be brave, so hard to hold it together and it was heart breaking. I told them I was proud of them for all they did accomplish but I also told them, rather reluctantly, that we could quit the activity.
I haven't quit very many things in my life but I quit a University program once. I was taking music performance and it was just not working for me. I finished the year but had to decide whether or not to take a second. I was in such turmoil over it. Tearful, anxious, fearful and sick to my stomach. How could I quit a music program? Music is what I was good at, the only thing I believed I was good at. I just could not bring myself to do it but did not have the strength to carry on. My parents lived far away and I felt so alone in the decision. I was in such disarray that a friend of mine felt compelled to drive 6 hours to show up, unannounced at my door, and tell me that it was okay to quit. I needed the nudge. I needed someone to just tell me it was okay to quit.
Quitting isn't easy because you have to admit you have failed. You have to look people in the face and declare yourself human. It's putting on a display to everyone around you that you are not perfect, you have fears, and you have weaknesses. It's the exact opposite of keeping up appearances and I think we all like appearances. I know I do.
I find, as I get a little older, that I understand failure differently. I am learning, however slowly, to accept it. Even as I type the word "failure" I feel the desire to hedge what I am saying, "Don't worry everyone...I don't really mean fail. We didn't really fail today. I didn't really fail...just sort of." It feels like such a dirty word in our success driven, "you can do anything" culture.
But there... I said it - today we had to quit something. I can't do everything and neither can my kids.
The challenge for me is that I don't want my kids to think they can just quit anything and I want them to stick with things and do the hard work of carrying through because it can be incredibly satisfying. But I also don't want them to feel shame when they fail. I felt ashamed for years about quitting the music program. Even now, it feels vulnerable to share the story here with you even though everyone who knows me knows I did not finish it. I don't want them to feel shame for not being perfect because none of us are. I would rather we acknowledge failure as part of the process to a success in the future rather than something to hide.
Failing is also an exercise in grace. It's the way we learn to show grace to ourselves and others because failure is inevitable and it's inevitable because we are human.
I was looking forward to celebrating a success but I am considering celebrating the failure with my kids. Rather than it be the thing we do not talk about maybe we should celebrate it or at least acknowledge a good try. We'll try it again until we succeed, I know that.
We can celebrate that we knew when to call it quits and cheer that we were able to acknowledge that something was not working and we'll do it with cupcakes.
I have no idea if that sort of thing will send the wrong kind of message to my kids.I do not know if it will foster a lazy attitude or not. But I know that it will send one of self-care, of knowing your limits, and that no one is perfect and that just might reduce the chances of anxiety and depression in their lives. These are all good things.
It was a tough day today. A good day in the grand scheme of life and really living but a tough day. I hope there are a few wins tomorrow to balance out a tough day today. But, even if it's another tough day, we will be raising our glasses together and celebrating not being perfect. And that might just be the win I am looking for.