The Look of Failure

Failure is its own kind of boomerang, and the sooner taken in hand the better for everyone. I know this, which is not to say that is what I do.

I’ve learned that to reach for failure is to seize the spectacular. I avoid it for as long as possible. I stay in step with my ego as it tells me, quite forcefully: “Just keep at it. It will work.”

All the while my body sends signal after signal to stop: ”This is not working. Let it go.”

My heart opens to failure as my ego flashes a neon sign: “Don’t screw this up.”  Of course, I already have. I am too busy to hear the sound of failure.

Ever patient, my heart shows me a seat to the spectacular while my ego offers only the slough of despond.

Only to the extent that we expose ourselves

over and over to annihilation

can that which is indestructible

be found in us.

Pema Chödrön in When Things Fall Apart


This is a failure I feel in my bones, literally, and my heart oozes with pain. I did visit the shores of the slough of despond momentarily, too tired to indulge in labels and finger-pointing, mostly at myself.

After spending the last 24 hours alternating between sleep and the meditative state, I hold failure’s boomerang in hand, feeling anything but spectacular. Still, I stay in my seat.

When things fall apart, it is not an easy view. Yet, the heart is compassionate and knows nothing is revealed in angst. That is a scene best left on the cutting room floor.

Best to begin from the beginning.

This past week, I signed on for a writing gig that may have been possible back in the day–eight or nine years ago, maybe longer.

Yet even with better health and greater stamina, it would have been challenging, as I did not have sufficient background. I had to spend too much time researching, which did not leave me enough time to write.

I kept working harder but not smarter. If I had, I would have heard the sound of failure.

I was fortunate to have a thoughtful and compassionate editor who recognized my limitations and as much as she helped me, there was no meeting the deadline.

It was up to me–and no one else–to say, “I cannot do this.” I waited too long and now others must scramble to complete my work, in addition to their own. My concern for failure was greater than my consideration for my colleagues.

Therein lies most of my pain but what is done is done. To anguish over what cannot be changed benefits no one. That is not admitting failure. That is hopelessness.

KMHuberImage; Mudhen; St. Mark's Refuge; Northern FL

To admit failure is to fall apart. Only in such moments does forgiveness reveal itself. I suppose that doesn’t seem spectacular—maybe I misuse the word–yet to sit in the seat of self reveals the human drama, and I know of no more breathtaking experience.

Only the heart can put on such a spectacular show, absorbing the annihilation that failure feels without judgment or looking through the colored lens of blame.

Failure reveals more than a wrinkled reflection; it is beyond the reach of any selfie filter. It is not a gloss. A reflection ripples with the tide or the wind, never providing more than a moment’s glance.

It is the mirror of the heart that reveals all failure, each one its own crack, healed in its own time. Forgiveness is the glue and knows no deadline only the steady beat of renewal. And that is indestructible. To me, spectacular.

10 thoughts on “The Look of Failure

  1. We go through phases in life, times when our strengths shift from one thing to another. Unfortunately, our self-image is slow to catch up. It is as if we are still looking at our high school yearbook photo and saying, “Yup, that’s me.”

    You can grieve recently arrived limitations or see how far you have come in the wisdom department–that smiling girl in the yearbook photo, and the one who lived the easy years after that didn’t know spit. You do.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Your writing is always beautiful. I don’t believe failure is defined by not meeting a deadline or somebody else’s expectation. That’s the standard we’ve created as a society. You are talented and have a gift. That’s not failure. Love you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hey, bro! Love you, too. ❤ I agree with your societal definition about failure. It is a false construct. What I learned from this is who I no longer am, which I thought I knew but I guess I just needed to to prove it to myself, again. More than anything, it showed me who I am as a writer. It is my heart, my passion, my work. You always have faith in my work. Your support means everything to me.


  3. It is really hard to accept our own limitations. Our heart may be in the right place. We may be eager to please. Yet, we may lack the modesty it takes to recognize this in ourselves. However, we all do it!! Well perhaps some of us more than others. But…we cannot beat ourselves up about it! Our intentions are good. Made out of sincerity. So if all we can do is our best, then when is our best not good enough??? ((Hugs)) 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You bring up an excellent point about not berating one’s self, which I have not done. In retrospect, my choice could have been better here but I think this was one more time that I had to know that what I once was capable of is just that–a time ago. Now is about an energy so different the possibilities resemble nothing of the past. Another chronically ill friend of mine and I have this conversation from time to time, about remembering not to try and get one’s life back. Life does not do that. As you say, as long as we do our best it is always enough. Thanks so much! Hope you are doing well.


  4. your blog reminded me of two recent failures I have experienced in the music world. In one case, my duo Hot Tamale was rejected the third year in a row by the Florida Folk Festival, and if that wasn’t bad enough, when this year’s festival started, the newspaper said “the Tallahassee area was so well represented, it makes you wonder if any musicians will be left in town.” Ouch!! I clipped the article, posted it on the wall with the note “I guess I needed a humility lesson.” It was not to be my only humility lesson that month. But shortly after, I realized that it had been foretold in the wonderful lyrics of a Hot Tamale song penned by Adrian herself some 3 years earlier,
    better get used to what is what is
    it mostly don’t go bang! it just go fizz
    look for “okay” and not “gee whiz”
    and it don’t make no never mind.
    When I recalled those lyrics with Adrian, we both had a belly laugh. (Here’s a link below if you want to listen to it. )
    And thanks for reminding me that I’m not alone in failure. as the cliche goes, if you never fail, you weren’t trying hard enough!!!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. And I think the view is spectacular, Craig, and the company could not be more divine.:-) I love the song “Don’t Make No Never Mind,” and I’m so glad you posted the link. True, it is humbling but all that we are given in such a moment does really help us find what is indestructible in us. And to me that light is so bright, not the light of a Hot Tamale song–how many days you two lift my being–it is light revealing everything else that is possible. And in that, once again, I think of Hot Tamale and the worldwide attention some of your work is getting. And that is more than okay. ❤


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