Monday, September 26, 2011

What I Learned From Failing

I don’t believe in failure. Neither do I believe in quitting. What I do believe in is trying. I don’t fail or quit, I attempt, I give it a whirl, and then if I decide that I’ve had enough, that I’m bored, that I’m ready to move on, I do.

I always look for the take-away in any attempted endeavor. What did I learn here? How will I use the information gained to go back out and throw myself at the world in a better way? As a little girl, I was always a sucker for those books with a moral. My mom would read to me endlessly. The first words out of my mouth after she exclaimed, “The End” would be, “So what’s the moral?” “Not every book has a moral,” she would remind me. As an adult, I just can’t buy that. I’ve seen the silver lining of too many crappy clouds. I know there is something to gain from most every situation. Most. EVERY. Situation.

At the beginning of this year I asked friends to put together a list of things for me to try in 2011. I call it a Bucket List, but really it’s a Try-It List. The idea was to have others make the list so that I would stretch beyond what I might be comfortable doing in order that I test my limits. Turns out, my friends are a bit more conservative than I when it comes to conjuring new experiences meant to bust one out of her ratty old comfort zone. They did, however, give it a whirl. On my end, I managed to attempt five out of the twenty items before falling under the spell of my old friend, Boredom. I am not much on follow-through. The thrill for me lies in the idea.

To give my Bucket List a proper burial, which seems a bit ironic, I have created my best take-aways from the completed items……….

# 1. Go ziplining.


Sometimes I want to do something, but I’m afraid. I’m not sure I can. I don’t know if I will be good enough. Maybe I will get hurt, either physically or emotionally. I begin to get that feeling that my heart is in my throat and I am either going to pass out or throw up. Still, I want to do the thing that is making me so afraid. I want to do it because it is an exciting idea. At this point I have two choices. I can walk away, or I can do it. In either case, the scary feeling usually goes away. The sad thing is that it’s usually replaced with a nagging sense of regret because I have chosen to walk away. I need to practice in my life and to get really good at doing that thing that puts my heart in my throat. I need to experience more often that energizing exhilaration that replaces the scary feeling. I need to yell out, “Rachel! Ready to cross!” and just kick up my feet and go.

# 8. Go a complete day in silence.


My need for communication is so very strong. Whether speaking or writing, I am like a sponge. I want to soak up every bit of information someone has to offer. After all that soaking up, I am ready to squeeze the ideas from my head in order that I don’t burst. I talk too much, listen too little, and question nonstop. That’s just me. I need to stop apologizing for it and channel all that energy into something that could actually be of benefit to someone.

# 13. Send a message in a bottle.


A simple thank you, mailed off in a green and white Target brand water bottle even, is easy enough and always appreciated. And I don’t have to wait until the other person does something FOR me. I could thank the individual simply for being in my life. A smile and a kind word are sometimes enough to re-set a mood for the rest of the day, on either end. I think I’ll do this one more often.

# 15. Ride a trolley.


Things aren’t always as great as they look in the movies. I always had this romantic notion of cable cars. In reality, the ride was stuffy, loud, and crowded. My nose was assaulted with an abundance of body odor. The conductors could have benefitted from lessons in kindness. The ride itself was rather boring and I couldn’t see much for the rather large backend of the older lady in front of me. My favorite part of the whole experience was the wait of nearly over an hour. During this time I enjoyed all manner of street entertainment, everything from the tap-dancing black man to the oldies-playing sax guy. I learned that “Jesus is the answer” and that a homeless man is not above calling your teenage daughter the b-word even when she tries to be nice by talking to him when you insist she avoid eye contact and ignore all manner of communication. I enjoyed the doughnut-eating German family and the tiny little free sample of the latest Starbuck’s flavor, even though there was nowhere to toss my miniature paper cup when I finished. Sometimes, I see now, the lesson isn’t in the ride itself, as the movies might have you believe, but in the shabbily-dressed Asian man sitting in all the pigeon shit.

# 20. Volunteer at an animal shelter.


For most of my adult life I have volunteered, have given of my time without expecting anything in return. I have not done this for the past quite-a-few years. I miss it. I miss it very much. Giving like this makes me feel happy, makes me feel energized, makes me feel worthwhile. It makes me feel that I am contributing to a cause greater than myself. I know now that I must find an outlet for this need. Walking dogs is not it.

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