“I write about the power of trying, because I want to be okay with failing. I write about generosity because I battle selfishness. I write about joy because I know sorrow. I write about faith because I almost lost mine, and I know what it is to be broken and in need of redemption. I write about gratitude because I am thankful – for all of it.” – Kristin Armstrong
“Failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end. Failure is something we can avoid only by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” – Denis Waitley
I initially wanted to call this piece “On Failure,” mostly because I think it’s important to talk about failing and recently I feel like I have failed a bit. I’ve also been thinking a lot about love. Recently I was sitting at my favorite bar, Joe’s, a Saturday night on a seasonably chilly evening (it hasn’t been so chilly as of late) and I was enjoying a warming bourbon and the question was posed to me by someone I truly love, “Do you believe in love?” And I sat there, with my legs crossed on a stool in dim lighting and Townes Van Zandt on the jukebox (probably still not called that, but ok) and I wasn’t quite sure how to answer that question. Who believes in love?
I’ve experienced a lifetime of love in myriad ways. The question seems to me complicated and, then, not so much.
These days, I think that I am mostly tired of love. I have friends in the throes of divorce and, well, it makes me question love. We’re all tired, in so many ways; as I have written about in the past, it’s relative. When I think about love I think about how I write about what ails me, pains me, makes me elated, makes me qualify life, makes me think about the world. And yet, I also write about love. Love infuses my thoughts and my words and my life.
I have plenty of it these days. That love thing. My friends and family daily remind me that I am immensely blessed, and yes, I use the word blessed even if I am a heathen in this here life.
When I was four years old my mother left. She walked out on my life and my brother’s lives and my father’s life. She left us there wondering what we as small people had done wrong and what Petey, the tiny yellow bird who lived in the hallway in a little, wired cage, had done wrong. I still think about this although the memory of this day has only crossed my brain recently. It’s the holidays and I think that we all cross paths with our memories at this time of the year. We think about family and ex lovers and friends who have left us or passed. We miss those we have loved.
And sometimes love is about failure. I have failed in this life. Many times. We all have. Let’s own it. Perhaps at a job or at school, at relationships or just, generally, life. This is what ties us together. It bonds us as human beings. But, if we’re lucky, we regroup and we love.
Failure is a significant part of our lives. And we fail at love. Often. When we fail, however, we rise. Hopefully. When we fail we grieve and cry and lament, learn, and then, we rise. We should rise to the better place where we should be after we fail. Our lives are all about failure. I love failing because when I do, I hear the silent voice in my head telling me that I can do better and I can figure it out and I will, ultimately, succeed. Failure is what propels me on to the next day, project, or life’s challenge.
Life is always a challenge. Sometimes just getting up in the morning is a challenge. The crawling out of the warm bed. The making the pot of coffee. The showering and making the self presentable to the day and the getting to work. And then I think, that there are folks who have to work much harder to experience their day than I do. Riding three buses and the A train and just getting there. That is not my life. And then I remember that life really isn’t the challenge I think it is.
And then, let’s get back to love. Social media reminds us that love fails, often. Social media also tells us that love thrives. I have loved and I love everyday. I love my friends and my family and this world, as hard and heartbroken as it is sometimes. I love hiking and music and my soft, warm bed that some people, many people aren’t lucky enough to have. I love a soft gentle breeze on my face that I have experienced recently on an unexpected warm December evening. I love the smell of rain on a hot summer day and I have joyously danced it. I love fall and the smell the varied colors of the leaves seems to bring on a crisp clean day. I love the musty smell of my dog who certainly needs a bath most days, but always smells like her and reminds me that she is, well, my dog. And I love this life I call mine, replete with writing retreats and live music and drinks with so many friends and excited students who get into graduate school and, also, folks who are broken, but who I call mine and who, when they rise, make me feel that life is worth living every single fucking day. Yes, I believe in love, even in the most mundane of things that happen every day, in every moment.
When we gripe to our friends about how tired we are, how hard life is, how terrible our commute is everyday, let’s think about the folks that don’t have these woes. There are folks that have real things to complain about – those who work 8-12 hours a day for shit money, that have a completely minimal place to live, that have to take care of a family member – child, parent, significant other – every day, that isn’t able. Those that just aren’t bitching about the fact that life is hard; they’re just doing it.
Yes, I believe in love. And in those sweet and small, quiet moments, when I’m not overthinking the world and my life and I’m listening to John Coltrane and I remember just how incredibly lucky I am to be here in this life, I truly believe in love.