I have been thinking about this post for a few months now, and I have been trying to formulate my words and thoughts on the subject at hand. I even considered not writing about it at all, despite having put my life all over the internet. I still subscribe to the school of thought that I should never feel obligated to owe anyone anything, including an explanation. But I have decided to write about my experience with failure today because I am a writer. It’s how I process, and I think I have something important to say on the subject.
So on with the story….
A little over a year ago I made a huge commitment to run a half marathon. The half of my choosing was the Disney Princess Half Marathon that happens this weekend. I am not sure if I had ever been more motivated about anything in my life. I had one of those moments where I didn’t just hope something would happen, but I KNEW it would happen. Those are always amazing feelings, and they are there to keep us going. I started a “journey” (if you will excuse my cliche phrase) to be intentional about my health and I made the highest goals. 13.1 miles is a lot. But I was ready to do it. I felt like someone who has switched to conquering mode, and I was fully empowered to conquer the beast at hand.
So began my journey, and I started losing weight (20.2 pounds to be exact) and running. I used Weight Watcher (which I highly recommend) and a couch to 5K app (which I highly recommend). I ran a 5K with my mom at the beginning of March in 2016 and was prepared to run many more that year. Life was great. My goals were high, but I was reaching them. My mindset was positive.
Nothing bad happened in my life to hinder me. No bad breakup or break down or death or anything like that to keep me from my goals. In fact a wonderful thing happened in the form of an amazing new job at a place I really wanted to be. Nothing was holding me back, but I felt a mindset switch happen. I started to reach a plateau with weight loss and plateau with running. Many days I would push through but other days I wouldn’t. I just started to lose my motivation. There are a lot of things we could say about this. Perhaps I didn’t give my new habits time to sink in or maybe I should have tried harder…but speaking all of that over myself is discouraging. I’m just going to call it what it is and say that my motivation went away. I’m not the first person in the history of humanity to experience this. In fact, I would venture to believe even the most motivated person on the face of the planet has experienced this. It’s called being a human, but I felt very disheartened that the motivation had run out. And it started to sink into my goals.
There were also a few unforeseen factors:
- My heel. This was the biggest factor. Around summer time I started to experience some real pain in my heel when I was running for a long time or when I sat still for a long time. I went to the doctor to find out that I had (have) planters faciatis. At the time they said it was still ok to run on, but that I needed to continue to monitor it and see if it got worse. They also sent me over to physical therapy to work out some of the issues. I broke my foot twice in the same place in high school, and much of the weakness in that foot I found out is probably attributed to that. Upon continuing to run on it, the heel just kept getting worse. I just wasn’t able to up my mileage. After another doctor visit and a little introspection, I decided running the half wasn’t in the best interest of my body right now.
- My new, wonderful job. When I made the high goals in February of 2016 I didn’t dream that a year later I would have landed into the Cadillac of choral directing positions. This was a huge accomplishment, but along with it can more responsibility. I musical directed a show that started rehearsing in October and went up at the beginning of January. Even though it was musical directing and not full directing this time, I was still being consumed by it. I love directing so it was a joy in my life, but going all day from 7am – 7pm is not conducive to a full training schedule. I’m sure some SuperWoman somewhere does it, but I value rest and my sanity more. Finding time to train got a lot harder than I expected, especially when it was getting dark at 5pm.
Fast forward to the beginning of this year, and I had to make a hard decision not to run the race. When January hit and I was only getting up to about 5 miles, I realized that I needed to be honest with myself. It just was not going to happen this time. And when I reached that conclusion, I was honestly devastated. I felt like I had failed. Please do not misinterpret me in that I think that taking care of your body, energy, rest and sanity is failure. It is not. I am actually proud of listening to myself and my needs to accurately. But I was so incredibly disappointed because I had been so fired up about the whole process. I wanted to accomplish this huge feat, and, by not getting there, I felt like I’d failed.
And you know what? I did fail in a way. That is really hard for me to say, actually. Yes, I made connections within myself and listened to my body! Yes, I ran up to 5 miles which I had never done before! Yes, I lost 20 pounds! But I didn’t make it to the finish line, and that, by definition was a failure.
BUT (before you go thinking I am a self deprecating crazy person….here’s the kicker and the point to this who she-bang….) I HAVE NEVER FELT MORE HAPPY ABOUT IT!
I have struggled with perfection my whole life. I like being good at things. I like doing the best job. I like being successful and “on top”. I am not going to say those are wonderful or terrible qualities, but that is just honesty. I tried to be perfect. I tried to push through and get there. I forced myself to run on a bum foot and with a body that still needed to continue down a healthy path. I mentally dreaded it and kept trying. And then that was enough of that. And I stopped and listened and prayed and put that goal away in a safe place for the time being (to be returned to eventually in some form or another).
And I gained freedom in failure. I actually kinda love that I didn’t make it because I gained this new sense of freedom. I am 100% crazily and awesomely human, which is exactly what I am meant to be. Like one of my favorite fictional characters, Elsa, I had to let me hair down and let it go. And, not that I think about it, I ultimately conquered my Disney Princess status in a much different way than I imagined.
My mom read me this great quote that went something like, “The greatest failure is not not accomplishing the goal but not trying at all.” I’ve gained more understanding in this process about what it means to be on a journey. There really isn’t ever an end point, but the journey is continual.
So be free to fail, folks! Journey strong! And if you cannot lose that weight, love yourself anyway. If you see yourself as not beautiful or desirable, know that that is a lie. If you cannot get where you want to be going, realize that your headed somewhere better. And please, because we need more acceptance in this world, love every imperfect part of yourself. Because it means you are alive. And human. And you have more time to be who you are meant to be. And (shocker) perfection doesn’t exist.
So now, in true, Glennon Doyle Melton style, I am not editing this post but just pressing publish.
Peace out, perfection.