The failure of success

file1761306949777A friend of mine was once taken with a motivational speaker. The enthusiasm and accompanying propaganda was overwhelming. To silence the onslaught, I agreed to read a book. The message was that success, as measured by making more money, was an achievable goal/sacred duty. Bullet points followed for execution, the result of which would save you and your children from being like them (the mediocre lovers/unsuccessful) and make you one of the great (who followed the bullet points to their destiny of success).

I hated the book. I considered burning it, except it would have caused my friend to buy another. Clarity is easy when it’s someone else’s words on a page.

I was voted most likely to succeed in my high school class. No one was picturing me as mistress of the laundry, master pot scrubber (cooking and other), professional child transporter, duchess of the schedules, former teacher, former secretary, former (you get the idea), and aspiring writer. By most measures, we would have to admit, the voters got it wrong. I have failed to reach the bars one envisions for “the most likely to succeed.”

I am happy. I am doing what I want to do (excepting the part where the publishers fall over themselves trying to buy my work). Frequently, I am so content with my lot in life that I feel waves of guilt not to be enmeshed in more miserable circumstances.

And yet.

Often, I worry I am failing in some important way. I trust myself as a parent/writer/person until I don’t. I’m one of those that holds with God’s promise to allow only as much as we can handle. Anything facing me ought by virtue of its presence give me confidence that I am equal to the task. But often it doesn’t.

A woman I deeply respect wrote yesterday about the rough stretch of road she’s travelling. I was proud of her. I  empathized with her worries of failure and feelings of falling short, but she was struggling, not failing. Courage and love she couldn’t see, poured out of her heart and words.

A few day earlier, another rejection letter on one of my book projects came. Another failure, I felt. So very discouraging, and I may never get it right. Admiring my friend’s unsung walk to help her daughter, has screwed my head on straight again.

Hilaire Beloc, once wrote: “When I am dead, I hope it may be said, his sins were scarlet, but his books were read.”  I’d love to be like Beloc (having my books read and all) but I’d also like to be like my friend. I have no intention of giving up on the books front. But if I can only have one dream or the other, I’ll take the love/courage option and let all the words flitter flutter away like grass. I’ll be who I think I should be and let the chips fall where they may.

With a thousand thanks to my courageous friend of the lonely road.

4 Comments to The failure of success

  1. Leslie Lynch says:

    I had never thought of confusing failure with struggle. A new light has shined on my thinking today.

    Thank you! :-)

  2. Jane Parker says:

    I’m believing for the shining forth of those words “hid under a basket”. Keep going, girl.

  3. Great insight. I know what it feels like when you get those rejection letters. I love Blessed Mother Theresa of Calcutta saying: “God has not called you to be successful but faithful.”