Sunday, September 16, 2012

To Fail Well...

Why now and not then? I've been pondering this question a lot lately. My life seems to be experiencing an upswing, and I'm wondering 'why now?' There are many factors that come into play as to why we are where we are. Luck, timing, hard work, amongst other things, can all contribute to life change and it is difficult to parse out what has effected what. Way leads on to way and it is not possible to trace a distinct line from there to here. And yet, I keep wondering how I got here. Actually the question is born more from a related wondering of 'how could I have gotten here sooner?'

It's not that I'm feeling sorry for myself, it's that I really wish I understood better the process by which I have come to be where I am. I can see that my mental landscape has changed profoundly over the past couple of years and I wonder if there was a way to fast-track those mental shifts. I used to believe in the New Age-influenced idea of "The Universe" unfolding my life according to some plan, but I don't believe that anymore. Actually, it's quite possible that that belief kept me from taking responsibility for moving my life ahead faster than I did. 

Believing in a master plan of any sort has tripped me up many times across my life. I am loathe to admit how many times I gave up jobs and relationships that were actually serving me well because I felt that God or "The Universe" wanted me to move my life in some other direction. If I am honest with myself, I just didn't have the skills to be in those jobs or relationships, nor the awareness or humility to know that I needed those skills and should find a way to acquire them. So, in order to keep my ego intact, I needed some external framework to place responsibility on. An externally-controlled master plan fit the bill. 

It is sobering how many times in recent years I've experienced the deep realization that I've been an idiot. And I don't mean, "Poor me, I grew up in a cult, people taught me bad beliefs." I mean the very acute sensation that it wasn't just the cult, or my mother, or my upbringing, or the New Age crazy, but that there were also fundamental flaws in my personality that impeded me from seeing things that others in all of those situations may have saw. Perhaps this is the wisdom that comes with age or the fact that I've now tried on enough different belief systems, relationships and jobs to see that one of the most glaring common denominators across the shitty bits of my life is me. Yes, there were many external factors beyond my control. But they weren't all beyond my control. And I wasn't taking nearly enough control over the ones I could have.

I wasted a lot of time. It's a realization I will have to live with and will work the rest of my life to rectify. I took a lot for granted. That too is a realization I will have to live with and will work the rest of my life to rectify. The other realization though is that while I'm aware of all of this now, it's no guarantee that I won't succumb to making poor decisions again and again, or that I won't fall into the trap of feeling helpless again. I guess the best I can hope for is to learn to fail often, to fail well, and to continue to find the skills to pick myself up and move forward again.

tall penguin


Anonymous said...

What a refreshing, brutally honest post!

I was perusing some older posts on an ex-JW site, (JWN), saw your avatar and decided to pop in to see what's new in the "tall penguin" world.

The Universe must have directed me here! ; )

Nice to see personal responsibility and rational thinking getting their due.

Onward and upward!

open mind

tall penguin said...

Hey open mind,

How lovely of you to check in. It's been a long time since I was on JWN. I spent almost every waking minute on that site for the first two years I was out. It was very useful at the time.

I'm a fan of rational thinking. It's not easy and damn if I don't kick myself each day wishing I'd learned critical thinking skills so much earlier in life.

When I finally clued in to how most of my belief systems about the external world were faulty and that logic and science could help break down those beliefs, I was then able to turn that methodology on to beliefs about my internal world and how I saw myself and what I could and could not do.

I kept asking, what evidence do I have that I can do this? Or can't do this? Is the evidence valid? To what degree? While I can't apply the rigours of science to my individual life to an absolute degree, it has helped to see my life more empirically. All beliefs, including the ones I have about myself, should be based on sound reasoning. The extremes of "I can't do anything" or "I can do anything" are no longer useful. Somewhere in between those extremes is the sweet spot.

All the best to you!

tall penguin

Rahul said...

Believe it or else, I identify greatly with what you are describing in this post. Congrats TP, you've just hit a great new understanding of yourself in the world. You know yourself, your shortcomings, your ability to overcome them, the bigger system, etc. It's an amazing thing. And in my experience, after making similar realizations, I have found that there are not that many people who make these realizations. It is not a standard coming of age for everyone. Only some people get this 'awakening'. I celebrate it. Cheers.

tall penguin said...

Hey Rahul,

It's been a while. So lovely to see you here. Thank you for your comments. I continue to fail, thrive and make my way in the world. I even have a new job! If you ever want to connect for a coffee and catch up, drop me a line.