On Failure


I’m failing pretty regularly this year.

I had a secret wish to go a little vegan-ish, especially after Jeff bought us the Thug Kitchen cookbook.  First dish out of the gate I substituted chicken for tempeh.  In my feeble defense, our grocery store didn’t have tempeh.  (I like to think of chicken as simply “meaty tempeh.”)  Beyond the utter vegan failure, the pozole I made tasted weird. It had a weird citrus-y aftertaste and I was starving after I ate it.


I wanted to do yoga five days a week.  My current average, 2.5 weeks into the new year, is once a week.

I vowed not to yell at the kids.  But then Simon spit in my face, and I blew a gasket.  (Is there anything more degrading that someone spitting in your face?)   That was January 1 at 10:00 A.M. Here we are at January 13: He’s still spitting and I’m still yelling.  (Seriously, why does he have to spit in my face?)  I’m pretty sure I’m going to yell EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

I wasn’t going to spend any more money on books because I have approximately 12 at home waiting for me to crack open, and there’s always the library where books are free.  But then I went into the cutest bookstore EVER and well, it would be rude to not support a local independent.

I was also only going to read books I love and dump ones that didn’t speak to me.  So far I’ve finished one that I H-A-T-E-D, one I tolerated, and one that I’m still on the fence about. Fail, fail and fail.

There’s something freeing about it, though. It hasn’t killed me. It’s knocked my aspirations from lofty to manageable. I’m falling into territory that has paralyzed me for decades. I’m actively researching the answer to one of the most terrifying questions ever asked: “What if I fail?”

Oh and this one: I was going to work on my book everyday!  But there have been plenty of days (of the 13 in this year alone) when I simply could not face it.  Days when it feels too risky to open my manuscript because I’m afraid it will sour my mood and make me more yell-y, even without Simon doing a raspberry once inch from my face. On those days, I write other things– blog posts, essays, computer code for the app I’m developing (which will tell you if your outfit is cute or makes you look like a bloated soccer mom from 1989).

I’ve done a lot of things right, too, though I can’t name any right now. Oh, wait, I held the elevator open for someone I don’t particularly care for.  I bought Thank You cards (that I’ll probably never write).  I folded some laundry. I slept all night on my side of the bed. I told someone the truth about a favor she asked of me, the truth being that I didn’t want to do it but was willing to explore how much her request enraged me.

There’s plenty of good when I go looking for it.

I also read this inspirational piece. It made me think about J.D. Salinger writing stories from a foxhole in France during World War II.  Sure, he was already published before that, but he didn’t know he’d ever make it out alive (can you say “Battle of the Bulge” survivor?), and still he wrote and wrote and wrote.  Presumably because he had to.

I’m starting to think that my failures are no big deal.  Neither are my audacious proclamations that I will be vegan/a published author/a yogi/a coupon clipper.  Both are effluvium.  Not more true than anything else about me.

My working hypothesis about what happens if I fail is that it changes nothing.  Simon will probably still spit on me, there will be laundry to fold, thank you cards to not write, and a new day with a shockingly white blank screen.

Either way, I’ll be there.


29 thoughts on “On Failure

  1. “My working hypothesis about what happens if I fail is that it changes nothing. Simon will probably still spit on me, there will be laundry to fold, thank you cards to not write, and a new day with a shockingly white blank screen.”

    Truer words have never been spoken. Also, I read a book I think you might like. It’s called We Are Completely Beside Ourselves, and it is kind of delightful.

    • I do love that book! Amazing voice there, right? I’m about to start that one your recommended by Ruth Ozeki. I can’t wait!

      On Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 11:19 AM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  2. This morning I yelled at my children for losing the remote AGAIN, like to the point that they were in tears because you-lose-the-remote-constantly-and-what-if-the-dog-finds-it-before-I-do-and-now-I’m-going-to-be-late-for-work-seriously-no-TV-tomorrow-morning…and then I realized I had just shit on their entire day and I was sending them off to school with the biggest guilt trip ever. All of this after I vowed not to yell at them as much. Aaaannd, now the neighbor and her kids realize that we’re just like them (seriously, one boy said, “Wow, they’re like mini us.”) because I could. not. reign. it. in. even to get them on the bus. And now I owe them a huge apology and a promise to do better when I go to pick them up at school. Sigh. I’ll try again tomorrow.

    • That was me, except the issue wasn’t the remote it was WHERE ARE YOUR FREAKING GLOVES? WHY ARE WE LOOKING FOR THESE EVERY SINGLE DAY? JEEZ. It’s so hard. Here’s me, cutting you and I both some slack. Or you and me both some slack. Many a day I cannot reign it in.

      On Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 2:21 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


      • I swear in my head I hear, “Cut it out! What the hell are you doing to these kids?” even as I’m yelling. I think we should cut each other and ourselves some slack. But, easier said than done.

      • I know. When their little faces crumble because I just lost my shizz, I feel like what is the point of all the therapy and work I’ve done on myself if I am THIS mother to these kids?

        On Wed, Jan 14, 2015 at 2:45 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  3. I recently told a friend that I’d be a much better mother if my kid didn’t act like he does. I think yelling is part of the game. And face-spitting is totally gross, so I can certainly understand the yelling. Never yelling is unattainable unless your children live on another planet. Goal setting is good and recognizing that they might not be attainable is even better. I like your attitude about this. I need to adopt it for myself.

  4. You have an awesome attitude about it. You are not alone in the yelling department! I find that the more I set a goal for times per week for yoga, I fail to meet it. If I think, I’ll just go when I feel like it, I go almost everyday. It’s like the pressure is off. I LOVE Open Books! Did you go to the one in Pilsen? I didn’t even know what that ingredient was that you were trying to find!

    • I don’t know what that ingredient is either! I went to the Open Books in River North….Chicago and Wells area. Simply adore!

      On Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 3:09 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


      • That’s the one I go to too! I had heard on Bookriot that the Pilson “branch” was cool. Can’t beat the convenience of River North. Tried Shred yet?

      • Still too scared to go back, but neither of us should be. It’s hard though not that bad. I have a friend who’s I to it, so if she calls me, I’ll go. I need peer pressure! Might try Sunday. Where are you doing yoga?

      • I have an on-line subscription so I do it at home. It’s awesome. Bryan Kest out of Santa Monica. Sweet sweet yoga!

        On Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 9:47 AM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  5. I feel like I am failing my 2015 goal of taking in and giving out “positive energy,” but I am rocking the fact that I am realizing that with each new day comes a reset button so that I can refocus on being as positive as possible. And if all else fails, there is wine. 🙂

    • Did my failure post count as positive thinking? Ha! And you’re right, the reset button is the most important one we have.

      On Thu, Jan 15, 2015 at 3:40 PM, Outlaw Mama wrote:


  6. Ah, resolutions. By their very nature, we can never live up to them. I always make too many. I think if I chose one, I would have a better success rate. This year, I decided to do P90x3 (30 minute workout every day for 90 days to lose the remaining 30 pounds of baby weight that is still here even though E is now 3 months old) and to practice piano several times a week. Even with just two, still not doing so well.

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