Epic Fail

As the hero of my own story–and aren’t we all?–I gloss over the failures. In fact, maybe I never acknowledge failures at all.

I certainly never failed! I was foiled. All my sincere and perfectly honorable efforts were foiled by bad guys. I hadn’t failed. I just hadn’t succeeded yet.

Chris bought me this book by a favorite columnist of his:

The Up side of Down: Why failing well is the Key to Success

Mcardle posits the idea that we need failure to get better. It’s impossible to argue. How else do we learn? Shouldn’t we start at one level of ability and get better?

In my senior year of college, I was entranced by a new professor. He had just come on staff, full of nervousness and tenure ambitions. He proudly said that he had a 4.0.

Imagine! A professor bragging to his students about his grades. I looked at him and thought…If you already knew everything you were learning–knew it so well you aced every single class–what the hell is learning about? His progress was a flat line.

He was proud of it. Of course he was! That’s the way the world works.

Well. That’s the way people work. The world has another way of working too.

If I try to lift something heavy, I won’t succeed. I will fail the first time. If I start with something lighter, and keep at it, I will succeed at the heavy thing. It takes failure

It takes trying.

My daughter is watching The Incredibles. A family of super heroes! They have powers! And they have failings.

The marriage, the kids, the relationships, and trying to make their way in the world.


Do you remember how Mr. Incredible fights the robot monster? He throws himself against it.

And it throws him back down.


But Mr. Incredible is Super! He gets back up.

He gets back up. Oh God, Yes, he gets back up!

He keeps trying. He fails far more often than he succeeds. And his family does too. All of them fail and fail and fail and fail.

We know. They know. We all know that they will succeed in the end.

Because they are super.

I am not so super. I do not have the super suit to guarantee my ultimate success.

All I’ve got is little old me. I don’t want to fail. I am not at all sure that the fail will lead to something better.

This one life? That’s all I’ve got. What if I fail at it?

California Adventure amusement park, right next to Disneyland, has a ride called Soaring over California. I love the ride.  A huge screen shows arial views of beautiful California scenes. I first loved to watch the orchards and the mountains of Yosemite.

This! This beautiful state is where I live! From Humboldt to San Bernardino counties, I know this land. Near the very end, some jet planes zoom out over the folded desert.

If my feet could touch the ground, that is the moment when I would leap to my feet and punch the air with a cheer. YES! YES THAT! I WANT THAT!! It never fails to make me cry.

why? why am I crying? do I want to fly a plane?


What then? What is the visceral push and joy? Joy tears. What?

I want that kinetic freedom. Those jets are soaring. They are not holding back. All out, no holding back!

Sometimes I see a chance for something. It seems impossible. What do I think is really going to happen if I try for that?

It won’t work. My efforts will fail.

Why am I crying?

McCardle says failure is not a reason to hold back. It can be as rewarding–even more rewarding!–than success.

At the start of anything, I can’t know how it will turn out. And this is the only life I’ve got. I don’t want to hold back for fear of the result. I am beginning to see that if I have a chance to go all out and not hold back, if I take that chance, I’ve already succeeded. Failure is only a by-product.

Don’t hold your breath

She’s five.

When she was freshly born, Chris said that having a kid was a countdown until they are five and could go to school. We were panicking at the onslaught of parenthood–the unrelenting nature of another demanding human being.

At five now, she loves books. She has for her entire life. She’d discovered the Reading Rainbow app, and now Levar Burton and his cast of actors read books to her. It’s my job to  cuddle her while the book is being read though.

Happy to delegate the actual reading of the words to the iPad, I listen to Udemy on my iPhone and to to learn my next skill. Cozy,

So the toileting, teeth brushing and bath went forward that night. The towelling and donning of the jammies. The crossing off the day on the whiteboard calendar we’ve given her to track the passage of time was complete.

And the iPad would not boot up.

No problem, right? We’ve got a huge pile of real books.

Veronica was sobbing. She’s tired. “It’s okay, we will read your princess book.” Once I started to read the adventures of Ariel and the shark, she stopped sobbing.

And Daddy came to safe the day, the device was restored and we finished the night with a few stories from Burton’s library.

Somehow, though, things had gotten off track. This small (to my mind) disturbance in the force changed the tone of everything. It’s hard enough for her to fall into the arms of Morpheus on an average night.

As I was flossing Chris came out and said she was sobbing and wouldn’t stop and he’d had it. I took over.

Sitting up in her bed, in her beloved pink bathrobe, her face controted. “Veronica, do you want to be sad?”

Violent head shake. No.

“Would you like to try to be happy?”


“Ok, bunny, lay down. Put your head on the pillow.”

A child cries so openly. She caught and held her breath, trying to control the sobs. I remember doing that, fighting for control.

“Breathe” I tell her. We take long breaths together. I can see her visibly relax.

“Tell me what’s wrong.”

“I was supposed to get a story from Reading Rainbow. And then the game wouldn’t come on. That’s not how you are supposed to treat your daughter.”

Well. How unfair is that? It’s broken and we fixed it anyway. She missed ONE STORY of her allotted three.

But according to her, that’s no way to treat your daughter.

Unrealistic expectations abound. Sometimes things break. But for her, that’s no excuse and no comfort.

She’s five. She’ll get over it.

I wonder. Other people push unrealistic expectations on me. Maybe the biggest difference is that she will cry and tell me what her unrealistic expectation is.

A lot of other people will have the expectation, and keep their disappointment tight to their chest. It could be unfair and it could be unavoidable. And still.

The injury remains.

“I’m sorry Veronica. You really wanted Reading Rainbow.”

That’s the thing about parenting. The humanness of it. It’s not fair.

Life isn’t fair.

Hello, Life. I name you Veronica. And you named me Mommy.

Breathe. That’s right. And another one…

That feels better.




While being tucked in to sleep, Veronica told Chris that she couldn’t sleep. Because she had one Featherbone and all the other bones didn’t like it. But the feather bone tickled her so she couldn’t sleep