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TRASH BIN IS ONLY FOR LINT
When the term Fear of Failure is used, it’s usually in hushed sympathetic tones typically reserved for some psychological disorder. When I hear it, I think welcome back old friend, been expecting you.
Failure and I go way back. Actually, kicking Failure’s ass is easy. Just stand back up. Literally, just stand back up. That’s my secret. I mean, look at me now. Failure just a step away and I got one toe over the line.
Success, though, is a fickle little bitch. And Commitment is the little bastard that alters your life and fucks up the comfort zone you and Failure had all pimped out.
The thing about Success & Failure is that you pretty much know what causes the one and usually have no idea how the other happened. I mean failure is just the logical next step from attempt. When failure happens, we have created all sorts of capture methods to learn from that failure: post-event analysis, debrief, wrap session, circle-back. Whatever, we humans pour a ton of energy and effort into the recovery from failure industry.
And to be sure, Success has quite an industry promising it to all who plunk down a few shillings for “The Secret”. What shelf is the last How to Success book you bought collecting dust on?
Failure is the result of effort. Success is the result of serendipity. Winning the $2B Lotto is the result of serendipitous effort. The serendipity of Success makes it elusive. Sure, everyone wants to “earn” the 100% attendance ribbon. But just showing up is cheap success. Showing up when it sucks takes soul.
And then it happens to me. A little bit. I am proud of myself. I’ve been published. Again. Multiple times. I can say that now without reservation. Or Fear. Why do I name my Fear? Why do you name your Dragon?
Saying that you have a Phobia is like saying Come Get Me. If I say I have a Fear of Success, then guess what I actually have? That Fear. But Fear, like a Demon or Dragon, can be ridden to Success.
Success is a Scratched Record. One of these times it’ll skip the track and play out. Like it always does I guess.
I wrote two of those pieces last year, around September and October. It was the first time I felt the heavy hand of the editor. It shattered some carefully-constructed confidence. I answered the first email with one word: Ouch.
That prompted an amazing phone call from my editor at mxdwn.com. Eve Pierpont has serious skills in talking people down from a ledge or how to uncurl from a locked-in fetal position. Plus she knows the hell out of writing and editing.
Sure, I traffic in hyperbole and my currency is bullshit, but when those are challenged with logic and concern, the outcome is what I consider the two finest examples of Feature Writing that I have produced. No bullshit!
Eve taught me to convey the story while removing I/Me from it. That is easier said than done for this egomaniacal narcissist. But I did it. I worked at these two and agonized over them more than any other piece of writing I’ve done.
I’ve taught myself, with the help of countless interested parties, that the most thoughtful approach to measuring my success is to compare me today to me in the past. At least it feels like the most honest.
I learned that if a struggle or concept or idea is universal, it lives on its own. It receives validity and authenticity by it’s universality. By it’s connection to and relationship with humanity. Not by me living through it and then claiming it as my own personal Everest.
But by me, the writer, living through it and then taking you, the reader up that mountain. On your own, so you can feel the accomplishment of your own efforts in your own struggle. So that you can stand at the peak and see where you came from.
And finally, so that we can share that moment at the top together. Not as rivals or competitors, or parts of a broken family. Not as leaders or followers. Merely as reunited sisters and brothers. Weary from the travel but happy to be at the top. Together.
What does a Queer Masked Cowboy who covers Reba’s Fancy have in common with a married father of two that fronts a Swedish Satanic Metal band dressed up as Papa Emeritus? Click to find out.
I consider this to be the best yet of my writing. I poured myself into this project. And I am proud of that effort. And it’s taken a ton of therapy to say that with humble rather than false pride.
Going out on a limb is always scary. And always necessary. Making a stand and standing your ground are the same and they are different at the same time. Risk-taking is always good in my book. Choosing one’s battles is wise as well.
I took a stand when I raised, and then, retired the Protest Flag - Red Neck, White Skin, Blue Collar. I stood my ground when a white racist whose assumed privilege permitted him to casually drop the N-Bomb in a gathering of white people.
And I did both in the first post after retiring my Protest Banner: planting a new flag, Compass Star Wordsmith; and defining and describing Vulnerability. And how all of us, but men particularly, should embrace this philosophy.
I talk about the risks of Vulnerability and exposure in this one. The saddest thought that we all have is the thought of alone. That we are alone in thinking that we are alone. Alone in thought, as if the insecurities I have apply only to me.
And every time I express a Vulnerability, an untold number of human beings go “Hell yeah, me too!”
This last piece is the conclusion of a collaboration and is subtitled Failure is Common. Success is Rare. Why? My Q & A with Valentina Petrova. It was my first logical brush with this demon I’ve been sparring with all of my life. I wasn’t able to ride the demon at that point, but I was able to at least get it into a corral and put a saddle on it.
I consider Valentina a Demon-Whisperer. Her approach is to give the demon a name and some kindness as opposed to beating it to death. Because demons don’t die inside of you. They just keep raging away. I just call mine Demon for now.
The purpose of a foundation is to secure everything that rises up from that foundation. Much like an old building crumbles in an earthquake, the self can crumble as well in an emotional earthquake. I believe that covid and it’s entrails will leave hidden scars for years. It rattled the world, and society, to the bone.
Much like a seismic retrofitter crawls underneath and into the damaged building to prepare for the storm from the inside out, so do spiritual advisors, mentors, or therapists crawl around our souls and psyches, shoring up the weaknesses, and totally rebuilding the rotten or damaged.
That’s what the past three years felt like recovering from the Pandemic. I know that the work was being done inside of me. But the weaknesses were still felt, and the necessary work created pain and discomfort. The self did crumble. Structures like marriage, parenthood, career, education, and friendship were forever altered during the quake as well.
The buildings didn’t fall, but the occupants were dismissed and dispersed. Many to fend for ourselves with or without our loved ones. New and unfamiliar structures were instituted and made mandatory upon threat of punishment. Familiarity, routine, and habit were torn away in a day.
The replacements for those critical human needs were not adequate for the recipients. It seems and feels like most decisions were made to ease the burdens of those deciding the new routines, as opposed to those that may suffer in the new forced reality.
Accommodations for discomforts were challenged. Some discomforts were weighted more that others - secular vs religious is just one example. Post-illness healthcare vs pre-illness prevention would be another case. In all cases, the consumer was treated as a subject, with those in charge exerting almost monarchical power to control the most intimate details of individual life.
So many missions changed for so many people. New feelings, experiences, and situations forced old and worn-out fight or flight reactions. For those of us that grew up with the daily stress of a chaotic childhood, it was a feared friend and familiar foe all over again.
The challenge was unknown yet we responded naturally. Like we always have. Self-medication, denial, shame, grief. But like a house of cards, emotional foundations built on sand crumble quickly. And the rebuild is always subject to overruns and delays. More shaking was inevitable.
But the walls don’t fall now. Strength, confidence, faith, hope are the new replies. The building, your self, still stands. I’ve ridden an emotional elevator the last two weeks, from the pit to the penthouse, as a ghost once said. Stopping on every floor. Unlike the past, however, I’ll be choosing the floor I live on. And the Demon I ride.
I have a new assignment that involves an interview. Who’s a fan of Sisters of Mercy? Got a favorite song of theirs? Have you seen them in concert? Got a story about them? Let me know in the comments, especially if you want to ask a question.
Happy Easter! I can’t stop listening to this playlist. Each song touches on a theme in the post. I’m obsessed with Sturgill Simpson right now. And check out My God Has A Telephone and Nightmares on Wax You Wish, pure instrumental bliss.
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