In my last blog, I talked about the beauty in loss. I have come to realize how much loss can be accompanied by the feeling of failure.
I have also come to learn that failure is NOT failure. The word failure is defined as ‘a lack of success or the inability to meet an expectation.’ I have decided that I believe there is no such thing as failure. We don’t fail, we learn.
In the last two years, I have struggled relating within a family relationship that is very, very dear to me. The relationship feels lost to me. It certainly will never be what it once was and that loss has felt like a huge failure. I have grieved deeply about the changes that have resulted from not being able to reconcile differences.
I love my family dearly and want nothing more than to be authentically close with every person in my family, and not speaking to beloved family members feels like a huge failure.
I realize, though, that this is not a failure.
I expected this relationship to be on-going for my whole life without interruption or a grievance so large that we couldn’t surpass it. But, expectation is not intention, and that is a big difference. We do not seem to be able to find common ground.
And since I own a business based on the very idea of finding common ground in the most difficult spaces of our life, I could define the turn in our relationship as a failure. But I choose not to define it that way.
Differences occur in relationships – there is no other possibility. I dreamt that the blended family dynamics of my own family and of the other person would not be an obstacle to our relating. I also had the starry-eyed belief that if these dynamics were an obstacle, that we could overcome them.
However, to my sadness, it appears that isn’t a possibility, at least for the time being.
Does that mean the relationship failed because it didn’t meet my expectation? Not at all. I can see the dynamics were far more complicated than I understood and that my expectations were probably unrealistic. But while things lasted, I had some of the best times of my life.
Does it mean that either one of us in the relationship are a failure? Definitely not. I can’t speak for the other party, but I know I sure learned some things about myself because of the outcome. Things I would not have learned if we could have kept the relationship right where it was.
When looking at this in my rear-view mirror of life, I find that the distance of hindsight offers clarity. Though things can still feel quite raw because I deeply love my family and the last thing I thought could happen, happened. We are estranged. I miss them terribly.
I don’t love them any less. But things were not going well when we were interacting. I wasn’t feeling loved, appreciated or valued. That did feel like failure.
But something happened, in the midst of all the chaos and misunderstanding, I found that I was contributing to my own feelings of frustration. I thought my family was to blame at first, and it took a while to sort that out.
It’s true, they weren’t treating me like I wanted to be treated, but I was also enabling the pattern of our interacting. I wasn’t upholding my personal boundaries. I was resorting to destructive behaviors when I was triggered because I didn’t have the skills to communicate lovingly through my hurt. I also didn’t have support to navigate the troubled waters that blended families must travel through.
I certainly wish I could have acted differently, yet, as I look in the rearview mirror, I see that every frustrating interaction shed light on the ways I was participating in the relationship that wasn’t serving me. I needed that anger to fuel the transformation I required.
My heart was in the right place – of that I am certain.
But I could see how the people-pleaser in me was giving away all of my power.
I suddenly knew that my own weak boundaries and people pleasing-behaviors were born of prioritizing other people’s needs and happiness above my own. Additionally, I quickly had an epiphany that the conflict in this one relationship was showing me the ways I was doing this in all the relationships in my life.
With those profound observations, I understood why I felt so frustrated, disrespected and unseen. Other people were treating me the same way I treated myself. And discovering that hurt a whole lot, too.
I HAD to change that from within. I had to muster the qualities that I knew were worthy of the respect and appreciation that I deserved. And I had to start acting that way when I was interacting with others, or they would continue to treat me in ways that felt unloving to me.
And I knew that I would never again participate in a relationship where someone treats me in those ways. The loss of the relationship is very sad, but the way I felt about myself was worse. And I knew I didn’t want to do that any more.
A long time ago, I had this vision of myself that helped me create an alter ego that I call Lumberina. When I am working through issues like reinforcing boundaries and putting my own needs into a situation, I summon my inner Lumberina. When I call her in, I remind myself that Ease and Grace are mine if I choose them.
She is a cross between a Lumberjack and a Ballerina. I used to see myself as lumberjack-ish. Strong in stature. Sturdy. Carrying the wood – the fuel – to warm life. Necessary attributes for sure. But inside, I also wanted to be a graceful ballerina. My stature certainly doesn’t lend to that, so creating a comical avatar for myself helped make light of some of the heavy lifting that needed to take place. I have also found her inside of me.
I see her here, in this picture of me getting ready to light the winter solstice fire in 2022.
When I first dreamt of her, she was wearing blue and pink striped leggings, a blue body suit and a sparkly blue tutu. She was 10’ tall or so with long, flowing silver hair. She had iridescent wings and an ethereal glow. I don’t necessarily see that here, but I see grace in the beauty of the crafted fire. I see ease in my stature. That’ll do just fine for me. This is a great start.
2023 is feeling lighter for me. I am finding ways to connect and collaborate with people that are new and expansive. I feel so much lighter and conscious in the way I interact with others. I feel deeply inspired!
I’m sure future adventures will give me lots of opportunities to fine-tune my dance of Grace and Ease, and I look forward to it, aware of a solid foundation built on knowing my worth, defining my boundaries and claiming my joy. My self-love and self-compassion game have been finely honed and leveled-up.
Failure isn’t failure, ya’ll. It’s just compost!
Until next time, I’m compassionately yours,